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The Wild, Wild West revisited in Winston-Salem

by Mark Burger

The Wild, Wild West revisited in Winston-SalemThe Western FilmFair rides into Winston-Salem on Wednesday,July 15, marking thesecond consecutive yearthat the annual event hasmoseyed into the City ofthe Arts.The ClarionSundance Plaza Hotel(3050 University Pkwy.)is again this year’s Film Fair headquarters.“Last year we had a successful year,” saysJerry Campbell, co-chairman (with GrahamTalbott) of the film committee. “We never hadany hotel treat us any better.”For those who have heard of or attendedconventions devoted to horror, science-fictionor Star Trek — or variations of all three — theWestern Film Fair will not be unfamiliarterritory. True, the fans aren’t dressing up likealiens, but their love of the Western genre isjust as fervent. Nostalgia plays a big part in theproceedings, whether you grew up with theWesterns of John Wayne or the Westerns ofClint Eastwood.The Western Film Fair includes dailyscreenings of almost 100 16mm movies andTV shows running simultaneously in multiplescreening rooms; a dealers’ showcase withdozens of tables laden with DVDs, posters,autographs and myriad memorabilia; paneldiscussions and autograph sessions with theguest stars, many of whom know a thingor two about riding tall in the saddle; liveentertainment each night; and, on the eveningof Saturday (July 18), the Awards NightBanquet with live entertainment and thepresentation of the Ernest Tubb MemorialAward.Whether it’s Gene Autry or Roy Rogers,John Wayne or Randolph Scott, John Fordor Howard Hawks, Sam Peckinpah or SergioLeone, there’s no question that the Westernremains one of the most durable genres of the20th century — and it’s still continuing into thiscentury.Campbell’s old-school, and proud of it.“In 1936, I saw Gene Autry in a movie atthe Broadhurst Theatre, and I never got overit,” he says. “The good guy in the white hatalways wins — that’s a big part of it. I’vealways liked music, and I tell people that Ihave two favorites: The first is Gene Autry,and my second favorite is all the others — andthat’s the truth.”Nevertheless, he’s always willing to givea new Western a fair shake. He thought EdHarris’ Appaloosa (2008) “came pretty close,”and Kevin Costner’s Open Range (2003)“was a good picture.” He also enjoyed WalterHill’s Emmy Award-winning AMC miniseries“Broken Trail” (2006) which, like OpenRange, starred Robert Duvall (who won anEmmy).“Any time you’ve got Robert Duvall,you’ve got a great head start,” Campbell sayswith a laugh.Among the guest stars at this year’sWestern Film Fair are such familiar faces asGary Lockwood (2001: A Space Odyssey,Firecreek), Lynda Day George (Chisum,Day of the Animals), Kathy Garver (“FamilyAffair,” “The Patty Duke Show”), DeannaLund (“Land of the Giants,” “Batman”),Beverly Washburn (“Star Trek,” SpiderBaby), Marlyn Mason (“The Big Valley,”“Longstreet”), Eddie Wallace of the SunshineBoys, William “Bill” Phipps (“The Life andLegend of Wyatt Earp,” Arch Oboler’s Five),Michael Forest (100 Rifles, “The Virginian”and “Gunsmoke”), Rebecca Holden (“KnightRider”), Wright King (the original Planet ofthe Apes), festival favorite Johnny Meeks,Gordie Peer and BarBara Luna (who costarredwith Lockwood in Firecreek).The Ernest Tubb Memorial Award, whichhonors a musical performer who has madea significant contribution to the arts throughfilms, television, albums and personalappearances, will this year be presented toMount Airy’s own Donna Fargo. In additionto a Grammy Award, Fargo has also won fiveawards from the Academy of Country Music,one from the Country Music Association, andis also a noted poet and author.Fargo joins the likes of such luminaries asJustin Tubb (who won the first award namedafter his father), Sheb Wooley, Patsy Montana,Hank Thompson, Tommy Overstreet, theStatler Brothers, Jean Shepard (last year’srecipient) and George Hamilton IV (who isscheduled to attend this year’s event), whohave previously received the award.Campbell has been a part of the WesternFilm Fair since its inception in 1978, when theevent was held in St. Louis — but only as afan. Over the years, he’s gotten more involvedas the event has made the trek to NorthCarolina, from Charlotte to Raleigh, then backto Charlotte and now, for the second year, inWinston-Salem.The Western Film Preservation Society, theofficial name of the organization from whichthe Western Film Fair sprung, is a non-profitorganization established to preserve andpromote the memories and ideals of Westernmovies and classic television.“Our goal is to preserve the old Westerns,”notes Campbell, “and we hope we cancontinue to do this. We just like doing it. It’s alabor of love, it really is.”The Western Film Fair opens Wednesday at1 p.m., but the real fireworks begin Thursday at10 a.m., when the movies start running and thestars start shining. The fun also begins Fridayand Saturday at 10 a.m. A single three-day pass is$60, and a double three-day pass (for couples) is$75. A single-day pass is $20 per person, $5 perperson after 5 p.m.For more information, see the official website,westernfilmfair.tripod.com/index.html or call thehotel at 336.723.2911.To comment on this story, e-mail MarkBurger at marksburger@yahoo.com.

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