Paul Coates -- Confidential File, February 9, 1959
February 9, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Horse and Badge Make a SheriffThe way it started, Mickey Finn, the bearded Grover Whalen of Palm Springs, phoned me a couple weeks ago. Collect.
"Keep your fingers crossed," he said. "The Palm Springs mounted police are holding their annual rodeo on Feb. 7."
"What's that got to do with my fingers, Mickey?" I asked.
"There's a chance," he explained, "that I can get you made honorary sheriff of Palm Springs for the day."
"Me?" I chuckled modestly. "They wouldn't want me."
"I know, I know," he replied. "But I think I can swing it. And believe me, it's a great honor. You'll be in good company. Robert Horton of 'Wagon Train' is the grand marshal and Barbara Stanwyck is the official hostess."
Then he hung up after assuring me that he'd call back in a few days.
While I waited, I took a gamble by ordering a western outfit from Nudie's Rodeo Tailors, which bases its prices on the premise that anybody who wants a custom-made cowboy suit is really a Texas oil millionaire.
The gamble paid off. That same week Mickey called back again.
"You're all set, kid," he told me. "The committee accepted you. You're the honorary sheriff."
"What about the badge?" I demanded.
"That, too," he assured me. "Now, the parade starts at 10 sharp on Saturday morning. Be there with your horse.
"And," he cautioned, "don't be late."
So I was 10 minutes late. You now what I mean? Big deal. The honorary sheriff, and they couldn't hold the parade up for a lousy 10 minutes.
Just because Miss Stanwyck was there on time, they started without me. And, incidentally, if you don't mind my saying so, I can ride rings around that girl, which sounds like a bit of sport at that.
Anyway, I had to gallop like an idiot down Palm Canyon Drive on a horse with whom I am hopelessly incompatible. Since I'm not very tall in the saddle, it was a hard ride. And frankly, I think I've probably done myself some internal damage which I'm not even aware of yet.
Honors for Some Honorary
When I found my place in line, further confusion reigned. One of the street corner announcers introduced me to the crowd as "Freddie Otash, famous private eye." Otash, in his turn was introduced as Gene Sherman.
That evening, I picked up a local paper and read on the society pages that the Herman Ridders were having a cocktail party to honor Grand Marshal Robert Horton and Official Hostess Barbara Stanwyck. Not a word about me, the honorary sheriff.
"Just used the old bean," he said, tapping his head, which, come to think of it, looks somewhat like an old bean. "I told them every year you give the honor to a celebrity like Gable or Randy Scott. Then you got to nursemaid them, make sure their feelings don't get hurt.
"I said, 'Don't use a celebrity. Use Coates. He'll be down here anyway. And you don't have to worry about his feelings.' "
That's my story. I'm back in L.A. again. And if any of you would like to buy a slightly used, purple cowboy suit at a helluva price, call me.
But not collect. I'm in this deal way over my head as it is.