With the recent passing of that sublime and absolutely natural Westerner James Arness, who will live in perpetuity as the forever able and Zen-master-with-a -six-gun Matt Dillon in endless reels of, Gunsmoke episodes ( all truly worth seeing), I thought of one of Matt’s few kindred spirits, Festus, played quite iconically by Ken Curtis.
In the Kitty-Doc-Festus triangle that serves the great independent spirit of the perpetual flinty and eternally taciturn Dillon, Doc (Milburn Stone) functioned as Matt’s most intellectual companion, an equal to ruefully discuss philosophy and occasionally plan strategy with, and of course, just like the Marshall, an ever astute judge of character.
Kitty (Amanda Blake), the red-haired proprietor of The Long Branch, the town’s saloon and elegant (and unsaid) whorehouse, was Matt’s only channel for overt emotion, passion, or sexuality, and she also exists as the foremost manifestation of burgeoning civilization, while she also coexisted as the triangle’s most emotive, hardened but still given to concrete measures of gentility, and—as all bar owners are—a quick interpreter of character.
Forget the burgeoning baseball season, forget rereading Raymond Chandler or keep reading Steve Erickson, forget the Boston Globe sports page, forget continually listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage, forget obsessively filling the backlog of my unseen Gunsmoke episodes, forget making lists of the top ten Warren Oates’ character names, forget buying every single ripped-off, repetitive, and badly recorded Johnny Thunders recording evah, forget checking a few more outré film noirs off the grand list, forget finishing that piece about the stony greatness of Pynchon’ s last book, forget about finally beginning that new David Foster Wallace kinda-last-maybe-baby novel. Fuggedabouit, I’ve acquired a new hobby, another fresh and fertile landscape to explore, somehow a totally new (and astonishingly original) slab of pop cult meat to vulture on.