Doc in Tombstone, AZ

Doc's Gunfight Palace
Tombstone, Arizona

Terry Najarian or 'Doc' as he is known in Tombstone, Arizona was born & raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Born to European immigrant parents from areas on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, his family trade was that of medical doctors, but Terry chose a different path for himself. He wanted to play Hockey and play he did…all the way to the majors. Like many professional athletes, his knees ended up betraying him and he found himself in the world of business where he spent his working life.
In the mid 90s, it was time for retirement but Terry insisted on semi-retirement and followed his life-long passion of the American Old West to Tombstone, Arizona. It wasn't long after that that he found his next step in life…that of a professional actor and gunfighter reenactor.
Terry had found his calling in life, he fell right into portraying the role of a man who is quick talking, smart in a poker game and deadly fast with a six gun.
After 15 years of reenacting gunfights of the Old West, a devastating fire burnt down Tombstone's premier gunfight venue in 2010 and set into motion Terry's next challenge in life. After it become evident that the destroyed venue was not going to be able to rebuilt, Terry began thinking, planning and doing research. As an amateur historian, he never felt completely comfortable in the tradition role of Old West reenactment which generally combines slapstick-style comedy with the show performed outside in front of a silly façade of an Old West town. "This is not the way it happened and there is nothing funny about a gunfight," Terry told us in our interview. "Through my research I found that the majority of the gunfights in Tombstone and throughout the Old West did not happen on the street with Marshal Dillon on one side and the bad guy on the other…that is all Hollywood. Most were spontaneous and happened in saloons, cantinas and brothels. Usually fueled by alcohol and generally over either gambling or women…or both."
Terry believes the conception of the classic duel on the street between two gunmen is from the very earliest Western movies. "Back then they did not have much for budgets or technology and therefore the problem was simply lighting. Being that the gunfight had to be the high point of the movie, there is no way they could get the desired effect indoors. Therefore they merely rewrote the script having one man call the other outside to fight."
As Terry developed his business plan for a new gunfight venue in Tombstone, he decided he wanted to make it the most historically accurate the business of the Old West had ever seen.
He put together the best team of actors, writers and story tellers available in the area, pooling from a decade and a half experience in the business. In the summer of 2011 Terry opened up his new gunfight business, challenging directly with the historical O.K. Corral. Many have tried this in the past but Terry was the first ever to attempt this from INDOORS!
Terry designed a perfect replica of a Wild West saloon and created a show which gives the tourists a very detailed history lesson regarding Tombstone itself, starting with the Native Americas, the Mexican-American War, the silver strike, the boom town and of course…Tombstone's bloody gunfights. Then period correct actors reenact actual gunfights that happened during Tombstone's violent past. The idea is to put the patrons up close and personal, allowing them to get into the moment and truly experience what it would have been like to have actually been there at the moment of the life and death battle.
Terry's new venue was an instant success with the tourists visiting this dusty little town which is Arizona's second largest destination and the greatest living history town in America. Tombstone only has a population of 1,600 but grows ten times that every day, 100 times that every weekend and on special event weekends can host as many as ten thousand tourists a day and they were all coming to Terry's new show. Seemingly overnight it became huge on the internet and was voted the #1 attraction in Tombstone on most of the popular tourism sites such as TripAdvisor. After only six months, it seemed Terry's vision had become perfect…however Terry didn't see it that way. The problem was his venue, although only a half a block off...it was not directly on Historical Allen Street and Terry wasn't satisfied. Early in 2012 an original building came available directly on Allen Street, just two doors down from the Bird Cage Theater and Terry jumped on the opportunity and moved the show.
With the success of his venture and the new location Terry decided the business needed a new name. Everyone in Tombstone has a nickname. Most of the actors pick a nickname from their favorite Old West historical figure or Hollywood star. Being Doc Holliday was such an influential part of Tombstone's history and a participant of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral…the name "Doc" is very appropriate here. Ironically Terry's nickname has been "Doc" since his days as a professional hockey player, given to him by his teammates because of his family being composed of all doctors and Terry not following the path himself. Terry even has his hockey card from the 70s to prove that he was 'Doc" long before coming to Tombstone.
At the request of his trusted employees, the new name became Doc's Gunfight Palace! It is on Allen Street and has continued to be an incredible success in a town where every business is fighting for the precious tourist dollar.
Terry says his success is all due to the quality product. "People do not come to Tombstone to see a comedy show, to buy a shot glass or T-shirt or to eat. They come for History & Violence and that is what we give them!"

By Dorina Severide-VanOort

NPR's Local Arts & Entertainment Reporter

http://www.npr.org/programs/all-things-considered

Follow on Twitter: @nprweekend On Twitter

 

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