Slim Pickens spent the early part of his career as a real cowboy and the latter part playing cowboys, and he is best remembered for a single "cowboy" image: that of bomber pilot Major "King" Kong waving his cowboy hat rodeo-style as he rides a nuclear bomb onto its target in the great black comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Born in Kingsburg, in California's Central Valley, he spent much of his boyhood in nearby Hanford, where he began rodeoing at the age of 12. He spent the next two decades touring the country on the rodeo circuit, becoming a highly-paid and well-respected rodeo clown, a job that entailed enormous danger. At the age of 31 he was given a role in a western, Rocky Mountain (1950), and quickly found a niche in both comic and villainous roles in that genre. With his hoarse voice and pronounced western twang, he was not always easy to cast outside the genre, but when he was, as in "Dr. Strangelove", the results were often memorable. He died in 1983 after a long and courageous battle against a brain tumor. He was survived by his wife Margaret and three children, Daryle Ann, Thom, and Margaret Lou. His brother has acted under the name Easy Pickens.
"What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?!"
Slim Pickens, (From his character Taggart in Blazing Saddles (1974)):
Before becoming an actor, Slim Pickens was riding on the rodeo circuit. Someone told him that he should take up another line of work because all he would ever get in the rodeo was "Slim Pickin's."
Louis Burton (Bert) Lindley, Jr.
June 29, 1919 – December 8, 1983
Ever remembered as the Air Force major from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), it is therefore ironic that Pickens' nephew, Jim "Slim" Pickens, became a career officer in the US Navy.
Brother of Easy Pickens.
Dedicatee of Howard Waldrop's story "Night of the Cooters," whose protagonist is Sheriff Bert Lindley.
Well, there was this big, lanky, fourteen-year-old California ranch kid, and he went into the rodeo manager's office and said, "Mister, I want to sign up for the calf-roping but my paw says I ain't allowed to. So I can't use my right name." And the manager said, "Son, no matter what name you use, it'll be slim pickin's out there today." So the boy said, "That's as good a name as any, I reckon-put me down as Slim Pickin's." The manager spelled it "Pickens," and the boy won $400 that afternoon. (As told to Ed Zern)
Was Stanley Kubrick's first choice to play the role of Dick Hollaran in the film The Shining (1980). Pickens declined, saying that after enduring Kubrick's notorious style of multiple retakes in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), he had no desire to work for Kubrick again. Subsequently, the role Hollaran went Scatman Crothers.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1982.
When he showed up on the set of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) fully dressed as a cowboy and speaking in a thick Southern accent, the British crew thought he was "Method" acting, not knowing that this was how he always dressed and acted.
Bareback bronc rider; saddle bronc rider; rodeo clown and bullfighter.
Inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the Rodeo Historical Society (a support group of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) in 1986.
For his role as Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), he had to travel to Shepperton Studios in England. Upon his arrival, it was discovered that he had never gotten a passport because he had never been outside the US before. His entrance was delayed while he had to go through the process of getting one before he was allowed to leave the airport.
Inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall Of Fame (2005).
Although he was known for his heavy Southern drawl, leading many to believe he was from Texas or Oklahoma, he was actually born not far from Fresno, California, and raised in California's San Joaquin Valley.
Peter Sellers was originally going to ride the atom bomb in "Dr. Strangelove". Slim got a phone call late one evening from Stanley Kubric - "Peter has fallen and broken his hip, I need you for a days shoot - I need you bad and I need you now, how soon can you get on a plane and make it to London?". Slim obliged and in his haste forgot to pack his passport.