Attending Clayton Moore's Memorial Service
On Sunday, January 16, 2000. my wife, Beth, and I packed our lunch, took off at 8:00 in the morning, arriving at Gene Autry’s Western Heritage Museum a little after 10 a.m. A sign at the front read: Clayton Moore Memorial Service, please enter at south side of building. We followed a walkway around the facade leading to the museum’s courtyard; numerous celebrities and fans had already begun to gather. After signing a guest book, we were handed a program for the memorial--then we stood around waiting for someone to give us instructions on where we were supposed to go from there.
A bunch of folks were in costume, leather shirts with fringe, high-top boots, frock coats, top hats, and of course, gun-belts and single-action frontier model Colt .45’s--all of them fans of The Lone Ranger.
A life-size photo of Clayton as The Lone Ranger, and Jay Silverheels as Tonto, had been placed directly in front of The Wells Fargo Theater, this is where--we had to assume--the service would be held. The Lone Ranger’s silver studded gunbelt, and the double holsters holding his matched, pearl-handled .45’s were on display in a glass case in the center of the courtyard. A hand written message had been scrolled across a rock beside the guns, it read, Adios, Kemo-sabes. A Los Angeles Metropolitan mounted police unit stood in silent formation along the walkway entrance; at the end of the line of officers was a “Silver” look-alike, adorned with the original silver on black leather saddle and ornate tack. Seeing the empty saddle finalized something, my eyes were indeed becoming misty.
The only celebrities I recognized were Western director, Burt Kennedy (The War Wagon) and Lyle Waggoner (The Carol Burnett Show), they were talking with Andrew Prine (Chisum, The Wide Country), and were joined later by Bruce Boxleitner (The Gambler) and Johnny Crawford (The Rifleman). The celebrities were ushered inside the theater, leaving the fans outside to view the goings-on via a TV feed to two hard-to-see monitors.
Shortly after 11:00 the proceedings began with producer, Rob Word introducing the first speaker, veteran character actor, Robert Sampson. Following Sampson was Western actor, Rand Brooks (Rin Tin Tin), a former room-mate of Clayton’s who told several amusing anecdotes about the twosome’s first few years as fledging actors in the movie business. Johnny Crawford talked about working with Clayton on a Lone Ranger episode when he was a child actor, saying that he was quite relieved when Clayton never took off his mask--even between takes. Senator Max Cleland was unable to attend and sent a warm note to the family; LA supervisor Michael Antonovich said a few words about Clayton; Walt LaRue, cowboy artist and former stuntman who had worked on many LR episodes, was ill and could not attend; Alex Cord told a warm story about Clayton; and the final speaker was film reviewer, Leonard Maltin. Between speakers, film-clips from Clayton’s career were shown to the audience inside; those of us watching outside had a difficult time seeing the film. A video-clip of last years’ Golden Boot Awards was shown with Clayton speaking publicly for the last time in his life. The family was introduced, and Maltin wrapped it up with a montage of film-clips from The Lone Ranger TV show.
At the end, instead of Taps, the William Tell Overture was played as a final farewell.