McMurtry, who thus far has been paid handsomely for the rights to all these Doves, is getting directly involved for the first time as screenwriter and executive producer of Streets of Laredo. He and partner Diana Ossana, whom he met at an all-you-can-eat catfish restaurant in Tucson, also will shepherd Dead Man's Walk to television. McMurtry said he wanted "to do something besides write novels" after turning out 20 of them. He's not particularly worried about all the Dove knockoffs taking wing.
"I look at it as something akin to the Arthurian legends," McMurtry said. ''It's slopped over. It's not just one book by one author anymore. The dog that won the Westminster dog show two years ago was named Lonesome Dove. Bars and honky-tonks all over the West are named Lonesome Dove. Cafes are named Lonesome Dove. Racehorses are named Lonesome Dove. Furniture is named Lonesome Dove. There could even be a franchise of Lonesome Dove steakhouses if I chose to permit it to sink to that level. But frankly, it hasn't bothered me."
It did irk McMurtry, though, when CBS executives portrayed him as a collaborator on both the original Lonesome Dove mini-series and the successor telecast two seasons ago. He would fire off barbed letters to the Dallas Morning News after reading about his so-called involvement.
"If you so much as glance at the script, our involvement with it is assumed to be considerably deeper than it has been," he said. "So if I reacted resentfully, I saw my role as much more limited than had been advertised."
Streets of Laredo, which was filmed in Lajitas, Texas, is set 15 years after Lonesome Dove ended. Garner's costars include Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Sonia Braga, Randy Quaid, Wes Studi, Ned Beatty and George Carlin.
For Garner, it is a chance to revisit what could have been a past triumph. He had agreed to play Call's partner, Gus McCrae, and was in Hawaii reading the Lonesome Dove script when "my doctor called and said, 'I don't want you riding a horse.' "
"So I've always regretted missing out on that," Garner said. "But I have to say that (Robert) Duvall probably did the better job."
Garner said westerns appeal to him because "you can tell the good guys
from the bad guys. You can't seem to do that in films much anymore. You see some of these good guys that blow up thousands of people. I never found out what was good about that."
McMurtry, owner of a bookstore in Archer City, Texas, headed for Oakland, Calif., immediately after the Streets news conference. He said he intended to raid several major book collections on sale in the San Francisco Bay Area. His own best-selling novels continue to be acclaimed by others, but not by the author.
"I don't have favorites among my books," he said. "I forget 'em as soon as I write 'em."
GERALDO'S AFFAIR. Syndicated sensationalist talk guy Geraldo Rivera may end up anchoring Fox's A Current Affair, sources told the New York Daily News.
Rivera, daytime host of Geraldo! and nighttime host of CNBC's relatively cerebral Rivera Live has been at the A Current Affair offices and has discussed the anchor job, the sources said. The move would have to wait for Rivera's CNBC contract to expire, which it does in a few months.
Wednesday, Rivera's spokesman said that he's in "intensive" discussions with CNBC about renewing his contract and with other companies about ''exploring some new venue that will allow him similar journalistic freedom and integrity."
Industry sources speculate that besides the issue of more money, the move
from cable back to a nationally syndicated show holds great appeal for Rivera. His CNBC salary is estimated to be $500,000, plus incentives based on ratings.
Any move Rivera makes could be complicated by his contract with Tribune Co., which produces his daytime show.
CNBC insiders Wednesday suggested that if Rivera is just using the A Current Affair gig as a bargaining tool to outmaneuver CNBC President Roger Ailes, he's in for a rude awakening.
"When Rivera came here he was fighting Joey Buttafuoco and serving as a travel agent for trailer-park trash," said a CNBC source. "Ailes has made over Richard Nixon and George Bush. But his toughest makeover has been Geraldo Rivera. If this is Rivera's way of negotiating for more money, he should consult with Jane Wallace, John McLaughlin and Phil Donahue (all cut loose by Ailes) to see how well this works with Ailes."