Taking a bite out of my Tulsa memories
I’ve met a few famous people in my life, but none of them has taken a bite out of my hide like one famous Tulsan’s dog did.
As I mentioned in a previous column, I threw Tulsa World morning newspapers with my mom from 1972 – 1977. On occasion, I would substitute a Tulsa Tribune evening route for a friend.
This one particular time, I was substituting a route and delivering the papers from my bicycle. I rolled up on this house in the 1900 block of South Evanston and the next door neighbor’s dog saw me, ran toward me and bit me in the leg.
The bite brought blood and I ended up going to a neighborhood doctor and getting a penicillin shot.
The dog’s owner was Gailard Sartain.
Sartain, who graduated from my alum mater, Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, about 15 years before me, was sort of a Tulsa icon. At the time, he lived in a modest brick home in the Florence Park neighborhood about six blocks from where I lived.
While working on his master’s in art from the University of Tulsa, Sartain sidelined as a cameraman on Tulsa’s KOTV, Channel 8, the local ABC affiliate. From July 1971 until the summer of 1973, Sartain joined forces with another famous Tulsan, Gary Busey, and the pair, along with another Tulsan, Jim Millaway, were the characters behind a late night show, Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi’s Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting. The show wrapped around old horror movies on Saturday nights and was a favorite of many young people.
Even though I never watched the show, mainly because my mom didn’t let me, I knew who Sartain was from television. I also had a poster of him as the Uncanny 7Up man in my clubhouse.
The role as Dr. Mazeppa led to Sartain being noticed by Jim Halsey, a well-known talent agent of the day, who suggested he join the Hee Haw cast.
Sartain joined the show in 1972 and became a regular with another Tulsan, Roy Clark, and Buck Owens. Some of his skits including the bumbling store employee, Maynard, the chef at Lulu’s Truck Stop and a truck driver in “Let’s Truck Together” sketches with Kenny Price. He remained with the cast until the show was cancelled in 1992.
His first major film was “Nashville,” featuring Keith Carradine and directed by Robert Altman. He went on to play the Big Bopper in the Buddy Holly story in 1978 with Busey, appearing in the Academy Award nominated, title role.
He acted in more than 60 movies and television shows during his career such as “Mississippi Burning,” “Guilty by Suspicion,” “The Outsiders,” “Equinox,” “The Grifters,” “Ali,” “Hollywood Knights,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Hey Vern It’s Ernest,” “Ernest Saves Christmas,” “Ernest Goes to Jail” and “Ernest Goes to Camp.”
He was also quite an artist and illustrator and some of his original artwork was featured in Leon Russell’s album, “Will O’ The Wisp.” Russell was also from Tulsa.
If I can find an address for Sartain, I’m going to write him a letter and bring up the dog bite and see if he responds. He did pay the $13 bill for my shot. If my memory serves me right, my mom called him about the dog bite. I wish I still had the bill. It might be worth some money these days. Also, I wouldn’t mind having a signed piece of his artwork.
There were a lot of other famous Tulsans who I have never met including Anita Bryant, a singer, actress, author, activist and Miss America runner up in 1959; David Gates of the 1970s band, Bread; Elvin Bishop, who wrote the song, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” Garth Brooks, singer songwriter; Tony Randall, actor; Russell Meyers, Cartoonist of Broom Hilda; William G. Skelly, founder of Skelly Oil Company and Spartan School of Aeronautics, who my mom worked for in the late 1950s and early 1960s; Jeanne Tripplehorn, former Tulsa radio host turned actress, whose father was Tom Tripplehorn, a guitarist with Gary Lewis & The Playboys; S.E. Hinton, author of “The Outsiders,” which featured Sartain in the movie version, and “That was Then, This is Now,” and “Tex,” and Paul Harvey, the man behind, “The Rest of the Story.”
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
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