Tag Archives: Stanley Marsh 3

Dredging up memories of a true-blue eccentric … or weirdo

A fellow and I spoke this afternoon about someone I no longer think much about, but someone who occupied a most unique position in the community where I once lived.

The individual with whom I spoke said he is putting the finishing touches on a documentary film he is producing about none other than the late Stanley Marsh 3.

He and I hope to meet face to face at a later date. We will discuss Marsh in greater detail. The gentleman, who said he lives in Austin, is looking for a more longer-range view of Marsh. He thinks I can provide it.

How is that? Well, as I told the filmmaker, I did not know Marsh well. I mostly knew of him. Indeed, this individual’s reputation was, to put it kindly, far-reaching in the extreme.

Marsh was a premier eccentric. He also possessed tons of money. He was the purveyor of avant garde artwork, such as the lawn signs that cropped up on people’s yards all over Amarillo. They had flaky, sometimes nonsensical phrases. But they were fun to read and they often drew a laugh. The signs were the product of the Ant Farm, a Stanley Marsh 3 “organization”; he employed young people, mostly boys, to work at the museum.

That is my segue into the darker side of Marsh’s life. He was accused of doing nasty things with these young men. It provided plenty of grist for social commentary throughout the Panhandle. I reckon that the documentarian with whom I spoke will want to talk about that, too, and about Amarillo’s reaction to the allegations.

Arguably, though, Marsh’s greatest “contribution” to Amarillo’s popular culture rests with the Cadillacs that are buried nose down in that field just south of Interstate 40 and west of Amarillo’s city limits. Cadillac Ranch has been immortalized in a Bruce Springsteen song and is actually identified on the official Texas highway map.

I told the documentary filmmaker that I spoke with Marsh perhaps three times over the nearly 18 years I served as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News; twice by phone and once in person. Marsh was kind enough to tell me a time or two that he liked my work at the newspaper and I took that compliment as the highest praise imaginable.

Well, Marsh died in 2014. He left a decidedly mixed legacy. Folks admired him for his philanthropy and his generous contributions to health and higher education in the Panhandle, as well as his goofiness or reviled him because of the allegations that were leveled against him.

I will look forward to visiting with this filmmaker. My task now is to dig deeply into my own memory of what I can recall about a man who, depending on your point of view, was either an icon or a pariah.

Can’t put a single thing past POTUS

Once upon a time, long before he died of cancer complications, I once said of the late Amarillo millionaire weirdo Stanley Marsh 3 that I wouldn’t put a single thing past him, that he was capable of attempting any stunt under the sun.

With apologies to the late Texas Panhandle eccentric “artisan” and goofball, I am beginning to think the same thing of the president of the United States.

His former lawyer/confidant/”fixer” Michael Cohen has told authorities that he believes Donald Trump knew of the infamous 2016 meeting with Russians who had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton before the meeting took place.

That means Trump — surprise, surprise! — allegedly lied when he said he knew nothing of the meeting, that no one told him. Cohen reportedly told Don Trump Jr. in advance of the meeting, and that Don Jr. told Dad.

There also are reports that Trump’s legal might have leaked the news of Cohen’s recordings of the two men discussing paying hush money to a Playboy model who alleges she and the future president had a nearly year long love affair.

What might Trump the Elder have done here? There’s some speculation that the president might be behind the leak of this information so that he can get a head start on discrediting Cohen. He wants to peel away at Cohen’s credibility as he has sought to do with special counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI director James Comey.

And this all might be the work of someone who says point blank that he has “done nothing wrong.”

Sure.

Who can we believe regarding POTUS’s gutter mouth?

It’s come down to this: No longer can I take a single thing that Donald John Trump Sr. says at face value.

I do not believe unequivocally a single statement he can make.

Take his recent use of the term “sh**hole” to describe Africa, Haiti and El Salvador. He denies saying it. This morning, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who was in the room when the president said it actually stood with Trump in his denial.

Others in the room — Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — said Trump used the term. Durbin said he uttered the term “repeatedly” while talking about immigration.

Trump’s lying is so pervasive, so inclusive, so very disturbing that I’ve crossed a key threshold that now casts into doubt every single utterance that flies out of his mouth.

My state of disbelief rivals how I used to feel about a one-time Amarillo, Texas, figure. I refer to the late Stanley Marsh 3, the eccentric millionaire artisan/lawyer/goofball who in his day did some mighty strange things.

The Weather Channel came here in the early 2000s to cover a weather-related event and while the TV weatherman was on the air, Marsh — while wearing a feathered head dress — started prancing around in the background doing some sort of Native American dance.

