Brief Encounters – a new column

Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger, riding Silver, and Jay Silverheels as Tonto, on Scout. Photo ABC Television, 1956, Public Domain
Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger, riding Silver, and Jay Silverheels as Tonto, on Scout. Photo ABC Television, 1956, Public Domain

Facts and Opinions is pleased to announce a new column — our first in the Think/Arts section — by Brian Brennan. In Brief Encounters, Brennan recalls conversations he had with celebrities during his 15 years as a newspaper entertainment reporter, and incorporates fresh reporting.

Brennan, an Irish journalist living in Canada, is a founding feature writer with Facts and Opinions, a contributor to Arts dispatches and the Loose Leaf salon. His profile of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the first original feature in the journal’s inaugural issue, won Runner-up, Best Feature Article, in the 2014 Professional Writers Association of Canada Awards

His first Brief Encounters column, published today, is The Original Tonto: Jay Silverheels, an interview with the actor who played Tonto in the classic television show The Lone Ranger. An excerpt:

Our interview began with him reminding me of a joke. “You remember the old story about the Lone Ranger and Tonto?” said Jay Silverheels. “The one where they’re surrounded by a band of hostile Indians?”

I remembered it well. The “masked rider of the Plains” turned to his “faithful companion” and asked, “How do we get out of this mess, Tonto?” To which the usually taciturn Native replied, “What you mean we, white man?”

“I was the one who made that up,” said Silverheels, a mixed-blood Canadian Mohawk who played Tonto for eight years, 1949-57, in the television series The Lone Ranger. Was he serious? Yes, indeed. Silverheels said he came up with the line during an off-camera banter session on the set, when he and co-star Clayton Moore were kibitzing between scenes. “A member of the crew must have been eavesdropping because, a few weeks later, I was surprised to hear someone using the line in a joke.” 

I wanted to know why, after establishing himself in Hollywood as an Aboriginal actor who could hold his own on the big screen with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Tyrone Power, Silverheels had chosen to play on television a role he clearly found demeaning …   log in first to read The Original Tonto: Jay Silverheels (subscription required*)

Brian Brennan’s columnist page is here.

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