The kids of the 40's, 50's and even the very early 60's were lucky. They had heroes, the cowboys! Whether they were heard over the radio or seen in the movies or television, they were bigger than life, yet at the same time, they were real! Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, The Rifleman, The Rangerider, Wild Bill Hickok, Matt Dillon, Lash LaRue, Sunset Carson...the list is endless. Stevens says. "as things turned out, I think I am luckier than most of the kids of my generation. I get to work with my cowboy heroes everyday. My idols, my heroes, have always been cowboys. I guess it started when my father took me to Madison Square Garden when I was eight years old. I was going to see Roy Rogers...in person! That was all I needed. I was hooked for life! I knew right then and there, someday I was going to be a cowboy.
We moved to Corpus Christi, Texas the next year (and from that time on, I would tell everyone that I'm a Texan) and five years later, we moved to Hollywood. I didn't become a cowboy in Texas, but I became a child actor in Hollywood. And it was through this round about means that I got to meet and work with my heroes. I guest-starred on The Roy Rogers Show. I worked with Roy and Dale and met their daughter, Cheryl. I rode in "Nellybelle" with wonderful Pat Brady. It was Roy and Dale who led me to My Lord Jesus Christ. On the set, there was a cuss box. When you cussed, you put a quarter in the box. (I bet I financed at least two of the shows). I was always cussing when I missed a line of dialogue and Roy decided to do something about it. He asked me if I would like to go out with him the following Saturday night. Wow! Imagine! Me and Roy Rogers...out on the town, together! "You bet, Roy!" "I'd love to go!" I was to meet Roy at Bob Nolan's house (the leader of the "Sons of the Pioneers") and we would go from there. Up until this point, I may have been slightly impressed with myself that I was an 'actor', that I had worked with such greats as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, but now, I was impossible to live with. I was Mr. Ego.
I got all dressed up and ready to go by two in the afternoon, (about five hours ahead of schedule). Right at seven p.m. I knocked on Bob's door and I was let in. There were a lot of familiar faces there and then Roy spots me and waves to me to come over and join him. It wasn't long before I realized that this wasn't a party, it was some kind of meeting. It started with a prayer. Then I heard, "Has anyone brought any sinners tonight?" Roy stood up, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I would like you all to meet Steve Stevens, an actor and sinner." Well, let me tell you, that was the most embarrassing and humiliating moment of my life...and I will always cherish it. This was the first meeting for a group called the Hollywood Christian Group, a non-denominational Christian group for people in all walks of showbusiness. It grew to many hundreds and lasted for several years.
What a treat it was to hang out at the Double R Ranch in Chatsworth, California and play pool with my hero, Roy Rogers. I am still in awe of Roy and when I saw him from time to time over the years, I still felt like that eight year old kid in Madison Square Garden. One day, and I remember it like it was yesterday, because it had such a big impact on me, I was working on a TV show at the old Republic Studios (now CBS Studio Center). I wandered over to The Rifleman set and there he was. The Rifleman! In person! Flesh and blood. Wow! Chuck Connors walked by me and he smiled at me as he passed. Oh boy, I couldn't move. And it's ironic that almost 27 years later, I became Chuck's agent. What a man's man!
Even though I did manage to appear on other shows, (Gunsmoke, when Burt Reynolds was on the show, Zorro, and The Mickey Mouse Club), I gave up acting and became a talent agent. Right from the start I decided to represent and be around my heroes. Through the years (and certainly through a lot of hard work and prayers), I have represented such legends as Rod Cameron, Guy Madison, Strother Martin, Leo Gordon, Jock Mahoney, Buck Taylor, Slim Pickens, Chuck Connors and Larry Mahan. (I took him right out of the rodeo circuit and made an actor out of him). Not bad for a dirty little kid hanging onto a greased donkey's a..!
One cowboy will always have a very special place in my heart; the late Jimmy Wakely. I knew his whole family quite well, going to school with his daughter, Linda. I would go over to his beautiful ranch style house in Toluca Lake, Calif., and we would play cards, one-on-one, for hours. He would reminisce about the old days, some of the most colorful stories I've ever heard. What a wonderful man he was. Each time I have the pleasure and good fortune to meet yet another of the cowboy legends, I still feel like a kid. When I was invited by Chuck Connors to the Golden Boot Awards, it turned out to be a cowboy heaven for me. What a night that was. It was like a dream come true. I had the pleasure of meeting Gene Autry (what can I say. I was speechless). I also met Sunset Carson, Lash LaRue and Ben Johnson, and I was very glad to see my old compadre, Woody Strode.
And it didn't end there. A short time later, I went to Fort Worth with my clients Buck Taylor, Leo Gordon, Jerry Potter and Chuck Connors. They were starring in a special for cable television. There I was in the Fort Worth stockyards with Chuck Connors (The Rifleman), James Drury (The Virginian) and Ken Curtis (Fester). It was like being in the Cowboy Twilight Zone.
With Clayton Moore
There are so many wonderful stories I've accumulated over the years about my heroes, the cowboys...my friends. They have made my life so rewarding. Through the years and the many changes and turn of events, a lot of things haven't turned out as I planned. I'm a talent agent, but, in my heart, I'm a cowboy."
Photos from the Steve Stevens Collection