Marsh was the strangest of strange dudes. It got so weird that there came a time when there wasn’t a single thing one could say about Marsh that I could dismiss out of hand.

“Hey, did you hear that Stanley flew to Mars and brought a Martian back to Earth with him.” I always felt in the deepest part of my gut, “You know … I wouldn’t put it past him.”

And so it is with Donald Trump. The man has been heard in public using filthy language. He referred to pro football players protesting police conduct against African-Americans as “sons of bi*****. ” He has used what my father used to call “the functional four-letter word” on more than one occasion since becoming a politician. He has done the same with the scatological term as well.

So, when he denies calling certain nations of the world “sh**hole” countries, well … I don’t believe his denial.

The man is a liar.

Toad Hall goes on the block

I became a bit wistful this morning when I saw the story in the newspaper about Toad Hall going on the market.

What is Toad Hall? It’s the estate of the late Stanley Marsh 3 and his wife, Wendy, that sits just off West Amarillo Boulevard.

I’ve never been there. I don’t expect I will, either. I certainly know plenty about Stanley — which is how I’ll refer to the late eccentric businessman/artisan in this blog post. If you mention the name “Stanley” to virtually any longtime resident of Amarillo, there’s a good bet they would know about whom you are referring.

His estate is going on the market for a hefty seven-figure amount.

Why the wistfulness? I guess it has to do with Stanley’s reputation, the good and bad parts of it, and whether this sale spells the end of the legacy that Stanley left us after he died in 2014.

He founded the art endeavor that produced some curious exhibits on our landscape. The “Floating Mesa” along Boys Ranch Road is one of them.

Stanley was proud of his quirkiness. He seemed to relish the notion that many of his fellow Panhandle residents considered him to be bordering on insane.

The last time I saw him he was leading a counter protest in 2006 in front of Amarillo City Hall; he marched at the head of a procession banging cymbals that sought to drown out some message being delivered by Ku Klux Klansman at the steps of City Hall.

I guess my major question now is this: What is going to happen to Cadillac Ranch, the goofy roadside attraction west of Amarillo on the south side of Interstate 40? Given the trouble Stanley found when he was indicted on several counts of sexual abuse involving young men and boys, some folks around the Panhandle have said out loud that the Cadillacs should go. They don’t want any vestige of Stanley’s art staining our countryside.

I hope the Ranch stays put. I am not privy to how that decision will be made. My preference would be to just enjoy the Caddies’ presence. Time well might temper some of the hard feelings many folks harbor toward Stanley and his memory.

Toad Hall as many of us remember it might soon be history. Just leave Cadillac Ranch alone.

Cadillac Ranch: May it stand for a very long time

caddies

I’ve just made my second trip to Cadillac Ranch in the past three days, taking members of my family out there — on the south side of Interstate 40 just west of Amarillo — to see this unique roadside attraction for the first time.

My cousin asked me today as we drove out of Palo Duro Canyon, “What is Cadillac Ranch, precisely?”

My answer: “It’s art.”

Those of you who’ve seen it know of what I speak. For those who don’t: It is 10 Cadillacs stuck nose-first into a pasture. They’re lined up perfectly and they purportedly are angled to face the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt … or so legend has it.

The trip today was fascinating for another reason: the number of motorists who had pulled off the highway to take a gander at this place.

The site was strewn with spray-paint cans on this glorious, sunny day on the High Plains. And many visitors were partaking of the chance to leave their mark on the Caddies.

Whenever I bring visitors to the place, I am compelled to tell them of the ranch’s origin. I tell them it was the creation of the late Stanley Marsh 3, the eccentric/weird Amarillo “art patron” who thought it would be cool, I guess, to stick the Caddies in the ground.

Marsh’s died not long ago. His legacy is — to say it charitably — a mixed bag. His eccentricity is legendary in West Texas. So is his philanthropy, as he and his wife have given a lot of money to fund higher education, as well as the arts, in Amarillo and elsewhere.

But there’s a darker side to Marsh’s history: the allegations of sexual misconduct. Given that such acts are in the news these days as they involve a certain Republican Party presidential nominee, I find it timely to mention here today.

Marsh had been charged with crimes involving young males. Even as he battled the cancer that eventually would take his life, Marsh was forced to defend himself against some serious allegations of misconduct. He ended up paying a lot of settlement money to those who had filed criminal complaints against him.

Then he died.

In the period immediately after his death, some of Marsh’s more strident critics called for the demolition of Cadillac Ranch. They want it removed from alongside the highway, believing the Cadillacs remind the community of the illegal acts for which Marsh had been accused.

My own thought is that the Cadillacs ought to remain for as long as they can withstand the sometimes-harsh High Plains elements.

