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The idea for the Ponderosa Ranch theme park came about in 1965. Bill and Joyce Anderson owned a small horse ranch, which is located in about the same area as the fictional Ponderosa on the burning map. According to the Andersons, tourists would regularly show up at their gates asking where the Ponderosa was. Smelling opportunity, the Andersons contacted NBC and Bonanza creator-producer David Dortort. They proposed turning their small ranch into a theme park. NBC, Dortort, and the cast saw the tie-in as a bonanza for everyone. All parties being in one accord, the cast agreed to promos being shot at the ranch site and the Virginia City set – including the nearby Silver Dollar Saloon – for financial consideration. The ads greatly stimulated revenue for the park.
The park opened to the public in 1967, complete with a scale replica of the Cartwright ranch house and barn similar to the ones seen on television. A replica of Virginia City was later added. The original plan was to open the set to tourists once filming had wrapped. However, shuttling cast and crew up to Incline Village on a weekly basis became cost-prohibitive. Thus, only 15 episodes of Bonanza were shot there. A majority of ranch-specific scenes were shot on a sound stage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Outdoor scenes were filmed on location at nearby Big Bear Lake, Red Rock Canyon, Mojave or eastern Kern County, California. However, Michael Landon, Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker and David Canary often made appearances at the ranch in costume to mingle with fans and sign autographs.
Blocker died in 1972, and NBC canceled the series the following year. Canary, dressed in character as Candy, made his last visit there in 2002 for a PAX-TV special. Mitch Vogel (Jamie Cartwright) appeared at the ranch for the Travel Channel’s “TV Road Trip” in 2002, in which he pitched a behind-the-scenes look at the Ponderosa Ranch and Incline Village. Copies of the “Ponderosa Map”, autographed by three of the Cartwrights, became souvenirs at the ranch for decades afterward, along with tin cups bearing their likenesses. Episodes that were filmed entirely or in part at the ranch bear a title plate at the end of the credits. These episodes are from the tenth season on (1968–73).
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It is probably safe to say that the critics and art historians who developed the legend of Leonardo’s unsurpassed greatness as a painter have had the color rise to their cheeks on rereading some of their own straining superlatives. No painter has suffered so severely at the hands of loving critics. The infallibility of his greatness has so deeply permeated our thinking and our judgment that an occasional call for revaluation is regarded either as treason or as part of the stock-in-trade of an habitual iconoclast.
It is true that Leonardo’s life was a really great life; that the facets of his genius were innumerable; that his mind was fantastically universal; that he anticipated the modern age. We have contemporary accounts to help us visualize his amazing vitality and activity–as architect, engineer, sculptor, anatomist, and painter.
But what have we today to establish his greatness as a painter? No more than a half-dozen pictures. The largest and most important is in ruins, so much so that nothing at all of the original is retained. Another, his most famous portrait, is an admittedly unfinished work. The remaining pictures are certainly questionable masterpieces. In short, we have no evidence. While it would be pleasant and warming to believe on faith that Leonardo must have been a great painter, it is nevertheless a betrayal of honest criticism to make that assumption and then to inflate it inordinately, using doubtful examples to support wishful theorizing.