The list of celebrities, legendary cowboys, movie stars, and famous artists that have called Kingman home, or that have stopped by for a visit or two over the years is surprisingly lengthy. However, with the exception of Pamela Anderson’s indecent exposure incident, even in Kingman, this celebrity association is often less than an historic footnote.
Recently, two of these esteemed individuals, Andy Devine and Bob Boze Bell, author of the Route 66 Kid were awarded a rather prestigious award, induction into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. As a result, once again the international media spotlight focused on Kingman, just as it did in the 1950’s when the television program This Is Your Life honored Andy Devine, in 1939 when Clark Gable and Carol Lombard married here, and in 1925 when Buster Keaton selected the ranch of Tap Duncan north of Kingman as a filming location for his latest motion picture, Go West.
From the standpoint of marketing and promotion as a tourism destination, when coupled with mention in the catchy little tune about getting your kicks on Route 66, this lengthy celebrity association is a gold mine. For a moment consider the recent award bestowed upon Andy Devine and the fact that Route 66 in Kingman is signed as Andy Devine Avenue and that the Mohave Museum of History & Arts has an Andy Devine room filled with artifacts ranging from Devine’s custom saddle to childhood mementos.
The Bell service station and Tydway Cafe
The sites in Kingman with celebrity association, and that were used as filming locations for movies as well as television programs, could easily become an attraction in itself.
The church where Gable and Lombard married still stands. At the Powerhouse Visitor Center, Bob Boze Bell donated a display that included original art work, mementos from his youth in Kingman, historic photos, and archival family films from the 1950’s. His fathers service station still stands and now houses Lomeli’s Garden Arts.
The forlorn and neglected Hotel Beale still casts a lonely shadow over Route 66. This is where Andy Devine grew up, his father was the proprietor. It is also where Charles Lindbergh stayed during his visits to Kingman to oversee construction of the airfield for his pioneering TAT airlines. Local legend has it that Amelia Earhart was there for the ribbon cutting, and that she too was a guest at the hotel.
Just to the west is the Brunswick Hotel built in 1909. Edsel Ford spent a night there during his trip west in the summer of 1915, and this is where the wedding reception for Clark Gable and Carol Lombard was held.
Louis L’Amour did a bit of boxing at the old Sump Bar in the years that he worked at the Katherine Mine. That bar is still there but its entrance has been masked and covered over. Tap Duncan frequented that bar as well. This legendary rancher had an altercation with members of the gang that rode with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, an event that gave him incentive to relocate to Arizona, and a dubious link to the death of Kid Curry, a frontier era outlaw with a bit of a reputation. As a foot note, Bob Boze Bell is a relative of Tap Duncan.
Before he rode into the sunset with Tonto on his horse, Silver, Clayton Moore worked in the aircraft control tower at the Kingman Army Airfield during WWII. That tower, one of only a handful that still exists, stands tall over monuments that commemorate a few tragic incidents at that airfield.
I share some of the history of celebrity association with Kingman in the video Jim Hinckley’s America – A Trek Along Route 66 being developed by MyMarketing Designs as a Promote Kingman initiative. This colorful history also finds its way into my presentations, the walkabout videos on the Jim Hinckley YouTube channel, in blog posts for Promote Kingman, and my local walking tours.
The next time you motor east, or west, through western Arizona consider making a stop in Kingman to seek out the special places. You might just be surprised by what you discover.