Capping the 2017 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, the city of Santa Clarita honored celebrated character actor Bo Hopkins and Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studios owners Andre and Renaud Veluzat with plaques on the Walk of Western Stars in Old Town Newhall, California, on Sunday, April 23, 2017.
Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth emceed the unveiling ceremony for Hopkins’ and the Veluzats’ bronze saddle and terrazzo tile plaques on Main Street, addressing a crowd of around 100 family, friends and fans (and a few local reporters).
Mayor Pro-Tem Laurene Weste and City Council member Marsha McLean presented wooden Walk of Western Stars wall plaques to all three honorees, who also each received a State Assembly proclamation from Assemblyman Dante Acosta.
Hopkins’ extensive filmography includes many films and TV episodes shot in and around the Santa Clarita Valley, in part or in full, from “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke” to “The Rockford Files” and “Charlie’s Angels.” Hopkins co-starred in three Sam Peckinpah westerns including “The Wild Bunch,” as well as George Lucas’ “American Graffiti” and the “Dynasty” TV series.
The Veluzats and Melody Ranch hosted the annual Cowboy Festival for 21 years, from 1994 through 2014. The brothers grew up in Newhall, acted and stunted in TV and movies a bit in their youth, and bought Melody Ranch from Gene Autry in 1990. They restored the historic Main Street set and reopened the studio for production.
In recent years Melody Ranch was home to HBO’s “Deadwood” series and the location filmmaker Quentin Tarantino chose to shoot “Django Unchained.”
Filming of HBO’s “Westworld” series began at the studio in 2014 and forced the Cowboy Festival to move the following year onto Main Street in Old Town Newhall, where the Walk of Western Stars stretches several blocks and includes nearly 100 saddle plaques installed since 1981.
While the unveiling ceremony on the street was free and open to the public, a post-induction reception half a block away at The Main (the former Repertory East Playhouse), was a ticketed event but well worth the $30 per.
The presentation echoed the gala WOWS banquets at the Hyatt of past that were far bigger productions and attended by maybe three times the people, but those events also cost $100 per ticket.
Hopkins and the Veluzat brothers took the stage of the intimate theater for separate Q&A sessions with civic leader Ed Masterson, preceded by video presentations of classic film clips. Between sessions, the Messick Family Singers performed cowboy songs.
Hopkins recalled a few experiences working with Peckinpah, scoring free Angels tickets from Gene Autry, filming westerns and “Rockford Files” episodes in the Santa Clarita and Palmdale areas, how he got the nickname “Bo” (his given name is William Mauldin Hopkins), and filming “American Graffiti.”
Hopkins played the bad-ass leader of the Pharoahs car gang. He confided that during the shoot, he didn’t quite “get” what George Lucas was going after with the coming-of-age story, set in the early-to-mid 1960s, until he saw the completed film with the soundtrack in place. Like most film music, the epic “American Graffiti” soundtrack of first-generation ’50s rock ‘n’ roll classics and second-generation ’60s hits was added after the footage was shot.
“The music made the film, and the film made the music,” Hopkins said.
In the Veluzats’ Q&A segment, the audience heard a little about the brothers’ adventures growing up in Newhall when there was one traffic signal (Lyons and Railroad); acting and doing stunts in some classic TV shows and films as kids and young men; how they came to know singing cowboy legend Gene Autry, and eventually bought what was left of Autry’s Melody Ranch movie studios in Newhall’s Placerita Canyon.
Andre and Renaud went on to detail how they rebuilt the burned-out Main Street set at Melody Ranch only by using nine photos of the original street, but no blueprints or even carpenter’s level; the studio being four-walled during the “Deadwood” era; the day Quentin Tarantino walked Main Street and decided it was perfect for “Django Unchained”; and the story behind how that full-sized train got moved to the set for “Westworld.”
As a surprise for the audience after the Q&As, Renaud sat in with members of the Messick band, playing lead and rhythm guitar on instrumental versions of Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues,” Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and Bob Wills’ “San Antonio Rose.” Unrehearsed, on the fly, loose, and a fitting way to wrap the evening’s festivities.
Will Cowboy Festival Return to Melody Ranch in 2018?
Outside the dressing room afterward, Andre Veluzat said the Cowboy Festival could very well return to Melody Ranch next year. “Westworld,” which begins shooting its second season this week at Melody Ranch, would be on hiatus during most of April, as it was this year.
Veluzat also confided he and his brother Renaud had just accepted an invitation to be the Grand Marshals in Santa Clarita’s upcoming Fourth of July parade, which starts on Main Street.
“But we told ’em we didn’t want to ride in a car,” Andre said. “We want to ride in a horse-drawn buggy!”
Santa Clarita journalist, PR consultant and website producer Stephen K. Peeples began his career writing about American music and pop culture for Cash Box, the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly, Circus, Picking Up the Tempo, Modern Recording, Performance, Rocky Mountain Musical Express, Rock Around the World and other publications from 1975-1977. He is a Grammy-nominated record producer (“Monterey International Pop Festival,” MIPF/Rhino, 1992), veteran record industry media relations executive (Capitol Records, Elektra/Asylum Records, the Westwood One Radio Network, Rhino Entertainment, 1977-1998), and website content manager (Rhino, 1996-1998; Warner New Media, 1998-2001). Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One (1988-1990). He was music and entertainment features writer/columnist for the Santa Clarita Valley Signal (2004-2011), and The Signal’s award-winning online editor (2007-2011). He hosted, wrote and co-produced the WAVE-nominated “House Blend” music and interview show on SCV community TV station SCVTV (2010-2015) and wrote news and features for Santa Clarita’s KHTS-AM 1220 News (www.hometownstation.com) and SCVTV’s SCVNews.com (2011-2016). He served as Vice President/New Media & Editorial with Los Angeles-based multimedia pop culture company Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. (2010-2016). As a web producer, he was project manager building sites for clients including Santa Clarita Photographic Studio and Rare Cool Stuff (2013-2015). In 2015, pursuing another passion, animals, he co-founded Pet Me Happy Treats, created an all-natural treat for dogs, and co-produced the company’s website with longtime Associate Producer Paige Hagen. He still posts music-related stories and interviews because he can’t help it. For more information, email skp (at) stephenkpeeples.com or visit http://www.stephenkpeeples.com.
Article: Walk of Western Stars Honors Andre & Renaud Veluzat, Bo Hopkins
Category: News & Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com