Frank Bogert Stories

Anecdotes, jokes and stories about the legendary Frank Bogert

Collected by his friends, family and fellow cowboys


Ray Corliss, Palm Desert, Calif.

Profile on Frank from an article written for Palm Springs Life in the 1960s

He has the face of an inept linebacker. Or a retired bulldogger. One who missed more horns than he caught.

His body is sort of terraced. It extends farther in most directions than seems necessary or practical. His hands have all the frail symmetry of Kodiak bear haunches.

Cigars of the finest aged leaf a dime can buy have given quality, if not beauty, to his voice. His language isn’t patois. It isn’t argot. It isn’t cant. It’s a flamboyant compound caught by a quick ear during a fiddle-footed life. He calls men Homer, with the possible, but not certain, exception of visiting heads of states. Women he calls Mary Alice. If he likes you very much, or not at all, he calls you things that are unmentionable.

His dress is Rodeo Renaissance. Plus some vaquero. He buys his belt buckles by the pound and his boots by the hundredweight. When he draws convention-welcoming duty, he sometimes digs out his sincere black business uniform. He calls it his Bar Mitzvah suit. Even then, you wouldn’t mistake him for a clerk or a cleric. Oddly enough, it’s all good packaging.

Some credit him with the delicate sensibilities of a second-story man. Or a newspaper photographer. They tell of the time in solemn council, duly and publicly assembled, when he recognized one civic leader with the admonition the she was a windy old sister who should attempt to keep it brief. They point to the time he kept his hat on when welcoming President Kennedy. They recall the time he more or less accidentally dropped a newspaperman on his head, doing him considerable temporary damage. They remember that once, when announcing a parade, he referred to the nether extremities of the ladies in the Salvation Army Band as “handsome hind legs, despite those damned black stockings.”

Yet, his wife has seen him moved to quick tears.

And his office looks like a cross between a free employment agency, a border refugee station and a small-town banker’s anteroom. He is always searching for jobs for anyone who will work at one. He will scrounge a kid a horse and then teach him to ride it. He puts his back into every public charity. He puts his time into every civic promotion. He manages to do the same for half the events in Mexico.

His friends cut across every line of color, creed and bank balance.

His career is the kind bad novelists crave for the dust jackets of their bad books—the kind of career that proves they have seen the elephant.


Addenda: Born in Mesa, Colorado, the son of an old-time Montana cowboy and wild west show rider. One of six children. Thrived on the acrid smell or corral and stable. A rodeo hand in the day money was small and the competitors rougher than timber beasts. Traveled with a bullwhip act. Played football at U.C.L.A. Hollywood extra and stunt man. In 1927, to Palm Springs as a wrangler. Managed the Racquet Club. Press agent for the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. Managed the Menlo Circus Club. Managed Roger’s Ranch. Started Thunderbird (now Thunderbird Country Club) as a dude ranch. Navy officer on carriers in the Pacific. (Organized a shipboard cottage industry making Jap flags to sell to the Merchant Marine as souvenirs.) Managed El Mirador, Indian Wells Hotel and the Tennis Club. Published The Villager, parent to the Palm Springs Life. Helped promote what became the Palm Springs Municipal Golf Course. Helped promote a quarterhorse track in the desert which almost came to fruition. Top professional rodeo announcer. Eight years m ayor. Married a beautiful woman; fathered three girls; has two grandchildren, one new. Now a realtor and part of seven major projects in Mexico.


In business, he has shown a comparative lack of acquisitiveness. He’s shown no great instinct for the jugular. He’s been frozen out more times than a grape grower in Saskatoon. Not a Horatio Alger reject, exactly–he paid his bills and educated his girls and rode good horses­–but just doing the best he could. More recently, his encyclopedic acquaintanceship with people and the desert has begun to pay. His best is now pretty good.

But business is a facet only to this anomalous man. He has surprising and diverse parts. He knows more things more surely than he shows he knows. He can discuss a broad spectrum of subjects with genuine knowledge. One brother is a curator of the New York Museum of Natural History, a specialist in reptiles. It was a shared passion from youth and Bogert used to handle the local sidewinders and the diamondbacks fondly and freely. He has been as fond, but less free, in his relationship since a sidewinder mistook his empathy for rudeness and pumped one of his fingers full of venom.

He’s a good desert botanist. He’s a jackleg geologist. He is a completely competent movie photographer. His is some of the finest bullfight footage ever filmed. He is a furious, and sophisticated, collector of Western Americana and Mexicana. His tack room is a catholic museum to the horse and cattle cultures of two countries. His spur and bit collection must be among the finest extant. He’s a still photographer of professional caliber.

