Legacy of Gun Smoke

(Frank) We’re back again. Aren’t we having fun today? (Deb) Oh my gosh. (Frank) We’re talking about books, great books. (Deb) And we’re a real supporter of reading. God knows I was reading fairly young. Went through all the traditional stuff, you know Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, I loved all that. (Frank) Tom Corbett, Space Cadet was one of my favorites. No it really was. I think you can still get the books somewhere, antique store. (Deb) Some antique store, yea. Alright, this next clip is with my friend Ben Costello. I interviewed Ben on my radio show years ago and we became great friends and so, the shipping on this book might be pretty high because it’s a big volume. But it’s a wonderful work that he did on the series Gunsmoke. And so you’re gonna love this thing with Ben and checking out the book. Let’s take a look. (Deb) Welcome folks, I’m just thrilled to have Ben Costello with me. And its so fun because Ben and I’ve been friends for a long time. I interviewed him over the radio years ago and then we became Facebook friends. And now to meet you in person is just… (Ben) …about time! (Deb) …about time! That’s right. So you grew up watching Gunsmoke. And how did you turn from just an ordinary fan into an author? (Ben) Well I’d written a couple of plays, but as a kid we watched it as a family. It was one of the shows that we would sit down religiously and watch. and I was at a memorabilia show in Hollywood and I was buying photos and memorabilia and a guys says you know, the 50th anniversary is coming up, why don’t you write a book on it? So I started thinking about it, all right, it can’t be that tough. And when I realized there were 635 episodes to cover I knew I’d taken on a big project. It took me five years to get it done. (Deb) It’s a tremendous amount of research, but its more than just cataloging who and what, it really captures, just like you were talking about, the family sitting around the TV watching it. That’s the legacy of Gunsmoke. (Ben) It was one of the first adult westerns on TV. And it was so popular that at one point there was 36 different westerns on television and there were only 3 networks at the time. Kids today, there are 200 to 300 channels. They wouldn’t have a clue that we only had 3 back then, also a couple of local stations. But its America’s mythology, the west. And Gunsmoke had the benefit of having the best talent in front of the camera and behind also, the writers, the directors. (Deb) They were amazing. (Ben) Jim Burns was one of the best writers. He did the introduction for my book. And Sam Peckinpah, who’s a legendary director started out as a writer with Gunsmoke and The Rifleman and a couple of other shows. They had the best of the best. (Deb) They absolutely did. And I was telling somebody today that Kansas could not have had a better ambassador to the world than this show. (Ben) Right, than Marshall Matt Dillon. And if you look at this show it really started iconic portrayals, you can see someone like Doc in other shows, other movies; you’d see a Miss Kitty type of person; you’d see the big lawman, but it all started really with Gunsmoke. (Deb) Now what has getting involved in this meant to you personally? (Ben) Well it changed my life for the better. A lot of the people that I interviewed are still my friends today, 10, 12, 15 years later. And some of the meanest, rottenest people on screen are the biggest cupcakes you’d ever want to meet, you know, teddy bears, like Morgan Woodward. Scared the heck out of me as a kid, but meeting him he’s just the nicest guy in the world and he to this day still calls my son every once in a while to check on ‘em. How are you doing Eddie? You don’t hear that with stars and stuff like that today. And we don’t really have the stable of actors that they had back then, the good character actors. We don’t have them. It was a magical era and everything hit right at the right time. And it’s the only show other than I Love Lucy that’s never left the air since its premiere. Its unbelievable. (Deb) Amazing. (Ben) In 20 seasons, it’s unbelievable. (Deb) Well Ben, thanks so much, its great to visit with you. You’ve gotta have the book.