"Say, ain't you that ol' boy who used
to be on Gunsmoke?" It's been nearly 25 years since TV's legendary Western
ended a 20-season network run. Yet Taylor, who played gunsmith Newly O'Brien
for eight years (1967-75), is still regularly recognized.
"My favorite is when people say, 'You look
kind of like Newly on Gunsmoke.' And I'll go, 'Yeah, that was me.' And
they say, 'Nah, you ain't him. But you do look like him.'"
Taylor, a still-working character actor
whose recent films include Tombstone, Gettysburg and Wild Wild West, doesn't
mind the nostalgia he inspires. In fact, he banks on it. If not for Gunsmoke
fans, after all, he might not have succeeded 10 years ago when he launched
a career as a professional artist.
Taylor paints Western scenes. His work
is shown nationwide and he is the official poster artist for the Fort Worth
Stock Show. But in the beginning, ties to Gunsmoke were what kept him afloat.
"It was sort of looked upon as a novelty at that time: Own a painting by
Newly O'Brien. Now I have serious art collectors."
Taylor, son of character actor Dub Taylor,
turned down the part of Danny "Dano" Williams on Hawaii Five-O to do Gunsmoke.
He says he has never regretted that decision.
In fact, Taylor thought so highly of Gunsmoke
star James Arness, who played Marshall Matt Dillon, that he named his second
son Matthew. (Firstborn Adam died five years ago.)
Taylor, now 61, and wife Goldie, a rodeo
star who works as a flight attendant, live on a 100-acre ranch north of
Fort Worth, Texas. They met four years ago at a quarter-horse show, where
his paintings were being shown, and married after a three-month
courtship. "She's been a great influence on my life," he says. "This is
just the best time of my life."