As a speaker, he’s the most sought after greeter, ribbon cutter and master of ceremonies hereabouts. His casual, customer-insulting approach has earned him at least one fight behind the chutes with a bullrider.

On fighting, Bogert’s approach is somewhat that of Mark Twain’s Buck Fanshaw. He loves peace and will have peace, by God, even if he has to beat it into you. He won a tough one-rounder in front of the old Jackhammer Café in Indio in that Hallowed establishment’s pleasant salad days. A Rancheros Visitadores wrangler was making a career out of suing him until recently. This bravo had helped throw a small, bewildered friend of Bogert’s into a horse trough. Bogert protested. The litagee showed fight. He later claimed that he thereupon suffered the fracture of one of his larger and more useful bones.

Fifty-five years and too many council meetings have slowed him a step or two, of course, and mellowed him. He doesn’t talk fight, but there’s a fair chance he’s still saltier than a harness bull.

A man of natural pith and juices, he never felt the need for ethyl alcohol. He drinks rarely. He dances well, considering the physical principals of motion, mass and turning radii concerned. His golf swing, on the other hand, resembles nothing so much as a little boy falling out of an apple tree.

In Mexico he is almost as well known as in the United States. They call him El Grandotte, The Tall One. He is one of the few North American Charros, gentlemen riders who practice the old ways with horse and rope. He went to Spain with them at the behest of Franco. He speaks good Spanish. Mexican friends range from cabinet ministers to swordhandlers and witchdoctors. They regard him with affection, respect and mild awe. He knows their ways, he fits their description of macho, manliness.

In Palm Springs, the mayor is a councilman elected as one of five and then made mayor by vote among themselves. He hasn’t always had honor among his own colleagues or peace in his own camp. Once, in a museum-piece burst of pettiness, three of his fellow councilmen voted to unseat him because a limited number could greet an arriving president and they wanted up front.

His performance as a councilman is a matter of individual judgment–one’s experience, philosophy and special interest. As a mayor, his person and performance are matters of pride.

Kelley and Walker. Hague and La Guardia. Rossi and Honey Fitz. They are legends.

Palm Springs, too, has itself a hand-painted, fully authenticated original.

Shirley Lucas Jauregui
From the upcoming book on the Lucas Sisters:

Winter 1949 was coming and not being able to count on the picture business for steady work, and needing a place to live and keep our horses, we put out the word to friends of our need..  One day one of the stunt men stopped by and suggested we go over to Palm Springs and see Frank Bogert who had a dude ranch and was looking for help for the winter.  Palm Springs was about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, so with a new California map we went over to meet Frank Bogert.  It was a desert resort town and the Thunderbird Dude Ranch was about five miles east of town.  After meeting Mr. Bogert and talking with him a bit, he said, “Go get your horses girls, I’ve got work for you, a place for you to stay, and a barn for your horses. Get back as soon as you can.”  

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas when we moved our few possessions into the army barracks behind the main quarters of the Thunderbird Ranch.  It was a busy time, we served breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the large rustic dining room.  Many of the stars from Hollywood enjoyed a stay there and one was Ester Williams. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that in only a few years we would both have doubled her, me in a picture with Red Skelton, Texas Carnival (1951), and Sharon on the picture Jupiter‘s Darling (1955). Mr. Bogert, learning of our singing ability, would often call on us to sing a couple of our old western songs after dinner.  For fun in the evening we would crank up the record player in the chef’s house where there was usually enough folks to square dance or polka.  

And, yes, I was selected 1949 Palm Springs Rodeo Queen.  With that the newspaper jumped on the scoop and in no time a photographer phoned Mr. Bogert to set a time for publicity pictures. Upon meeting the photographer, he looked at me in my blue jeans and cotton shirt saying, “Don’t you have some shorts and a summer top to wear?” With that I told him I would see what I could find. Going to our room in the barracks I rummaged through my clothes and found some navy blue shorts and a summer midriff.  Trying to make my attire look more western, I put on a Concho belt of Sharon’s. So, adding my good boots and a rope I walked out ready for publicity pictures.  

As the winter turned into spring, the desert floor bloomed with verbenas. We exercised our horses every afternoon and looking down would imagine little leprechauns living under the beautiful purple flowers.  It was a wonderful carefree time in our lives. Mr. Bogert told us one day he wanted to submit a picture to Pennzoil Motor Oil Company depicting double action and could we do something trick riding, both on one horse.  “Sure we could do that,” we replied. So we saddled old Pete, and breaking him into a run, Sharon dropped down to a tail drag and at the same time I went up into a hippodrome stand. Frank got the shot he wanted, but Pennzoil had something else in mind for their ad.


Sharon Apfelbaum, Palm Springs, Calif.