The many motorists who pull of the highway to gawk at the cars, take “selfies” with them in the background or engage in some spray-painting fun likely don’t know — nor perhaps care about — the complete history of the Man Behind the Cadillacs.

Let’s keep them there. Cadillac Ranch remains to this very day a major attraction for those who choose to learn just a little about the quirky nature of this part of Texas.

The large number of cars and people I saw today illustrates the interest the Cadillacs create in those who are passing through.

Cadillac Ranch keeps drawing ’em off the highway

cadillac ranch

Maybe you’ve seen these cars as you’ve sped along Interstate 40 through Amarillo.

If you haven’t taken time to stop your vehicle, walk a few hundred yards south of the freeway and spray-paint some graffiti on one or more of the vehicles, perhaps you haven’t quite lived a full-enough life.

Ralph Duke, a local photographer, snapped this recent picture of the Cadillac Ranch, the renowned creation of one of Amarillo’s more, um, colorful characters.

Stanley Marsh 3 and his merry band of artists stuck these cars into the ground about 40 years ago. They’ve become one of Texas’s premier roadside attractions. The Caddies are so ingrained into Amarillo’s identity, they are noted on the official state highway map, the map with the picture of the governor and his wife. You’ll see their location marked with a red dot with the words “Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch.”

One of my sons lives in Allen with his family. Whenever he comes for a visit, a quick trip to Cadillac Ranch is a must-see for him. He swears that Stanley Marsh communicated with space aliens using underground transmitters wired to the cars.

Marsh got into some legal trouble a few years ago. Some young men accused him of sexual abuse. Marsh died a couple of years ago and some residents actually began clamoring for the Caddies to be removed from their location just west of the Amarillo city limits to protest the allegations that were leveled against Marsh.

Fiddlesticks! They should stay.

Whenever I drive by them, I think of a time I had taken an out-of-town visitor to see the cars. A big tour bus pulled up and out of it poured about three dozen or so tourists. I started chatting one of them up. He was from Australia, as were the rest of his bus mates. They were traveling from coast to coast and stopped in Amarillo to gawk at Cadillac Ranch.

The young Aussie was dumbfounded. “Who in the world does this? Who sticks cars in the ground like this?” I gave him the 30-second elevator speech that it was done by someone with a lot of time on his hands … and a lot of money in his bank account.

Then I said, “Welcome to America.”

He and I both laughed.

The Cadillacs have been painted in rainbow colors to honor the victims of the Orlando, Fla., slaughter. They’ll be “decorated” again with graffiti, if they haven’t been already.

Whatever. They provide a reminder to those just passing through of the brand of weirdness that can make people smile.

This is how you trick ’em

beilue_13

My pal Jon Mark Beilue has established an April Fool’s Day tradition at the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for 17-plus years.

This man is a master of putting one over on readers.

He does it intentionally once each year. He did so again today with this masterpiece about a proposed location for the Barack H. Obama Presidential Library.

He once spun a yarn about film star/heartthrob Matthew McConaughey moving to Amarillo; he once told a tall tale about the late Stanley Marsh 3 establishing an art museum inside an abandoned grocery store building next to Interstate 40. There have been others; those are two of my personal favorites.

I’ll just add this point before asking you to enjoy it as I have done already today.

The beauty of this kind of writing, which Jon Mark does better than anyone else I know, is that it tempts you to suspend your disbelief when you read it. You actually start to believe it could happen that, somehow, it’s not a prank.

Well, obviously it is.

Most of us in this part of the Texas surely are glad that it’s all a joke.

Others of us, well, might think differently.

Still, this is brilliant.

Enjoy.

Protests drowning out others’ speech

kkk

The national discussion we’re having about the tenor of Donald J. Trump’s political rallies and the protests that have erupted into violence have turned an interesting corner.

We hear from the Trumpsters that the protesters are drowning out their Republican presidential candidate’s right to be heard. It’s guaranteed in the First Amendment, they say.

The pro-protest crowd responds by saying they, too, are granted First Amendment protection and their protests are every bit as valid as the candidate’s right to speak.

Ahhh, this takes me back a few years to a fantastic moment in modern Amarillo history.

The year was 2006. The Ku Klux Klan wanted to stage a rally in front of City Hall. The city administration decided — on the advice of counsel — that the KKK was entitled to stage its rally. (My memory is a bit foggy at the moment, as I can’t remember the reason for the rally.)

So the Klan got its permit. The Amarillo Police Department deployed in force to ensure that violence didn’t break out. Even the t hen-chief of police, Jerry Neal, was decked out in his blues and all the hardware that beat cops wear when they’re on patrol. I’d never seen the chief “in uniform.”

