TOMBSTONE, Ariz (Reuters Life!) - Philip Makley, 59, is a gunfight actor living in the former silver mining town of Tombstone, Arizona, which was famous in the 1880s for its rough frontier justice.
Every day he pulls on a frock coat and beaver hat, straps on two six guns and heads down to the old O.K. Corral site, where he plays the role of Doc Holliday in a show recreating the famous 1881 gunfight.
He spoke to Reuters about a typical day with Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp blasting the Clantons and McClaurys for the tourists.
“I worked as a truck driver for years, so I’m used to getting up early. I put on some coffee, then I watch television, usually CNN. I take a shower a little later and get ready for the day ahead.”
“It takes me 30 to 40 minutes to get dressed. I don’t have a Doc suit, I have a walk-in closet full of clothes. They are all made on the old patterns and they look real authentic. I wear whatever feels right for the day.
I have seven or eight nice shirts, a couple of frock coats, two or three morning coats and maybe 20 vests. I have a derby hat and several beaver hats, like the one I’ve got on today. Then I put on my cravat and an antique gold watch and chain.
When I started working for the O.K. Corral, they asked me to do Doc, and I try and be as authentic as I can. I have the pistols that he used, a .38 Colt and a .45, and they are real. He had tuberculosis, so I also have a little cough I do when I play him.”
“The first time I visited Tombstone, I fell in love with the old wooden sidewalks. It brought back all the Western shows I had watched on television as a small child, and I decided to move here.
I live just around the corner from the O.K. Corral. I leave my house and walk on down Allen Street, which is the main street in Tombstone. Tourists stop me for a picture all the time, it’s amazing. I tell them about the gunfight. A lot of times they tell me straight out, ‘You’re Doc!’
Doc was an interesting character and I would like to have met him. I would ask him why he left Georgia, where he was born. Was it because it was healthier out West for his tuberculosis? Or was it because he’d killed someone and was on the run? It’s a mystery I would like to clear up.”
“The show is on the site of the original O.K. Corral. We get up to 300 people along to see it. The show lasts for half an hour, although the actual gunfight takes only about 30 seconds. I shoot the McClaury boy every day. He says ‘I got you now Doc,’ I say ‘the hell you do!’ and pull the trigger. It’s kind of neat. There’s a feeling to it. You are re-enacting a piece of history. People are coming here to see that.
Tombstone’s a small town. Me and the other guys who play Virgil and Wyatt Earp, and then the Clanton’s and McClaurys, all know each other.”
“I go home, and I take the guns with me. I have another couple of pistols and a shot gun at the house. It’s not unusual as everyone in Tombstone has guns. There’s 1,600 people here, and if you average it out they have five guns a piece.
“Sometimes I put on charcoal and start cooking dinner early. I think I’ll put grits on the grill today, and maybe someone will come over to join me at the house.
After dinner I watch some TV, usually the news again. I go to bed early, when my eyes start closing. I sleep well and I don’t dream about gunfights or cowboys.”