Westerns… All’Italiana!‘s editor-in-chief Tom Betts offers a brief history of the groundbreaking and much-loved fanzine and blog.
Sometime early in 1983, Tim Ferrante got the bright idea of creating an Italian Westerns fanzine. He called his buddy Gary Dorst and Gary liked the idea. Bob Bahn, Don Trunick and Bill Boehlke soon joined the duo (followed later by Bob Hiott) and through their collective efforts Westerns… All’Italiana! was born. With the production team pulling together and supplying new articles, archive pressbook materials and general support, Tim was able to publish the first issue of the fanzine in April 1983.
That first issue ran to 24 single type-written pages. This was long before the arrival of home computers, fax machines, the Internet and e-mail, so Tim had to collect material from various hard copy sources such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and other film magazines. In addition, the team’s search for information about a film genre that most American filmgoers were unfamiliar with resulted in them spending hours researching and collecting material at local libraries and bookstores.
Even when material was located or written up by one of the contributors it had to be sent to Tim by snail mail and he then had to retype the submission so that all of the articles’ typefaces looked the same. This was before the arrival of desktop publishing programmes and so any pictures or illustrations had to be physically cut and pasted into each page of the master copy. After assembly, Tim would take the master copy to work and photocopy 50 issues. He then had to collate and staple them together before going to his local Post Office to mail them out.
I became aware of the fanzine through Gary Dorst after Tim had released the second issue. I talked to Tim on the phone and he told me that he could sell me a Xerox copied issue of #1, as all of the original 50 copies had been sold. He did mention that one of the readers had bought several copies of issue #2 and sold them on to the Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard but he had no idea if there were any left there. I drove over to Edmunds the following day since it was in the territory that I covered as a Territory Manager for Hubbell Incorporated. Larry had three copies left at $2.50 each so I bought all three. I kept two for myself and sent one to my brother.
I kept bugging Tim by asking him when issue #3 would be available. He said that he had amassed enough material to do two more issues but explained that it all had to be retyped, set up and assembled and he really did not have the time to do it at that moment. I told him to forget about retyping the articles and suggested that he should just assemble what he had in order to get a new issue out in good time. So, to shut me up, he did just that and released the combined bumper issue #3/4. At this point he was about to let the fanzine fold but I talked him into letting me help him with future issues.
I suggested that we could publish a 25 page issue every month by alternating the production of each issue between us – this meant that we would each have two months to complete the next issue that we were responsible for. He agreed and for the next few years that is how the issues were done. We both bought a Brother Word Processor, which allowed us to exchange discs that held completed articles and suchlike. This helped to speed up the production process and allowed the printing styles and typefaces of the articles to be compatible.
When Tim got married I took over the fanzine and decided to release it on a quarterly basis. At this point Eric Mache and Ally Lamaj (who would later form Wild East Productions) helped secure and conduct interviews with several of the major actors of the genre such as Tomas Milian, Gianni Garko, Hunt Powers and Franco Nero. Along with Bill Connolly of the fanzine Spaghetti Cinema, I was able to locate some of the West Coast participants of the genre: actors such as Robert Woods, Walter Barnes, Richard Harrison, Kelo Henderson, Neil Summers and Dominic Barto. Since Eric is a graphic artist by trade, we put him to good use drawing some splendid covers for a series of special issues that covered the careers of these actors. We also started doing memorial issues for the greats that were now starting to pass on.
By the turn of the 21st Century, I was able to start making digital master copies with the help of my new co-editor Lee Broughton. I could put an issue together in about a week or two before e-mailing it to Lee who would tweak it by adding page numbers, headings and other bells and whistles before returning it to me so it could be printed and mailed out to subscribers. Back issues had always been available, but it was a real chore to photocopy – rather than print – each one. Luckily I met Phil Dovaston of Cleveland, England who took over the job of selling and copying issues of the fanzine for subscribers in Europe. Eventually we were able to work exclusively on digital copies of new issues and these were e-mailed directly to subscribers.
This approach still did not answer the demand for immediate correspondence with fans who wanted news about new CD and DVD releases, the passing of actors and crew members and information about the now infrequent film start ups. So, after retiring early from my position with Hubbell Incorporated in 2010, I decided to create a Westerns… All’Italiana! blog page. Today you can get your daily fix of everything related to the Euro-Western genre by simply visiting the blog page here. And I now also run a Westerns… All’Italiana! Facebook page.
It is quite amazing that a film genre that was scorned by American filmmakers and film critics has been a staple of my life for 30+ years now. I’ve met lifelong friends like Tim Ferrante and his wife Jackie, Eric Mache and Ally Lamaj, Lee Broughton, Sir Christopher Frayling, Howard Hughes, Ulrich Bruckner and Kevin Grant. And I’ve met Spaghetti Western greats like Ennio Morricone, Robert Woods, Richard Harrison, Gordon Mitchell, Mickey Hargitay, Brett Halsey, Mark Damon, Hunt Powers, Fabio Testi and Dan van Husen among others. I’ve been in contact with many fans of the genre around the world, several of whom I still call good friends. I’ve been to Monument Valley and Almeria, Spain twice to visit the Sergio Leone shooting sites thanks to my late friend, Don Bruce. And I also participated as the host and MC of the “First Los Angeles Spaghetti Western Festival” in 2011.
Gary Dorst and Rich Landwehr, who created the famous Westerns… All’Italiana! cover logo, have both passed away in the last few years but I know that they are looking over my shoulder and I’ll continue the mission to research and report on all aspects of the Euro-Western in their honor.
© Copyright 2017 Tom Betts.