King of the Cowboys
Okay, you can talk to me like I’m 5 years old
In 1998 Tony Garritano was Ty Murray’s business manager. Ty Murray, at that time, was the world’s most famous rodeo cowboy. Ty was a seven-time World All-Around Rodeo Champion from 1989 to 1998 in bareback, saddle broncos and bull riding. He also won the World Bull Riding Championship title in 1998, the year I met him. It was and is an astoundingly dangerous, physically demanding, and punishing job. Ty had trained his mind and his body intensely to withstand the physical and mental tests. He was a strong wire, coiled tight and a powerful man. He was also fluid and beautiful to watch when he rode those 1,200 pound bulls.
Maybe you’ve seen him on television riding bulls. He was proud, defiant, and extremely quiet and knew he had an avid fan base and dedicated audience. But an audience who buys books and reads, well we weren’t sure about that.
We had a few telephone calls about representation. After much discussion, nothing written down, (a literary agent likes to have a few words on paper-sort of what we do) Ty told me he was sending his manager to Manhattan to do the pitching. That was way beneath Ty. He was a busy man. I mean Ty was King of the Cowboys. And deservedly so.
The next week, this very young and extremely handsome man comes into my office. Tony was drop dead gorgeous. And he had an authentic, slow-talking, Texas drawl. I had to stop myself from completing his sentences. He had a big black cowboy hat turned just so, shiny alligator boots, tight jeans and mile-wide shoulders. He was gorgeous.
The girls in the office were sincerely happy to see him. This was not the usual type of man that walked into our office. Definitely not your ordinary author or literary type. All ages of females actually stopped and turned on the street to look at him. He was oblivious to the attention–which was nice. Everyone where he lived dressed like him. Not really true of New York City. He had black wavy hair, sky blue eyes and lots of muscles. He was definitely yummy.
We had quite a week. We (meaning I) wrote up a book proposal to send out to editors I thought might be interested. And they were. I made appointments with editors at almost every publishing house; and off Tony and I went. We’d arrive at the publishing house, wait in the lobby, wait outside the editor’s office and then a nice young girl or guy assistant would usher us into the editor’s office. And at each editor’s office Tony would make his pitch about Ty; who he was, what he’d done, why he was writing a book. All in his very slow and very deliberate methodical way. He was a very slow talker. Very slow.
Over and over he told the story of Ty’s childhood. How Ty had been horse riding, bull riding, all his life and even riding bucking calves when he was just 3 years old. Life as a cowboy is hard. Consequently, Ty had a régime of exercise that would kill most men. He explained how Ty had pushed himself to physical extremes and because of that preparation, how he’d won seven world championship titles for bull riding. Each word spoken very deliberately and very slowly by Tony.
Manhattan publishing offices were in high-rise buildings, located on multiple floors. Offices were down a rabbit warren of long hallways and the average, everyday editor had a very small office. I’d been lost many times looking for offices. The only key was that publisher’s offices were almost always situated in a corner of the building. Their offices had big windows and lots of space. The editor’s offices I met with were small, cluttered and quiet.
As Tony and I were ushered into the editor’s office, by a young editorial assistant or intern, the hallway would have a quiet and empty feeling. After our meeting, we’d walk to the door of the editor’s office, which took us two steps, and every time, there would be a gaggle of girls right outside the door, blocking the hallway, waiting for us. They were editorial interns, assistants, young gay guys and they were all living their dream of working towards becoming full-fledged editors.
The word traveled fast. This was a perk of the job. Like sighting a rare species of bird or something. A real cowboy. And handsome to boot.
A few editors I hadn’t sent the book proposal to called to see if they could see him, too. They weren’t interested in the book proposal; they just wanted to have a look at Tony. Publishing is a small community. So we made the rounds.
He was one handsome dude. Black hat, fancy boots, he looked like he just stepped right off of a Marlboro billboard. Only much better.
In one of our last pitches, we met with an editor who ran the celebrity imprint for a publishing conglomerate. He was as opposite from Tony as anyone on planet earth could be. He was older, balding, with a thin ponytail, a pot belly, and super, super hyper. It was an early morning meeting. Tony started his spiel.
The editor couldn’t sit still and was tapping his cup, looking at his emails, or talking over Tony the entire time; sometimes doing all three at once. He said to Tony, “Just cut to the chase: cut to the chase.”
Tony ignored him and kept to his practiced pitch. He was plodding along.
The editor finally could take it no more. He stood up, threw his hands in the air and erupted; “Just tell me if he’ll promote the damned book.”
Tony kept telling his story. He was not thrown off balance.
The editor sat back down and looked pleading at me. The editor was getting a little crazy. I started to wonder what he’d had besides coffee that morning.
Tony didn’t seem to notice. He just kept talking, slowly talking.
I’d jump in now and then to move things along-to no avail. Tony had memorized his pitch and he was sticking with it.
Finally, the editor couldn’t take it any longer and just shouts at Tony, “Okay, okay; talk to me like I’m a five year old. I don’t care.”
With that he threw down his pen and turned his back to us. He’d had a little temper tantrum.
I burst out laughing. Tony laughed nervously, not understanding what had happened. I stood up, pulled Tony up and I said to the editor’s back, that we’d send him more material. We scooted out of the office as quickly as possible. Outside the door was another small fan club of editor’s assistants. Just grinning away. Tony looked bewildered.
On the walk back to the office, I made excuses for editors being temperamental, overworked and sometimes impatient. I told Tony to ignore that scene the editor had made and assured Tony that I was certain he was not the right editor for Ty’s book.
I’d been taking Tony to dinner most nights since he didn’t know anyone in town and wasn’t very interested in going to Broadway shows. We’d had Thai food, French food, and Japanese food. Typical for New York. After our last meeting he said, could we please just go somewhere to have steak!? Sure. So we went to Gallagher’s which was down the street from my office at 52nd and Broadway.
Tony ordered a huge slab of beef and after a few drinks, he loosened up and he talked about cowboying, the rodeo and his girlfriend who was a champion barrel rider. Our waiter was attentive, very attentive. Near the end of our meal, a man cautiously approaches and says that he doesn’t want to interrupt but he had a question. He asks Tony if he knows Ty Murray.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I am Ty’s manager.
That man was the owner of Gallagher’s Steak House. It seems the owner of this upscale steak restaurant in New York City has a side-line: horses. He has a big horse farm north of the city and he’d sold horses to Ty and his rodeo group. He was “so honored” to meet Tony. Tony was gracious and I swear it seemed he talked faster that night than during the entire week. He’d finally met someone he could connect to. We sat and talked for hours. Actually, I listened while they talked horses. It was wonderful.
A few weeks later an imprint of Simon and Schuster’s made an offer and after searching for a ghost writer, a book was written and published, Ty Murray: King of the Cowboys.
After all these years, I remember that good looking guy and wonder where he is.
Sandra Martin is a retired NYC Literary Agent, Television Producer and now gardens and remembers.