Robert Conrad, Ruta Lee, James Drury, and array of TV cowboys bring ‘Gunsmoke’ to MidSouth Nostalgia Festival

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Vintage photos and video interviews illustrate three cowboys — James Drury, Buck Taylor, Robert Conrad — and one notable cowgirl — Ruta Lee — who have frequented the annual MidSouth Nostalgia Festival near Memphis, Tennessee. “Jim West uncovers a deadly conspiracy that grips New Orleans in a hypnotic spell!” The campy tagline finds Secret Service agents Artemus Gordon [Ross Martin] and James West [Robert Conrad] in glorious color on the August 1966 second issue cover of the Gold Key comic book series devoted to “The Wild, Wild West.” The science fiction-leaning CBS western comic book is pretty rare since only seven issues were distributed through October 1969. Image Credit: My Comic Book Shop
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In the “Wagon Train” seventh season episode entitled “The Bleecker Story,” Ruta Lee dangles some gorgeous gams atop a homesteader wagon seat. The 90-minute color episode aired December 9, 1963, on ABC. Lee also appeared in the black and white 60-minute second season episode “The Kate Parker Story” with original “Wagon Train” star Ward Bond. Best known for her extensive femme fatale roles during television’s golden age, Lee autographed the photo to read, “Dear Steve — I loved all the westerns. Thanks & love, Ruta Lee.” Image Credit: The Ruta Lee Collection
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As stubborn, fast draw ramrod Rowdy Yates, Clint Eastwood discovers that a wild night in town away from trail boss Gil Favor [Eric Fleming]’s cattle drive inadvertently resulted in marriage to saloon girl Ruta Lee in “Incident of the Reluctant Bridegroom,” a playful season five 60-minute episode of “Rawhide” broadcast on November 30, 1962. Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive
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Longtime buddies James Drury, in black Stetson and clutching an omnipresent cigarette, and Ruta Lee say cheese at the Western Legends Roundup in Kanab, Utah, taken sometime between August 18–21, 2011. The duo costarred in two 1964 episodes of “The Virginian” — “The Long Quest” and “The Girl From Yesterday.” Image Credit: James Drury’s Virginian Posse [Facebook group]
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Buck Taylor salutes the camera as “Gunsmoke” character Newly O’Brien, a gunsmith-reserve Deputy U.S. Marshal always prepared to aid Marshal Matt Dillon [James Arness], Deputy U.S. Marshal Festus Haggen [Ken Curtis], and the upstanding citizens of Dodge City, circa 1970 on the CBS Studio City lot. Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images
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The final cast of “Gunsmoke” merges on the legendary CBS Studio City backlot circa 1970, featuring James Arness [U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon], Ken Curtis [Deputy U.S. Marshal Festus Haggen], Buck Taylor [gunsmith-Reserve Deputy Newly O’Brien], Milburn Stone [Doc Galen Adams], and Amanda Blake [Miss Kitty Russell]. Miss Kitty could never get the extremely reticent marshal interested in public displays of affection although they loved one another deeply. All 635 episodes of the landmark western are available in the Paramount-sanctioned, mammoth DVD collection entitled “Gunsmoke: The Complete Series.” Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive
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Amanda Blake [Long Branch saloon proprietress Miss Kitty Russell] and Buck Taylor [friendly gunsmith-Reserve Deputy Newly O’Brien] trade their frontier costumes for fancy civilian clothes as they attend an event somewhere in Los Angeles circa 1973, near the conclusion of “Gunsmoke’s” incredible 20-year run. Image Credit: AmandaBlake.org
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“Wild, Wild West” star Robert Conrad demonstrates circa 1966 what will definitely happen should a villain tangle with cunning Secret Service agent James West. He will come face to face with a hidden derringer in the agent’s black boot heel! Image Credit: CBS Photo Archive

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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