I went to the rally to see it for myself.

But just as the rally was about to begin and when the leader of the Klan outfit took his place at the microphone, a counter protest comprising a crowd of a couple hundred showed up on the parking lot.

And man they were loud.

They were clanging cymbals, banging drums, shouting at the top of their lungs. Heck, there might even have been a horn or two in the procession.

Who was leading the counter protest? None other than the late millionaire eccentric Stanley Marsh 3. He was decked out in his customary white suit reminiscent of something out of Col. Sanders’ closet.

Fortunately, and I guess the police presence had much to do with it, there was no violence. The Klan guy tried to talk above the din. He gave up shortly afterward. The Klansmen departed the podium area and soon left the area.

Meanwhile, the Marsh-led counter protesters declared some form of victory that they were able to shout down the Ku Klux Klan.

I don’t recall then much argument in the community about whether the counter protest violated the other side’s right to be heard.

I do, though, recall having this visceral feeling of relief that the counter protest occurred, that the Klan was unable to spew its message — whatever it was — and that no one got hurt.

None of it bothered me in the least, as I had no particular interest in hearing what the Klan had to say in the first place.

 

Marsh’s art now becomes a target

cadillac ranch

Mention the name “Stanley Marsh 3” and you’ll likely get a variety of responses.

Many of them — if not most of them — might be negative.

The late millionaire is back in the news. He’s been dead for more than a year but he left behind some works of art that a number of individuals want removed.

Why? The art reminds the alleged victims of Marsh’s misbehavior of the deeds the late “eccentric” committed.

They want to rid the city of the art work.

I heard about this last night. I slept on it overnight and have concluded: The art work should stay put.

Yes, we’re talking about what arguably is the most iconic symbol of Amarillo: Cadillac Ranch.

The Caddies have been sticking out of the ground west of the city for 40-plus years. They’ve become one of the city’s major tourist attractions. You mention to anyone in the world where you’re from and you might get a response like this: Oh, isn’t the city with that big steak and the cars stuck in the ground?

I sympathize with those who are aggrieved by what Marsh has been accused of doing to them. Before his death and then afterward, allegations came forward about sexual misconduct involving Marsh and some teenage boys.

Removing the art work won’t be a simple task. All of it — and that includes those ubiquitous lawn signs — sits on private property. The individuals who want to remove it will have to get the property owners’ permission to take it all down.

As for Cadillac Ranch, I think that would be a gigantic mistake to wipe them off the Caprock. Eric Miller of the city’s Convention and Visitors Council, doesn’t want the cars taken down. They have become one of the more recognizable symbols of the city and they give us locals a chance to explain to visitors just what the heck they’re doing out there on that vast expanse of ranch land.

One of my sons years ago posited this theory: They are hooked up to underground telecommunications devices that enable Marsh to communicate with extraterrestrials.

I’ve long thought that Marsh was one of those individuals about whom you could say almost anything … and it would have the vaguest ring of believability.

His art work ought to live on.

Your thoughts?

Cadillac Ranch popularity is evident

Having just returned from visiting Cadillac Ranch, a curious thought popped into my skull.

I took my great-niece who’s here for a visit to the late Stanley Marsh 3’s iconic roadside attraction. That’s when it hit me: Interstate 40 has zero signs in either direction telling motorists that the Ranch is just ahead.

Why not?

While we were at Cadillac Ranch — the internationally known art exhibit featuring 10 vintage Cadillacs planted nose-down in the High Plains dirt — we noticed cars from Alabama, New Jersey, California and an unknown location, as it was too far away for me to read.

We walked among the Cadillacs for a few moments, snapped a few pictures, turned to walk back to our vehicle and noticed an even larger gathering of vehicles. Visitors were streaming through the rickety gate. I heard a couple of foreign languages spoken; the visitors speaking the languages likely are European.

Cadillac Ranch is one of the more unique attractions in the U.S. of A. It’s even identified in red letters on the official Texas state highway map, the one with a picture of the governor and the state’s first lady on it.

The state, though, doesn’t put any signage on I-40 to let motorists know they’re approaching the Cadillacs. I didn’t think to ask the motorists if they saw the cars in the field and turned their vehicles around to take a closer look or if they knew the Cadillacs were there all along and made a planned stop alongside the freeway.

I’m wondering about whether the state should give motorists a heads-up on Cadillac Ranch or whether the site’s popularity and notoriety is so evident that signage is unnecessary. Suppose the state did publicize the Ranch. What would SM3 think of the state, Potter County or Amarillo reaping some financial windfall?

Anyone have thoughts on that?