Archive for August, 2011

Michael Appears on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Author Michael Wallis uncovers the reality behind American folk hero David Crockett on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

David Crockett: The Lion of the West Makes New York Times Best Sellers List

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Michael Wallis’s newest book, David Crockett: The Lion of the West just made the New York Times Best Sellers List. The book is number thirty this week, September 4th, 2011, on the Print Hardcover, Nonfiction Extended list.

Mr. Media Training Calls Michael Wallis “Great Media Guest”

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Mr. Media Training recently applauded Michael for his appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Michael appeared on the show to promote his new book, David Crockett: The Lion of the West. Below is the full story from Mr. Media Training and the reasons why Michael Wallis was an effective media guest.

Six Things You Can Learn from this Great Media Guest

I don’t care about Davy Crockett. I’ve never been much into American folk heroes, and most of what I know about Crockett comes from the hit 1950s song.

So why am I suddenly writing about Davy Crockett?

Last Thursday, historian Michael Wallis appeared on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to discuss his new book, David Crockett: The Lion of the West. He managed to do the near-impossible – he captured my attention. And I wasn’t the only one to notice his terrific appearance: his book suddenly zoomed onto’s Top 50 list.

Here are six reasons Wallis was such an effective media guest – and what you can learn from his success.

1. He Loves Talking About His Topic: Wallis is clearly enchanted by his subject, and speaks about it with fascination. His contagious passion transferred from him to the audience, as evidenced by the studio audience’s enthusiastic reaction to his interview.

2. He Is Authentic: Wallis knows who he is. He appears comfortable in his own skin, and looks like he knows he belongs on that set. Rock stars and artists aside, few male media guests can pull off a giant green finger ring. Wallis can, because it seems completely consistent with his personality.

3. He Tells Great Stories: Many people can tell good stories, but few can tell complex stories – with the full power of delivery – in 30 seconds or less. Mr. Wallis gets to the heart of each story quickly, placing a premium on each word and taking advantage of every moment.

4. He Displays Humor: Wallis rolls with Jon Stewart’s questions and reacts with good humor when appropriate. He then quickly transitions into delivering a substantive answer. He also gets a couple of good one-liners off, including one about Congress that results in cheers from the live audience.

5. He Uses His Full Vocal Range: I envy Wallis’s perfect baritone, but he doesn’t rely solely on his mesmerizing low rumble. He varies his pace, volume, and pitch throughout the interview – and even introduces short pauses before delivering a well-timed punch line.

6. He Gestures Naturally: Wallis uses large, sweeping gestures to help make his point. He uses his hands as tools to help supplement his words; they are an essential part of his storytelling prowess. Wallis demonstrates that the Holy Grail of any media appearance is when a speaker’s words, voice, and body language work together in perfect alignment.

The S.S. Admiral

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

This fine old craft is mentioned in Route 66: The Mother Road. I have fond memories of it, here’s a taste from my book:

“On summer afternoons, below the well-used Route 66 crossing [the Chain of Rocks Bridge], shrill whistles from the calliope of the S.S. Admiral could be heard up and down the river. The Admiral, an all-steel excursion luxury liner with five mammoth decks, became a fixture on the riverfront. It was popular with natives and visitors to St. Louis and was billed as the world’s largest inland steamer. On summer evenings couples sipped cold beer and danced in air-conditioned comfort as the big ship churned through muddy waters beneath a canopy of stars and moonlight.

During the late 1970-s and early 1980-s, the steamer’s hull was damaged and the excursion ship became snarled in financial difficulties. It ended up moored at the downtown levee alongside renovated sidewheelers and a floating McDonald’s restaurant. The S. S. Admiral stopped cruising the river and the sound of its calliope could no longer be heard at Chain of Rocks.”

Ollie’s Station

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Ollie's Station

In the photo Michael and Suzanne Wallis at Ollie’s Station, on Route 66 (AKA Southwest Boulevard), Red Fork, Oklahoma. Ollie’s Station Restaurant is a popular eating establishment for Mother Road travelers. The railroad motif, including ten running model trains, also attracts a large number of train buffs.

Cyrus Stevens Avery: The Father of Route 66

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

An undaunted champion of human rights and civic causes throughout his almost ninety-two years, Cyrus Stevens Avery — a proud Tulsan by choice — led the effort to establish U.S. Route 66, the most famous highway in the United States and possibly in the world. Without the hard work and persistence of the untiring Avery, it is doubtful that U.S. 66 – the 2,400-mile ribbon of asphalt and concrete that ties together eight states between Chicago, Illinois, and Santa Monica, California – ever would have become a reality.

