By SHEA STANFIELD
There’s an old saying that goes, “Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.”
In the case of local artist, author, publisher, radio host and one of our most beloved Arizona storytellers, Bob Boze Bell (also known as Triple B or BBB), has done his fair share of bouncing.
Bob showed up in this life during the year 1946 in Forest City, Iowa. Born with a “very strong drive to get attention,” he began his performance career as class clown, in grades first through third in Swea City, Iowa. There his father owned a Phillips 66 gas station and his mother practiced her patience with her “wild baby Bob.”
The family moved to Kingman, Ariz., in 1956 where his dad opened Al Bell’s Flying A on Route 66. Bob enjoyed playing right field in little league for the Odd Fellow Yankees and earned tips icing jugs in his dad’s station.
It was about this time young Bob saw a TV program on Wyatt Earp. To his interest his grandmother, Louise Guess Swafford, remarked, “The real Wyatt Earp was the biggest jerk that ever walked the West!”
Grandma Swafford had credibility because she lived on a ranch near Tombstone at the turn of the century. So, with a “note to self” Bob decided to someday get to the bottom of this discrepancy.
“I successfully graduated from Mohave County Union High School in 1965 with the valedictorian of the class,” Bob said.
Around this time the Bob Boze Bell, became known as just Triple B or BBB, and he started a five-year “career student” path at the University of Arizona with the goal of earning a degree in commercial art.
Never to be one to allow schooling to interfere with his education, BBB left the university in 1970, three units shy of a degree. By this time BBB and his long-time friend, Daniel Harshberger, decided that Arizona needed a little humor, so they published the “Razz Revue.”
Sixteen issues and four years later the guys were right where they started with zero money, but a bushel more experience in publishing. BBB then took his expertise in illustration and journalism to the “New Times” in Phoenix for the bargain salary of $110 a week.
It wasn’t long before Bob would meet and marry Kathy Sue Radina.
Mark Twain wrote, “All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and success sure.” BBB, to this point was doing quite well playing his chips on confidence, his life was taking off.
In 1980 Bob and Kathy welcomed daughter Deena Carolina Bell, according to Bob, “A spitin’ image of her mother.” Not long after Master Thomas Charles Bell came struttin’ into the family to liven things up.
In the meantime, BBB sold his cartoon creation “Honkytonk Sue” to Columbia Pictures. He was on a roll and shortly thereafter BBB won the Arizona Press Club’s Cartoonist of the Year award, beating out the young upstart Steve Benson, a coup of astronomical proportions.
Arizona Highways Editor, Don Dedera, took notice and scooped up BBB for an assignment to create 14 small, black and white drawings to accompany an article on Prescott in an upcoming issue.
Well, following the old cowboy saying, “We all got pieces of crazy in us, some have bigger pieces than others.” BBB out did himself on illustrations producing 30 pieces, many in color and quite large.
The editor took them all and BBB was now on the illustration map. Following this success BBB went to work for KSLX radio in Scottsdale on The Jones & Boze Show.
“Speak your mind but ride a fast horse,” is good advice for a cowboy humorist. Unfortunately, BBB’s mount was not quite fast enough, and the radio career ended after eight years. At this point BBB decided to focus on his publishing endeavors full-time.
BBB had been working on his first book “The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid,” during the waning days of his radio career. Now self-published on borrowed time and money BBB was on his way to fame and fortune!
His second, self-published book “The Illustrated Life and Times of Wyatt Earp” sold out in 10 months resulting in a second, third, and fourth revised edition selling out as well.
While the hot cakes were flippin’ BBB lassoed the opportunity to turn out “The Illustrated Life and Times of Doc Holliday” the third hit in the trilogy.
BBB continued his artistic success on his mantra, “Draw every day without hope, without despair.”
He had annual shows at Suzanne Brown’s Art Gallery in Scottsdale, two covers on Arizona Highways with paintings of Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp, and several published articles about growing up on Route 66.
Soon Hollywood was calling on BBB to create 40 illustrations for the Discovery Channel documentary, “Outlaws & Lawmen.” New York producers thought this was a great idea and ordered 40 illustrations for the TV documentary “The War in Lincoln County” of Billy the Kid.
Two magazine covers followed, one in the publication Wild West of Wild Bill Hickok, and the other in the magazine True West of Billy the Kid.
BBB loves the process and he considers himself a student, not a master that is always moving forward.
The next and no means final chapter in the saga of BBB was the acquisition of True West magazine in November 1999. Started in 1953, True West is the oldest, continuously published Western American magazine and is still published monthly today with BBB as the Executive Editor, guiding the reins.
A complete history of this publication is available at truewestmagazine.com. Visit BBB’s website bobbozebellart.com for his portfolio of work. To get stories with “whip outs” of the true west daily visit BBB’s blog, Big Bad Book of Bad Diary Entries (http://blog.truewestmagazine.com/).
Your opportunity to meet artist, illustrator, author, historian, radio host and “keeper of the campfire,” Bob Boze Bell, is on Thursday, January 24, at Cattle Track Arts Compound, 6105 N. Cattletrack Road in Scottsdale, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. If you plan on attending, please RSVP to Ken@twmag.com before January 15.
This evening marks the official book launch of BBB’s third edition of “The Illustrated Life and Times of Doc Holliday,” and the exhibition features original gouache paintings of Doc Holliday on view through March 31, 2019.