Visiting Erick, home of the Purple People Eater

May 21, 2007 15:56 UTC

Erick2.JPGOnly a handful of shops are still open in the downtown in Erick, Oklahoma, including an antique store that brags the little town is “The Redneck Capital of the World — Yee Haw!”
Erick’s best-know son is probably Roger Miller, the songwriter best known for “King of the Road,” a tune the Route 66 Team sang as they approached the town. One of the few other open businesses on the town’s main street is a museum dedicated to Miller. 
But Erick was also the hometown of Sheb Wooley, a rodeo cowboy turned singer turned actor who appeared in the movie “High Noon” and the television show “Rawhide” and wrote and performed the hit novelty song “The Purple People Eater.” A street in Erick is named for him.

Worth the detour to Texline

May 21, 2007 15:50 UTC

The RoutDalhart1.jpge 66 Team decided to take another detour from the old highway’s route in Texas in order to experience something surprisingly elusive in that state these days: real cowboys.  

The team knew it would find them up in this part of the state, which was once part of the X.I.T. Ranch, a 3 million-acre spread that in the late 19th century was the largest ranch in the world. The X.I.T. ranch was sold and broken up years ago. But the 10 counties that it encompassed in its heyday are still very much cattle country, home to dozens of feedlots and hundreds of thousands of heads of cattle. Dalhart9.jpg

We filled the 912 all the way up, putting nearly 12 gallons into the car’s tank and running up thDalhart8.jpge largest gasoline bill — $43.60 — ever for it.

Wanted: Cowboys for steady work!

May 21, 2007 15:14 UTC

Cowboys are in short supply and high demand in this part of Texas.

Ive been in this business since 1970 and every year it has got harder to find good cowboys, said Leo Vermedahl, manager of the Carrizo Feeders. Hear an interview with Vermedahl.
This feedlot operation has space for up to 34,000 head of cattle on 320 acres and should have six cowboys and one head cowboy, but are two cowboys short, Vermedahl said.

Even though Carrizo only has around 15,000 head of cattle now as high corn prices have lead to ranchers keeping their cattle on pastureland longer instead of at feedlost like this one in the Texas Panhandle – he dare not let any of his cowboys go.

I know that when business picks up again in the fall Ill need those cowboys here, he said. When it does pick up, it will be even harder to find cowboys.

Fresh boost from high gas prices in Elk City, Oklahoma

May 21, 2007 15:09 UTC

Elk-downtown.jpgWanda Queenan, right, the curator at the National Route 66 Musuem in Elk City, says that oil booms happen here about once every 10 years or so.

Oil comes and goes around here, she added, rolling her eyes.

Oil has certainly come again to Elk City, bringing with it jobs and new businesses.


Located above the Anadarko oil basin, this town of around 15,000 people has plenty of oil business in the past, but fell on hard times after the last boom in the 1970s.

Is the cinema dead?

May 21, 2007 13:56 UTC

     Is the cinema dead? Director David Cronenberg (“A History of Violence“) thinks so. Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter”) believes technology has changed moviegoing forever, and Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) says he’s seen it all before.Chacun son cinema

   The directors all made 3-minute short films included in a tribute movie screened here on Sunday called “Chacun Son Cinema.” They also took part in a news conference that erupted into a debate over whether digital video, cell phone texting, Web downloading and home entertainment threatened traditional movie theaters with extinction.

    “The form of cinema as we know it already is a thing of the past,” said Cronenberg, whose short film centered on the destruction of the last movie house on Earth.

Tucumcari by day shows off its grimmer side

May 21, 2007 13:53 UTC

While Tucumcari at night showed off a nice dash of neon color, Tucumcari by day was a differentucumcari.jpgt story.

This town is just one more example of what the creation of Americas Interstate system while good for the broader the economy and the lifeblood of many businesses today – did to many small towns.

Tucumcari clearly lived and breathed on Route 66, which brought people and money through the town. A raft of small, family-run motels once thrived up and down the highway, along the towns entire length. Some are still in business, but a number have already gone and for others it may just be a matter of time.

I love your shirt

May 20, 2007 09:51 UTC

I am not entirely sure what it is that gives press conferences at the Cannes film festival their special, slightly awkward, feeling.

They are usually presided over by Henri Behar, a veteran French journalist with swept-back silver hair who looks out from the podium at his fellows with what seems like ill-disguised disdain, and they generally amount to a search for a sound bite in a tide of banality.

The stars and directors of the films are shamelessly flattered and they seem to do their best, but illuminating answers are at a premium.

Money power

May 19, 2007 12:52 UTC

At the Cannes film festival, a lot of both was on display heading into the first weekend of parties Friday night. Along the beach on the Croisette, Relativity Media, which in recent years has been a major financier and producer of films, held a late afternoon bash at a flashy restaurant on the beach. You could spot the likes of Harvey Weinstein, who runs Weinstein Co., Jon Feltheimer, the chief executive of Lionsgate Entertainment, and Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson, the powerful film agents from the William Morris Agency.

That was all money power.

That night aboard a yacht moored in the harbor, independent producer Nu Image, whose Millennium Films earlier Friday unveiled a deal to make a $60 million film starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, held a swanky affair attended by celebrity actress Jessica Simpson. Simpson was trailed by hundreds of photographers and television crews shouting her name and snapping her picture. She paraded up the gangplank, spent about 15 minutes in a room guarded by security, then paraded right back out and into a waiting limousine cameras chattering all the way.

jessicaAnd that is star power.

Simpson will get you splashy pictures on covers of movie and celebrity magazines. Over at the Relativity party, those men and women will get your movie.

Old motels along Route 66

May 18, 2007 23:07 UTC

hotel.jpgWhen Route 66 was decommissioned, and cross-country traffic moved to the then-new Interstates 40 and 44, the motels along its old path didn’t have the option of moving.

In some towns, the businesses quickly shut theHotel2.jpgir doors. In others, death was a more drawn out affair, as the hotels tried to hang on by lowering their rates or finding some other way to compete.

In Albuquerque, some of them have been turned into residences for people who are down on their luck. But this has become a point of increasing tension in recent years as the surrounding neighborhood, which was once decaying along with the motels, has gentrified.

‘Tucumcari tonight’ in the best light

May 18, 2007 23:01 UTC

Night5.jpgFor years, this city in eastern New Mexico has used the slogan “Tucumcari tonight” to entice travelers on the cross-country highways that have passed through here or near here to stop and spend the night.
Judging from the rundown look of the main drag, which was hard hit when Route 66 was decommissioned, fewer and fewer people are taking the town up on its suggestion. But Tucumcari still has a faded charm, probably best viewed after sundown, when the neon lights turn on.
Here’s what the city looked like on a recent night.
Photos Nick Carey/James Kelleher on May 17, 2007 in Tucumcari.