“He is a very nice man,” Costello said. “I’m not sure who had more fun that day, me or Jim Arness. I went to an Actors and Others for Animals benefit where Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty) was going to appear and I expected to talk with her for about 10 minutes. She had someone bring over a chair and put it next to her, and we talked for two and a half hours. It was like reconnecting with a favorite aunt.” He saw Ken Curtis, who played Festus, at Pioneer Town, another movie ranch with connections to former Melody Ranch owner Gene Autry. “They didn’t disappoint you on the screen and didn’t disappoint you in life,” he said fondly. He holds out hope that the Western will make a comeback, although he knows it might not be as big as the days when there were 30 Westerns competing for viewers’ attention – on only three networks. Ironically, he’s not a big fan of “Deadwood,” the HBO series that has taken over Dillon’s old stomping grounds. “I’ve tried a few times, but I can’t get over the language thing,” he said, laughing. “It’s a little over the top for me, although I wait every Sunday night for `The Sopranos.”‘ For information or to order a copy of the book, visit www.50yearsofgunsmoke.com. [email protected] (661) 257-5252160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! One of Melody Ranch’s most famous – and dependable – tenants is the subject of a new coffee table book published just in time for the city’s annual cowboy festival. “Gunsmoke: An American Institution” by Ben Costello, takes viewers on a trip down memory lane, via Main Street in Dodge City. Fans of television’s longest-running Western, filmed largely at Melody Ranch in Newhall will be able to relive their favorite episodes and learn what happened to their favorite characters after the show ended its 20-year run in 1975. “`Gunsmoke’ was the one show we watched as a family when I was growing up,” Costello said. “It just stuck with me. It was the best of the TV Westerns, in my opinion. “What better character than Marshal Dillon in the battle of good versus evil where good triumphs in the end? The show just had the best writers, the best cast, everything was top notch.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventDespite his devotion to the show and dedication to painstaking research, Costello never has visited Melody Ranch or walked down the dusty streets made famous by Dillon, saloon owner Miss Kitty, Doc Adams, Chester and Festus. What he has done is amass hundreds of interviews and collect all 635 episodes on video or DVD. “The half-hour episodes were the hardest,” he said. He scoured the Internet, bought collections from Columbia House or taped episodes from the Western Channel. “It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but I always get asked. I’d have to say `Seven Hours to Dawn’ with John Barrymore Jr., it’s just really taut and tense. Another great episode is `Mannon’ and `Charlie Noon.’ Ronnie Howard was in that one.” His obsession with the show drew him to public events featuring the stars, including a brief encounter with James Arness, who played Marshal Dillon, at Arness’ book signing in 2001.