Originally Published: July 21, 2011 11:11 p.m.
The wild and wooly West escapes the pages of history and comes to life this weekend when the Prescott Regulators and Their Shady Ladies bring their sixth annual Shootout on Whiskey Row to town.
Almost nonstop activity on the block of Cortez Street between Gurley and Goodwin streets begins with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. Saturday and then "gets right into gunfights at 10 a.m.," said Neil Thomas, president of the Prescott Regulators and Their Shady Ladies. The two-day event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
When guns aren't in the air aimed at targets in vignettes performed by reenactment groups, the entertainment highlights of the wild West show will include such acts as Hollywood stuntman Dr. Buck's trick roping, gun-spinning, whip-cracking and knife-throwing, and John Larkin's living history presentations.
Dr. Buck (Montgomery), 57, of Goodyear, got his moniker years ago because stuntmen "don't go to doctors. We heal ourselves," he said, noting that he's had at least a dozen concussions over the course of his career that began when he was 19.
At that time, he was an animator at Disney Studios, and during a conversation in the back lot one day, someone asked him, "Can you fall off a horse?" He made $50 "period" for each fall, and stunting became his life.
For this weekend's performance, Dr. Buck said he and his partner, Amos Carver, 26, will be "doing a really good demo of what I call old-school and new-school" stunts - "full-contact stunts on the not-so-kind surface of asphalt."
Dr. Buck's agenda is not only to entertain the public but also to educate re-enactment groups how to enrich their shows.
"Anyone can shoot a blank," he said. He wants re-enactors to learn "how to throw a punch" without hurting each other but, at the same time, making it look real and believable to the audience.
And, for that to happen, "You have to have the right 'dancing' partner," Dr. Buck said of his partner for the Prescott event.
Larkin, who lives in Yuma, researches and keeps his ears and eyes open for historical stories about events and people from 1865 until 1912.
"I wear the clothing, gun leather and guns of that period of time," he said, as he acts out his living history vignettes. He has three stories planned for the Shootout on Whiskey Row: "How Wild Buffalo Bill Cody Won His Name, 'Buffalo Bill'"; the legend of Thomas Harbro Rynning, who became the second captain of the Arizona Rangers and was the last superintendent of the Yuma Territorial Prison before it moved to Florence; and James. T. Dana, Yuma County sheriff from 1869 to 1871.
"I try to make it entertaining for the audience," Larkin said. "I try to get into the character," and he "digs deeper and deeper" into the personas of the characters he plays so that the audience "understands who the person was and what he was all about."
Reenactment groups on the Shootout on Whiskey Row marquee include Guns and Garters of California, Pistols and Petticoats of Arizona, the Deguello Gunfighters of Yuma, Arizona Ghostriders, Southwest Legends Gunfighters of Paradise Valley, and Arizona Gunfighters of Mesa.
Pistols and Petticoats, a Phoenix reenactment ensemble, will feature founder Kerry Keeper in two skits. On Saturday, he plays Judge Knot in a skit about a shotgun wedding, and on Sunday Judge Knot presides over a kangaroo court in which someone is accused of violating a bizarre law that's still on the books.
Keeper said he has a file full of "crazy" laws from all 50 states, such as one that prohibits "painting sparrows and selling them as parakeets" and a law that states "you can't go whaling in Oklahoma."
Each reenactment group will perform a play that "usually ends in a shootout," Thomas said, but the two days aren't just about guns. The reenactors' skits portray or interpret an event that happened in the Old West, Thomas said, and each is graded on historical accuracy, acting ability, the accuracy of the reenactors' clothing and the quality of the skit.
Entertainment will also include a costume contest, a presentation by Bob Boze Bell, executive editor of True West magazine, songs by balladeer Joe Bettencourt, and horseman Lee Anderson, who will perform for children in an area set aside for them near Goodwin Street.
Admission to the Shootout on Whiskey Row is free, but donations are welcome. After expenses, all proceeds from contributions, sales of water and T-shirts go the Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters.
For a complete schedule, visit Prescott Regulators on Facebook. The schedule will also be posted in the downtown area.