Variety show brings welcome energy, noise to Kihekah

Robert Smith
A mock gunfight was an element of a skit presented Saturday afternoon on the balcony of the Historic Whiting Hotel. The character in the photo was seeking vigilante justice. Belle Starr and the Indian Territory Pistoliers performed the skit. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

It was a welcome break in the monotony of the age of COVID-19. Live music, live poetry recitation, a Will Rogers impersonator, re-enactors who portrayed Judge Isaac Parker and his deputies, and unforgettably a mock gunfight with loud bangs, distressed shouts and general commotion. All of this on Kihekah Avenue, with people standing and sitting across the street.

Sheriff Eddie Virden seemed amused by the faux gunplay.

There was a distinct focus on the history and heritage of Oklahoma, and on the many contributions that performers from the state and region can make to the public’s understanding of that history.

All of this unfolded last Saturday afternoon on the balcony of the Historic Whiting Hotel. It was a live show, it was a radio show and it was also a Facebook Live streaming show. Pawhuska businessman Scott Trotter, who helped organize the event, noted that you can still go and watch the action at his Facebook page, titled “Pawhuska Guide.”

Trotter obtained permission from the Pawhuska City Council to block off a portion of Kihekah Avenue in front of The Whiting Hotel and offer the show. He had help from a host of others, both performers and those who helped with staging. It was clearly a group project.

“If anybody missed it, go to our Facebook page. It’s over but you can still go and experience the whole thing over and over again for free,” Trotter told the Journal-Capital. One of several messages he emphasized is that his effort is intended to encourage viewers and listeners to consider donating funds to Pawhuska Public Schools, to help the school district cover expenses involved in serving local youth during the COVID-19 event.

Clarence Benes, an academic who is known for his portrayal of the John Wayne movie character “Rooster Cogburn,” helped emcee the event. John Pryor provided the group of actors who portrayed U.S. Territorial Marshals. Belle Starr and the Indian Territory Pistoliers provided the mock gunfight that so entertainingly shattered the overcast calm of a Pawhuska Saturday afternoon. Serena Jeffers offered up vocal stylings of songs she had written. Randy Tinker Smith of Dance Maker Academy and others helped stage the show. Post 198 of the American Legion supported the event.

Trotter explained this is intended to be the beginning of something larger, something that will go on — that the Wild West Variety Show that made its debut Saturday at the Historic Whiting Hotel was not a one-off.