We have been in the costume game our entire adult lives, and believe us, we’ve seen it all. One of the oft-repeated phrases we hear from people who are new to the genre is the passionate cry of “We’re going to show them how it’s done!”
We do appreciate their enthusiasm and passion, however costume interpretation is subjective and history is always redefining itself. Here in Tombstone, specifically in the gunfighter genre (yes, crime has a name) the concept of transformation applies here. Here, any adult can strap on a pistol, wear shiny clothes and become a “lawman”, “cowboy”, or just plain “outlaw”. And on the female side, it seems that every woman becomes a madam in a bright red shiny dress.
While we can appreciate the joy in someone time traveling to the 1880s, what we do find disconcerting is the selfish cry of “We’re going to show them how it’s done!” Generally this is said by visiting troupes of the gunfighter genre, fueled for competition to see who can be the biggest, baddest, and most wicked gunfighter or madam in competition.
For many gunfighter groups, being able to perform in Tombstone has taken on the status of a holy pilgrimage to the point where each considers their particular performance to be the “one true gunfight.” Over the years, the City of Tombstone has been host to many gunfighter groups and there have been many excellent performances given.
Unfortunately, some of the groups’ manners leave a bit to be desired. We have seen groups berate the announcer, event organizers, and even the town in general over perceived grievances both big and small ranging from a simple mistake in announcing the group’s name to when their performance was to be scheduled. The gunfight events held in Tombstone are organized by volunteers and mistakes are bound to happen, that’s just the nature of the beast.
Worse, are some groups’ after-hours manners. We have witnessed many an alcohol-fueled tirade on Allen Street over the years, none which there was any call for. This does not bring credit to the group in question nor the event. In fact, such rude actions only fuel some Tombstone residents’ desire to eliminate the events all together (many outsiders seem to regard Tombstone as some sort of Western-themed amusement park like Disneyland rather than a functioning town with real people).
So for all you gunfighters and madams, if you are going to reenact law-breaking activities, please show some respect for the town and its citizens for giving you the opportunity to perform. They do not have to permit this- it is a privilege, not a right.
In the end, nobody can show anyone “How it was done” since none of us were there in Tombstone in October 1881. Only the Earps, Clantons, and McLaurys can do that. 🙂