Flypaper Mind

Our daughter Paige came home to Palm Springs for a weekend visit one April and joined us in our early morning walk in Las Palmas. She was struck by the flame-colored flowers proliferating in the neighborhood and wondered what they were called.  I picked a sample bloom expecting to indentify it in one of our local flora reference books, but was unsuccessful.  Frank Bogert's 95th birthday was scheduled that night, so I showed the cutting to Frank and asked him to identify it.   Without hesitation, he explained, "Oh, that's a Poinciana Flower,"  proving his longtime friend Ray Corliss' comment that "Bogert has a flypaper mind..."




Eugene Croft, Los Angeles, Calif.

Story of Frank Bogert and Ronald Reagan

It was one of our Ranchero Visitadores rodeos, and as usual Frank Bogert was doing the announcing as he did for many, many years at rodeos. This took place after President Reagan was out of office, and he was a member of the Rancheros.

He was attending the ride that year and sitting in the stands before the start of the rodeo. Frank looked down and there were 10 or 12 people sitting around the former President talking to him. Frank made some remark about “Look at all those apple-polishers down there, kissing it up to the ex-president. You would think that they wouldn’t do that in front of all these people.”

Of course, the ex-president heard him, so he looked up at Frank, stood up and he gave him the middle finger and said “This is for you, Mr. Bogert,” and then sat down again.

Which I thought was wonderful! I don’t think many people in this world would anticipate the President giving somebody the bird, but he did to Frank.

Everybody howled. It was very, very funny. Most of my favorite stories about Frank I can’t tell. But he was a wonderful person, and everyone loved him and everyone liked him—even President Reagan.


Bart Apfelbaum, M.D., Palm Springs, Calif.


The Toughest Guy

For 35 years I practiced urology in Palm Springs and Frank was one of my earliest patients.  I performed a major operation on his kidney and visited his room the day after surgery.   He greeted me in good spirits and asked when he could ride his horse again.

I replied that his surgical incision was extensive and would take time to heal.  He said he had promised to lead a group of riders on a formal dedication of the Skyline Trail, pointing out his window to Mt. San Jacinto west of Desert Hospital.

“When is this dedication?” I asked him.

“This afternoon,” he replied.

“That’s just crazy, Frank!” I was incredulous that he would consider such a thing with his belly all stitched together.

“Will I come apart, Doc?”

“No, but you’ll hurt like hell.”

With that, he smiled his big cowboy smile.  “I’ll hurt a lot less on a horse than I will in this hospital bed,” he said.  Then he ripped out the needle holding the tube in his arm, raised out of bed and began looking for his clothes.

The next day a photo in the Desert Sun showed a string of horseback riders, headed up the Skyline Trail, post-dedication, led by the legendary and post-surgical Frank Bogert.

He was the toughest guy I ever knew.





Allene Arthur • Special to The Desert Sun • March 22, 2010

2010 Rodeo Memorial Dinner honors Bogert, rodeo-style

The kickoff dinner the night before the Frank Bogert Memorial Rodeo was a dang fine shindig. The tribute to the late Palm Springs cowboy mayor invited 200 people who had known Bogert to chow down as guests in the Cascade Lounge of the Spa Resort Casino.

Bogert would have approved. “The Range Riders” played swingy down-home music. Grub was honest short ribs and unpretentious apple pie with ice cream.

Invitees wore Western garb as they exchanged Bogert stories. It was like scenes from the old horse operas where men sat around dinner tables in their cowboy hats and fancy belts. These were local dudes such as Burt Spivack, Dr. Robert Broer, Cotton Posser, Jim Hicks, Alden Godfrey and Andy Hollinger.

There were no shoot-outs, however, or chairs crashing into mirrors.  Ladies went Western too, as did Linda Kieley, Sally McManus, Kitty Kieley Hayes and Joy Purcell. Some dressed more rancher's daughter than cowgirl. Pamela Green, for example, wore a suede dress with fringes.

The program was short, sweet and just right. Tom Kieley III, dinner chairman who planned the event with the Bogert family, welcomed guests, as did Christopher Burkhardt of the rodeo committee.

Ray Corliss, Bogert buddy and rodeo chairman, made audience presentations along with Bogert family friends Don Able and Frank Purcell.  Negie Bogert, Frank's widow, spoke movingly about her guy.

Pitching in to pull off this affair were Roxann Ploss, Jane Smith, Dolf Castillo and Kathy Condon — all sharp cookies.  Clark Moorten, proprietor of the noted Moorten Botanical Gardens, created and donated cactus dish garden table centerpieces.

As departing guests moseyed on out, each received favors tied up in a red bandana — a perfect so-long.

Frank Bogert

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