November 8, 2011
Durango Kid – Rough, Tough West
During the Sarasota appearance I invited Jock Mahoney to appear in September, 1980 at ORLANDOcon. A couple months later he called me from North Dakota (or Montana, some state way up north) where he was on location filming “Mountain Men”. He was concerned about conflicting schedules but they finished on time. This film was probably never released. It’s not in Jock’s filmography. I do have a still of him from it somewhere and will post it if I can find it. He called again saying he had been asked to be in a Fred Olen Ray movie. That made me nervous. I love Fabulous Freddy, a Florida boy gone Hollywood where he made good… very good… but his movies, especially at that time, were very… crude. Later in life I learned that actors always want to do another movie, in spite of its bonifides. This film never came about, either.
Come September Jock Mahoney arrived for OrlandoCon. He brought his beautiful wife, Autumn, an actress who looked familiar to me. Later I placed her as being Autumn Russell, female lead in ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU. Allison Hayes got top billing but Autumn’s was the larger role. Since I was one of the hosts of OrlandoCon I was put in charge of Jocko and spent lots of time with him. I took the Mahoneys out to eat at Florida Festival with my wife, Rebekah, and daughter, Laura. Both of them got the “stand up straight” treatment from big Jock who physically adjusted their posture. His hands on approach left a lasting impression on my girls. To this day when I catch either slouching, I remind them of the “Mahoney adjustment.” All 5 of us had to fit into my Corolla and I apologized for not having a bigger car (Jocko was 6’4”). Autumn laughed, “You should see what he drives back in California!” implying their car was even smaller.
I spoke with Jock at length about working on the Durango Kid series with Charles Starrett. I asked him to explain how the heck he could jump off a building and land in the saddle without crushing the family jewels. He explained that on the way onto the saddle he applied great pressure with his leg muscles on the sides of the horse to ease into position. Jocko was noted for having powerful legs. He was called in to double Errol Flynn in THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (1949) for a scene requiring Flynn to leap flat-footed from a stair case on to the villain. Mahoney was the only man in Hollywood who could leap such a distance.
Jock explained to me that in the series there were THREE horses that played Durango’s white stallion, RAIDER. One who looked great in close-ups, one who ran beautifully and a stunt horse especially trained to do the gags. This horse was pretty smart and after awhile he comprehended that when he was backed into an alley to stand in place that soon thereafter a 200 lb galoot would drop from the roof on to his back. Not liking this, the horse became unruly. Jock did not want to drop from the roof only to have the stunt horse side step at the last moment. So he came up with a solution to steady the anxious critter. He had the director break for lunch dismissing everyone but the camera man, the stunt horse and Jocko on top of the building. After everyone left, the horse calmed down. Jock gave the cameraman the high sign then leapt down into the saddle. Raider took off like a shot. The result was a perfect take and nobody was injured.