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Date Posted: 17:53:57 03/04/19 Mon
Subject: BONANZA Diamond Jubilee weekend at PONDEROSA II recap

Returned recently from the fabulous BONANZA Diamond Jubilee 60th anniversary weekend hosted by Tom and Louise Swann, proprietors of the Ponderosa II (built for Lorne Greene in Mesa, Arizona in 1963, from Paramount Studios set designer Earl Hedrick's original Ponderosa Ranch architectural plans). The event at the Swann home was sold out months in advance, and but for the Fire-marshal restrictions limiting the number of people in the house (where most of the activities occurred), I'm sure many more folks would've signed up to attend in addition to the hundred-plus who were there.

Met lots of great people (enthusiasts from Germany, Norway, Australia, Wales, England . . . and of course across the U.S.), participated in a fun panel discussion (alongside actors Mitch Vogel and Don Collier, casting director Susan McCray, actress Pamela Roylance, stuntman Neil Summers, singer Rex Allen, Jr., and guitarist Dick Goodman, who told tales of being part of the band that backed up Mike Landon at personal appearances several times in 1967).

Actor Don Collier (perhaps best known as foreman Sam Butler of THE HIGH CHAPARRAL) was his usual charming self, regaling us with stories of working with all the "Cartwrights” (especially Dan Blocker). Mitch Vogel shared priceless anecdotes, Susan McCray talked about her beloved Kent McCray (and tales of Michael Landon), offered copies of her late husband's autobiography (highly-recommended) and actress Pamela Roylance (Little House: A New Beginning) was delightful as she related stories from the set and Michael's kindnesses.

Heard some great tunes from the "house" band, the Ponderosa Pickers, had good 'cue plus "make-your-own" s'mores over an open fire for dessert one night and delicious burgers the next (courtesy of the P Pickers, siblings Scott Tobias, Leta Tobias and Coleen Butz, a talented trio who can cook as well as sing), attended a breakfast cruise aboard a vessel reminiscent of the Dixie, which traversed a lake that evoked a small Lake Tahoe . . . and chartered busses took us from the Arizona Golf Resort (where we slept when not participating in virtually non-stop fun-filled activities) to a picturesque Wild West "Ghost Town" in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, where Lorne Greene filmed special commercials for Chevrolet in the 1960s. T

We had a sumptuous lunch, watched a fun "Wild-West shootout," and as an unexpected bonus, I met (and several of us chatted with) a proprietor of Western souvenirs whose dad was a BONANZA story consultant.

Watched amazing tribute videos produced by tremendously talented Carol Sullivan Trant and award-winning editor/director Ginger Brigham Cook (who was also hard-at-work videotaping all the festivities while her colleague, ace photographer “Bailey,” snapped photos throughout the wonderful weekend). A CD of photos and a DVD of video highlights will be available as souvenirs.

Attendees swapped fun stories and experiences, watched cherished episodes together on a big screen by the fireplace in the Great Room of Ponderosa II, and I again presented the ever-popular "Andy's Rarities," featuring fan-demanded favorites like Mike Landon on Hullabaloo, Pernell Roberts with Ed Sullivan and Mike Douglas, a "day in the life" of Lorne Greene in 1963 (including time on the Ponderosa set and the rodeo circuit), PAX-Tv promos, the Cartwrights' visit to Sesame Street in 1971, and other rare gems.

And for the very first time, delighted fans heard audio of the "Last Party" -- recorded comments from Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Mitch Vogel, Bing Russell, David Dortort, NBC V.P. Tom Sarnoff and others, on the occasion of the last gathering of cast and crew, days after learning the show had been cancelled in November 1972. Mitch addressed the rapt crowd afterward and I daresay there were more than a few pairs of misty eyes in the house while he spoke.

Folks attended a fascinating discussion of fan fiction and salute to BONANZA script-writers, a fun-filled trivia contest, karaoke session, and Gary Sprague, a fine singer of Western songs and his talented horse, Dusty, entertained. (The latter's exposure was limited because of the unseasonably wet and chilly weather briefly on Friday, but the weather failed to dampen anyone's spirits.) Attendees were also thrilled to pick up some new never-before-printed from original negatives photos of your favorite Cartwrights and their horses, courtesy of yours truly, plus official DVD season sets at discount prices.

