TV's 'Wyatt Earp' star moseys into Juneau

Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2005

"Wyatt Earp" has returned to Alaska.

Hugh O'Brian, who shot to fame in the title role of the 1950s television show, "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," spent eight hours in Juneau on Friday while the cruise ship Volendam was docked downtown.

O'Brian and his wife, Virginia, spent the afternoon visiting the Mendenhall Glacier and Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventures, and made a special trip to the Red Dog Saloon, where a pistol reportedly belonging to Earp hangs on the wall. Earp, who is most remembered for his involvement in the shootout at the OK Corral in Arizona, allegedly left his gun in Juneau before heading north to Nome.

"If it's authentic it's great. It's kind of fun that they have it there," O'Brian said. "Although I can't quite see Wyatt Earp checking a gun and not picking it up. He was not that kind of a guy. But you never know."

Red Dog Saloon musician Brian Gale said O'Brian's visit to the popular tourist attraction was a special occasion because of the bar's and the actor's connections to the legendary lawman.

"For me it's kind of thrilling because I used to watch the TV show when he was Wyatt Earp," said Gale. "I remember being Wyatt Earp when I was a little kid. I was either the Lone Ranger or Wyatt Earp when I was a kid because of the TV shows, of course."

O'Brian has been to Alaska before, but this was his first visit to the capital.

O'Brian said he does have a special connection to Juneau because of the numerous students from Juneau-Douglas High School who have participated in the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership organization, which he founded in 1958. Each spring high school sophomores from around the country attend all-expenses-paid leadership seminars to help them prepare for the numerous opportunities the country has to offer, he said.

About 15 sophomores from around Alaska participated in the HOBY seminar in Anchorage last spring, he said. Although a number of students from JDHS have gone through the program, O'Brian said the school hasn't nominated a student for several years.

"You've got a great committee here in Alaska that are trying to really reach out and get as many (students) as possible, but the first and most important thing is to get the schools to take advantage of the selection process," he said.

O'Brian said high schools receive nomination material at the end of September by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and nominations are to be received during the beginning of December.

"We don't have anything to do with the selection, the high school makes the selection," O'Brian said. "They select what they consider to be a strong leader. And I ask them not to think about grade points. I'm not concerned with that."

O'Brian said his work with organization has provided him a passion that keeps him feeling young. At 80 years old, he says he feels 30 years old because of the importance of his work.

"There's just not enough hours in the day," he said. "I still have so many things that I want to do. I have a lot of dreams that I still want to make happen with this organization."

Although his acting credits span far beyond his work in "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," O'Brian says Earp is still the role most people remember.

"It's in my past, but of course a lot of people on the ship keep bringing it up, which is OK," he said. "It's how you handle things. I mean, hell man, it gave me the kind of life that I'm living."

For those older folks who remember the television show, or the younger generation that may enjoy watching it, O'Brian said Rhino Entertainment will release a four-part DVD set Sept. 27.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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