Richard Boone Proves to be an All Right Guy
The phone rang one afternoon in the late 50s. It was my aunt, telling us that she had just found out that the Have Gun Will Travel TV Show would be shooting on the Allied Artists studio back lot the next day.
She asked my mom, her sister, if I could skip school just for one day, and would my mom drive me into Hollywood to visit the set? My aunt knew Paladin was one of my favorite TV cowboys. So did my mom.
It was arraigned that I could take the day off and that I could bring along my good friend, Steve Hoyle, who was also a huge fan of the show.
The Western Street on the Allied Artists back lot had originally been a narrow New York Street -- set between the sound stages so interiors could be shot practical -- used in many of the old Monogram/Allied Artists gangster movies; Science Fiction Movies; The Bowery Boys series; and the movie in which I made my acting debut in 1956, Dino, with Sal Mineo. The Allied lot was very small; today it houses L.A.’s PBS facility, KCET.
In the late 50s, the back lot consisted of one, short main street that curved at the end. There were two cross streets, one that backed up against the administration building, and another that went nowhere. If you turned at one of any of these corners, you walked right into a fence, a set storage yard, or out the back gate and onto Sunset Boulevard. In comparison to, say, Paramount’s back lot Western Street, Allied Artists’ paled.
In the late 50s, with all the Westerns being shot for television, and all the different stories that required a new town for every episode, Western Town sets had sprouted up everywhere you looked in Los Angeles.
My mom, Steve Hoyle and I, arrived at the Allied Artists gate on schedule. As I said before, the lot was small. So small, in fact, that the Have Gun Will Travel Company had parked most of their trucks on the little street that ran by outside the studio walls. So small, in fact, that if you looked in from the gate at just the right angle, you could see the company shooting on the Western Street.
My aunt had told us previously that she would meet us and be our guide for the day, but she never showed. She had left a message with the guard that she was tied up that day and we would be on our own.
We only had to take several steps inside the gate to be at the north end of the Western Street. From there we were able to watch as Richard Boone and the other actors rehearsed and shot several scenes.
The street was really too small to allow the three of us to venture any further without getting in the way of the busy crew. Because of this, my friend Steve and I had been unable to get any autographs by the time they called lunch.
We stood by the gate as everyone paraded past us, on their way to have their noon meal. What we had heard, after lunch was called, was that the company was wrapping up and moving to another location -- leaving Allied Artists for good that day -- so Steve and I had to get Boone’s autograph any way possible.
We figured if we waited at the gate long enough, he’d have to leave by that exit. We were right. Richard Boone was almost the last one out when my friend and I boldly asked him for an autograph as he passed us with a couple of well-dressed men.
Boone happened to be one of those few exceptionally nice stars. He told his friends he would meet them at the car, then turned to Steve Hoyle and myself, giving both of us his autograph. Mom was there with her Brownie Hawkeye and snapped a shot of myself, then Steve, with the gracious Paladin.
Before leaving, he asked us if we would like a Have Gun Will Travel business card. To have one of those small cards in your possession was a Western collector’s delight in those days -- still is today, I bet. We said we’d love to have one and after checking the pockets of the famous dark blue Paladin outfit he was wearing and coming up empty, he said to me (because I was the closest), “Come with me to my dressing room, I’m positive I left one or two in there.”
I trotted along behind him as he strode down the deserted Western Street to his portable dressing room. Once inside, he joked with me as he searched high and low for the cards he thought were there. Finally, he apologized, saying he was sorry but he just couldn’t find one. We walked back to the gate. After apologizing again, he excused himself and got into his waiting car, and was driven off to his lunch.
Years later, when I was doing wardrobe on a CBS Movie of the Week called, Deadly Harvest, Richard Boone was cast in the leading role.
One of the places we costumers used to search the wardrobe stock was in a huge basement located under one of the Studio Center sound stages. In my hunt for a costume for Richard Boone to wear in the MOW we were about to shoot, I came across an obscure hanging line of dusty, blue, Have Gun Will Travel, Paladin shirts, stored by CBS since the 1950s.
For a joke, I pulled one of the old blue shirts, and when I was presenting the clothes I had chosen for Boone’s character to the actor, I showed him the Paladin shirt and said to him as a joke, “Here’s one you might like to wear, Mr. Boone. At least it’ll fit.”
Boone roared with laughter. “I’ll wear that rag any time you want me to,” he said with a grin. “It made me a millionaire. Many times over!”