Read Kevin Mahler's Introduction to his ongoing 5-part "Portrait Series Paralleling Characters in HBO’s Deadwood with Contemporaneous Pop Country Musicians," and check out previous parts 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 here.
This part is the part I subtitle “Tolliver’s Team.”
Cy Tolliver, who I drew in Part 1 of this series, had a rich world of characters at his establishment, the Bella Union.
The way everyone greeted Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) was as if she was the most beautiful and elegant woman in the world. When I first saw her, I just saw her gaudy clothing and wrote her off. But then I started to see her the way everyone else saw her, especially Charlie Utter. Stubbs harkened back to an early-career Dolly that still loomed in the memory of the collective pop country music consciousness. Teased by many, respected and venerated by all.
Leon (Larry Cedar) did dirty deeds, begged for money for heroin, promulgated racism, and got stabbed in the leg. Leon did look a little like Tom Petty, but I am sure Tom Petty would come back from the grave to kill me if I ever linked him to 00s pop country music. ( He hated it. ) Joe Nichols’ willingness to pander to nationalism and fake news (see his hit song, “If Nobody Believed In You”) and the fact that I first saw him in concert as the opening act for Brooks & Dunn in 2002 (remember Ronnie Dunn’s pre-established Tolliverishness) really made him the best to pair with Leon.
Aging pervert in an absurd suit. Bob Barker microphone or Rose for Dolly = the wand of a cad. The stomach-turning, side-splitting Con Stapleton (Peter Jason) and the unrelentingly creepy Conway Twitty. True: Twitty was long dead by the time Deadwood hit the scene, but wasn’t Stapleton also decomposing?
When selling your land is selling your soul. When you try to numb the pain by indulging but you are left alone outside the Chez Ami (or fabled MG Tour Bus, as the case may be), feeling lucky to be standing upright. When your own unending stream of paranoid accusations and proclamations of loyalty that no one questioned in the first place is unmasked to be a threadbare front for the ever-expanding abyss of insecurity you feel swallowing you every second of every day and every night, I give you Mose Manual (Vince Taylor Pruitt) and Eddie Montgomery. Daddy won’t sell the farm. But Brother will.
This is Tolliver’s crew. I love them because I knew them before I met them.
Not pictured: Eddie Sawyer (Ricky Jay), Flora Anderson (Kristen Bell), Miles (Greg Cipes), Jack the Bartender (Nick Amandos), Janine (Sarah Pachelli)
Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) and Dolly Parton
Revered by men and women,
Savior to the kids.
Leon (Larry Cedar) and Joe Nichols
Eager to please the
powers that be, the fog of
addiction won’t lift.
Con Stapleton (Peter Jason) and Conway Twitty
One hundred percent
wretched and craven and gross,
but you got to laugh.
Mose Manual (Vince Taylor Pruitt) and Eddie Montgomery
This is my town, nah
nah nah nah nah, I want it
all back! All of it!