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Frank Bergon fills the Arts Council gallery

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Local author Frank Bergon talks about his book, “Two-Buck Chuck & The Marlboro Man.”


A standing room only crowd gathered Wednesday evening at the Madera County Arts Council and Circle Gallery to hear author Frank Bergon tell his story of “Two-Buck Chuck & The Marlboro Man,” and to have him sign copies of his book.

Among the audience of almost 100 were some of the local characters whom Bergon had made part of his book, including Jim Unti, who introduced the author.

Bergon augmented his presentation with a slide video that put faces with many of the characters in his book.

Speaking both extemporaneously and reading selections from his book, Bergon told the story behind “Two-Buck Chuck.”

When he began the project, he had envisioned writing profiles of Valley people he knew. However, what emerged was a book about “generations of immigrants, migrants, and their descendants, who remained suffused with a prevailing ethic from the 19th century.” Central to Bergon’s presentation were Fred Franzia, Sal Arriola, Mitch Lasgoity, and Clay and Dusty Daulton, all of whom worked the dirt and pastures around Madera.

Bergon then moved to those he referred to as “Western Voices of the Valley” — folks like Dr. Albert Wilburn, Irene Waltz, Nancy Turner Gray, Joe Alvarez, and Louis Owens, a Native American Okie, to use Bergon’s words.

Bergon plowed new ground, euphemistically speaking, when he turned to Darrell Winfield, the real Marlboro Man.

According to Bergon, Winfield was a working cowboy and rancher all his life. He was born in Oklahoma and grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, learning his trade as a cowboy around Madera. Bergon first got to know Winfield in 1962 in Madera County, six years before he became the Marlboro Man.

The author poked fun at all those who had announced the Marlboro Man’s death from lung cancer, including the woman who organized a “smoke-out” and reported his death to the press and a radio station.

Darrell Winfield died in March of 2012 of a heart attack.

Bergon’s appreciative audience peppered him with questions after his talk, including one from Tom Willey who inquired how the people who had been interviewed by Frank felt about what he had written about them.

Bergon answered Willey that he would have to ask them since many were in the audience at the time.

In the question and answer period, mention was made of an essay written by Bergon about his book and recently put online. In it he gave what some consider his apologia.

“From many rural and small-town people I heard how the valley gets a bum rap. Or no rap at all. A common refrain arose: ‘It’s like we don’t exist; we’re invisible’ If we are to understand America as it really is, the San Joaquin Valley and all its people must become visible.”

Many of them became visible Wednesday evening.


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