As a result of his dedication and diligence, Avery — founder of the U.S. 66 Highway Association — has become known to tens of thousands of admirers, including legions of travelers and historians, as “the Father of Route 66.”

Born in Stevensville, Pennsylvania, in 1871, Avery came with his family to Indian Territory in a horse-drawn wagon when he was in his teens. He grew up on a farm near Spavinaw Creek in the Cherokee Nation. An energetic highway entrepreneur long before most roads were even paved, Avery graduated from William Jewell College at Liberty, Missouri, and launched his business career in Vinita and Oklahoma City. In 1907, the year Oklahoma became a state, he wed his wife of sixty-five years, Essie McClelland. The Averys established their home in Tulsa, where they raised three children and Cy soon became a successful business and civic leader.

Besides launching several businesses and boosting many major public-works projects, Avery emerged as a voice of reason in 1921 when his adopted city was the scene of bloody racial violence. During the turmoil when the notorious Klu Klux Klan terrorized African-American citizens and brought murder and mayhem to Tulsa’s streets, Avery supervised a victim-relief effort and stood firm against the forces of intolerance and bigotry.

Nicknamed “Mr. Democrat,” the politically active Avery, who among other duties served as a Tulsa County commissioner, was a proponent of the good-roads movement even before he became the first chairman of the Oklahoma State Highway Commission. He served as a leader of the American Association of State Highway Official and also acted as a consulting highway specialist as the federal government developed a national system of numbered highways.

Avery’s efforts paid off when Route 66 became a reality. “We assure you that U.S. 66 will be a road through Oklahoma that the U.S. Government will be proud of,” Avery wrote shortly before November 11, 1926, the day U.S. Route 66 was officially born. Avery’s words hold true today for the many people who continue to use the long stretches of “the Main Street of America” that remain.

New Orleans

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

New Orleans

Jim Fitzgerald and Debbie Courtney in rear, Michael Wallis and Suzanne Fitzgerald in front, on Bourbon Street, New Orleans, 1968.

We came from all points and converged in “The Big Easy.” It was the spring of 1968 and some time in New Orleans seemed like a sweet tonic for all of us.

We were young, confident, and the world was our oyster. Speaking of shellfish, we ingested plenty at Felix’s, the cozy bar on Iberville Street where folks have devoured tasty ice-cold oysters on the half-shell for generations.

This photograph taken by Proud Mary Wall, one of our gang, shows Michael and Suzanne and behind us Jim Fitzgerald and Debbie Courtney. Jim is one of Suzanne’s brothers and is now my literary agent. Debbie went on to become a country-western singer. The four of us are ambling down Bourbon Street, the famous avenue that spans the length of the French Quarter.

Only a couple weeks before our New Orleans adventure, American soldiers swept into the South Vietnamese village of My Lai and massacred 504 unarmed and unresisting women, children, and old men. It would be almost a year until word of this tragedy became public. Just short days after the photo was made, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be shot dead in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel and then shortly after midnight on June 5, Robert Kennedy would be mortally wounded in Los Angeles.

But on that bright day on Bourbon Street, our bellies filled with oysters and beer, we were far from war and knew nothing of what was to come. We were midnight ramblers and daydreamers out for a stroll and fast falling in love.

Top of the Earth

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I shall never forget a man from Taos Pueblo who passed through my life like a shadow long, long ago. It was late in the day when our paths crossed in a patch of sunlight on the edge of the town plaza. He stopped me with a gesture and I lit his cigarette. The man, basking in the uncertain warmth of a winter sun, nodded his thanks but maintained his proud bearing. I said something inane about the weather. There was no response. I was just about to walk away when he did speak.

“We were here long before the Spanish came,” he said in a nonchalant way as if we had been visiting for hours. “And, we were here long before the Anglos. “

I acknowledged that he was right, as if he needed my approval. He spoke again. “We will be here long after the Spanish and Anglo have gone.” There was not a hint of threat in his monotone voice.

He took another drag on the cigarette and slowly exhaled the smoke. Then the man — with long plaited braids and swathed from head to knee in a blanket — looked at me for the first time.

“Do you know where I live?” the man asked.

“I imagine you live out at the pueblo,” I said.

“I live at the top of the earth,” he told me. “Don’t you know where you are? You are at the top of the earth.” Then he turned and walked away. I watched him until he was out of sight, swallowed up by twilight and the dark mountain.