Thursday, January 18, 2007

Six degrees of 'hair-UH'

An e-mail late yesterday from a JunkThief connection we’ll call “a friend” inquired if I ever had a link to the actor named Tim Holt, best known for his appearances in The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Magnificent Ambersons. While I know the latter film quite well and have seen it multiple times and respect the former more slightly from late show viewings as a teen, I did not know that Holt ended up in Harrah, Oklahoma, and hosted a TV show called Tim Holt Western Theater on Oklahoma City TV from 1959 to 1960.

I’ve always known the tiny town of Harrah (for those not in the know, it’s “hair-UH” not “Hah-rah” like the tacky Nevada casinos) as a place on the eastern edge of Oklahoma City. In recent years it’s become a booming site for McMansions on ranchettes, typically with sprawling edifices of 5,000 square feet or more in a style known as prairie provincial, a weird mix of field stone and Gallic silhouettes. Something called "Australian closets" -- shaped like a horseshoe and about the size of a San Francisco studio -- are quite common in these places.

I did not know until checking out the city of Harrah’s official website that it claims to be the home of not only Tim Holt but also Dale Robertson and the Warner Brothers, though apparently not the ones of James Cagney and Daffy Duck fame. What’s particularly odd about Tim Holt was that he was born in Beverly Hills and whiled away his final years in Harrah. Oklahoma-Hollywood connections usually go the opposite direction.

Well, it got me to thinking that I did, in fact, have a possible Harrah-Hollywood connection. Around 1963 or 1964, my grandpa Ralph, who was a city slicker with a fancy for spiffy horses on the weekend, bought a famous trick horse from someone near Harrah that had a movie connection. The horse had a trick of being able to say its prayers. Though a Unitarian with a disdain of evangelicals, my grandfather was perhaps passing comment about Bible-thumpers by having his penned equestrian boarder perform this stunt on cue.

So, the mystery is unsolved at this point. Perhaps I’ll update my YouTube tribute to my grandfather that is here at some point if I am able to solve the riddle: What was the name of the horse, and did Tim Holt once straddle it?

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