Renowned historian Jim Turner returned to tell tales of real and reel life, this time emphasizing a "Look to the Stars," which dramatized the life of Virginia City native and Nobel prize-winner Albert Abraham Michelson. Earl Shroyer shared fascinating stories of the Ponderosa Caravan, a replica of the fabled Cartwright ranch house, which toured the U.S. from 1967 through 1970. (Earl drove one of three tractor trailers that comprised the house after he and his colleagues assembled it at state fairs, rodeos and other venues. Anybody see the traveling Caravan back in those days?)

Bill Watson, curator of Thunderbird Lake Tahoe, a preservation and historical society, accepted an invitation to come and speak on the status of the ranch house built in Incline Village (visited by millions from 1967 through 2004), and donated by David Duffield to Thunderbird. Quite an informative and fascinating discussion.

I also announced CBS Home Entertainment -- at long last -- will release BONANZA: The Official Ninth Season on DVD on May 7, 2019. Viewers can again expect great bonus features as well as full-length episodes, newly restored and remastered from original 35mm film elements.

Instead of getting "A Good Night's Rest," I stayed up to read astonishing stories from fans about their personal BONANZA experiences. Truly inspiring (and a few heartbreaking) experiences, plus special contributions from Mitch Vogel, Tim Matheson and Fred Dortort. I urge everyone who couldn't attend the once-in-a-lifetime Jubilee celebration to pick up copies of the supplemental booklets containing essays.

More info. about the souvenir booklets at the Ponderosa II website.


Best BONANZA wishes!


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[> Re: BONANZA Diamond Jubilee weekend at PONDEROSA II recap -- steve j, 09:52:17 03/06/19 Wed [1]

Andy, thanks for the detailed account. Fascinating!

So...what is the status of the ranch house built in Incline Village?

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[> Re: BONANZA Diamond Jubilee weekend at PONDEROSA II recap -- Gary McDonald, 10:10:12 05/11/19 Sat [1]

Hi steve j,

I can help with the answer to your question about the status of the Ponderosa at Incline.

The buildings from the town that were salvageable, AND The Ponderosa RANCH HOUSE were donated to The Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society in Nevada.

A team of people from the Thunderbird carefully dismantled the buildings including our beloved Ponderosa Ranch House and will re-asemble them when they settle on a permanent location.

Bill Watson , The Curator came and spoke to us at the Diamond Jubilee.

Here is what he said.

"We've made no definitive plans where the Cartwright Ranch House will rest. The Church and other buildings from the townsite are being installed at our facility at Reds Ranch facility in Lamoille, Nevada. The Ranch House will likely wind-up there, but yet to be determined.

It'll likely be 2-3 years before we can raise the funds to reinstall the Ranch House. I'm having trouble with all of the buildings because modern-day building officials want everything brought up to code before they permit installation."

Hope this helps...

Best Bonanza Wishes!

Gary McDonald

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[> [> Re: BONANZA Diamond Jubilee weekend at PONDEROSA II recap -- steve j, 22:39:56 05/12/19 Sun [1]

Gary, thank you for your response! Very interesting. Looks like the other buildings have found a home but the centerpiece, the Cartwright Ranch House, could be in limbo. I would hope they all wind up together. I do suppose it would be wise to accommodate modern-day building codes. I truly hope the funds can be raised for the project.

Thanks again,

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[> [> [> Re: BONANZA Diamond Jubilee weekend at PONDEROSA II recap -- Mary S, 20:13:55 09/22/19 Sun [1]

It's good to hear that the ranch house hasn't vanished. I remember, years ago, being at the nearby Hyatt and walking along the road for a few minutes, and there it was! Not quite the same, but still fun to have nearby and at Tahoe. The celebration sounds like fun. I go way back with Bonanza - my dad won a color set in '59, and there were "discussions" about watching Bonanza or Perry Mason, my mother's favorite. (They compromised.) I got the tee shirt for the 60th and wore it the other night when I was walking along the Potomac in Washington, DC. A lot of people reacted to it, and that was fun.

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