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News Archive: 2007

The Valley Line
July 6, 2007

Here is an article from Jim Farber of the DailyBreeze.com.

By Jane Napier Neely

WELCOME – Guests entered the Autry National Center and Museums on a red carpet bordered by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's posse astride their horses. This was the grand opening party celebrating "Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition,1907-2007 honoring the life of Gene Autry.

I don't know about you, but I had great fun at our nation's birthday party. I met up with old friends and got caught up on the news of their families. I also met some new people and that is always fun for me. The party hosts were wonderful and the barbecue fare with all the side dishes delicious. Hooray for the red, white and blue!

Believe it or not, but social and cultural happenings have been in quite a spin lately. So here I am pedaling as fast as I can to catch up with it all. Not complaining, mind you, because the whirl has been exhilarating as well as informative.

A very special place I've been loitering in lately is the Autry National Center, Museum of the American West. I truly do love this museum and no matter how often I visit I always see new things.

There are two exceptional exhibits that I highly recommend that you see. The first is "Pistols: Dazzling Firearms" that closes on Aug. 12, so you do have to hurry to not miss it. The second exhibit, "Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007" will run through Jan. 13.

A week or so ago, I attended a special dinner at the Autry and was so fortunate to have a special tour of the "Pistols: Dazzling Firearms" exhibit led by the curator, Julia Logan-Bourbois.

The exhibition is so beautifully displayed – a true work of art. This exhibit brings together over 50 of the most magnificent decorative and historically important American firearms from the permanent collection as well as pieces from private collections.

I never realized that pistols could be so exquisitely engraved and certainly never even had a vague thought that designers from the famed Tiffany & Co., New York would be dreaming up designs for beautiful guns.

Just some of the famous pistols on display are Wild Bill Hickok's Model 1851 Navy revolver, two of Annie Oakley's Smith and Wessons that were a present from her husband, and six presidential guns designed by the Colt Company, including ones designed for Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan.

A particularly beautiful pistol is the one given to Gene Autry on his 81st birthday by his wife, Jackie. It is known as the Autry-Tiffany Dragoon – the product of a collaboration between Leonard Francolini and Tiffany & Co. designers. It is elaborately decorated with two well-known paintings of the American West: Frederic Remington's "A Dash for Timber" and "Buffalo Hunt, Chase" by George Catlin.

Curator Julia Logan-Bourbois said, "This exhibition reveals how art, historical events, and popular culture have shaped the design and symbolism of decorative firearms."

I think this is probably the most beautiful display of firearms I've ever seen – I hope you don't miss it.

There was a lot of hoop-la for the Autry's opening exhibit of "Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007 that runs through Jan. 13.

Guests entered the museum building on a red carpet that was bordered by the L.A. County Sheriff's mounted posse. There was some very nice horseflesh in the posse – especially a beautiful paint who had kind eyes and a velvety, soft nose.

It was fiesta time as soon as one entered the courtyard. To get things started there was great music played by the Western band, "Riders of the Purple Sage." Lovely young ladies, dressed in colorful dresses, danced the rhythms from the different states of Mexico, and Mexican charros (cowboys), dressed in traditional costumes, performed rope tricks.

Food stations with Gene Autry's favorite dishes were gathering places for such "down-home" vittles such as chili, meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cole slaw. If that didn't suit your fancy there were hot dogs, popcorn and Cracker Jacks for munching.

Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time before the exhibit was open for viewing.

John Gray, the Autry executive director and CEO, greeted the guests and welcomed them to this new exhibit. Joanne Hale, wife of another matinee favorite cowboy Monte Hale, past president and CEO of the Autry, stepped to the podium to also give greetings to the guests. Gray then introduced Michael Duchemin, curator of the new exhibit who shared his insight into the many hats that Gene Autry wore in his lifetime – all that will be shown in the exhibit.

Guests enter the five-gallery exhibit by walking by a restored 1930s movie theater ticket booth. They then enter a miniature movie theater where they can watch a newsreel-like film highlighting world events as well as clips highlighting the life of Gene Autry.

The exhibition chronicles Autry's rise to superstardom as a performer, businessman in the arts, entertainment, and information industries. The galleries feature "The New Deal Cowboy," "The Singing Cowboy," "The Corporate Cowboy," "The Cowboy," and "Win One for the Cowboy."

This is a comprehensive exhibit that spotlights Autry's many achievements and contributions to the twentieth-century West.

Much of the exhibit is interactive and it will be fun for not only the adults but also the kids as well to push the buttons to find out more about this amazing man.


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