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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023


JESSICA DREBEN Staff Reporter Dust those saddles and sharpen your spurs, Hopalong Cassidy is back for all his loyal “little neighbors.” William Boyd, the actor who portrayed the gun-slinging cowboy in black, has been dead for more than 20 years, but his persona lives on. Hopalong Cassidy Enterprises, a division of U.S. Television Inc., is hoping for a Hoppy revival marketing everything from videos to lunchboxes with the cowboy’s name and likeness. “There are more than 70 million people over the age of 45 who grew up in the Hopalong Cassidy era,” said Jerry Rosenthal, president of Tarzana-based Hopalong Cassidy Enterprises. “He was very popular and a lot of people are interested in collecting Hoppy items.” Rosenthal’s target audience is not just limited to baby boomers. He’s also reaching out to children. His plan is to get more Hoppy films on television so a new generation will become acquainted with the character. Rosenthal says he is in talks with 18 television stations to license the Hoppy films. His major target audience, however, remains Midwesterners who are already familiar with Hopalong Cassidy from childhood. “Hoppy was a good role model for children and adults and we want to keep the tradition alive,” said Rosenthal. “We want to get everyone into Hoppy.” Rosenthal bought the rights to Hopalong Cassidy’s persona in 1985 from Boyd’s wife, Grace Bradley Boyd. Almost immediately thereafter, the company filed numerous infringement lawsuits against those allegedly engaged in unauthorized use of the cowboy’s image. That litigation took up the majority of Rosenthal’s time until 1995. “There were a number of individuals that would copy the products and sell them and we would sue,” said Rosenthal. “It would cost thousands of dollars every time. We lost a lot of money. So we decided to just put out a better mousetrap,” referring to new, improved Hoppy products. The company’s revenues have increased from $500,000 in 1995 to more than a $1 million in 1997 most of that coming from licensing Hoppy films to TV stations. The other big money maker is the Hoppy video set, which sells for $69.95. Other items include Hoppy belt buckles, lunchboxes, water bottles, watches and even a 6-foot, 3-inch Hoppy cutout. Rosenthal also is marketing more than 900 original Hoppy items dating back to the 1930s. Boyd had lent his name and likeness to more than 2,400 different products from the 1930s to early 1950s. And some of those items can fetch a pretty penny on the collector’s circuit. Rosenthal said a Hopalong bicycle goes for $11,000, a Hoppy bunk-bed ladder can fetch up to $50, a toy chest anywhere from $100 to $250 and an original Hoppy nightstand sells for $300. Jeff Lotman, chief executive of Global Icons, a company that owns the commercials rights to the likenesses of James Dean and W.C. Fields, said the Hoppy merchandise will do well, though it will never bring in the kind of revenues a bigger star can generate. “The memorabilia market is really strong,” said Lotman. “Products that were made in the ’30s and ’40s sell for thousands of dollars. The stuff is worth a fortune. (Hopalong) was very big during his era. I guess he would have a very definite following.” The entertainment memorabilia market generated more than $16 billion last year, according to Lotman. Aiming to capture as much of that as possible, Rosenthal in addition to selling new and old Hoppy merchandise and the TV rights to Hoppy movies just cut a deal with Hallmark Cards to create three Hopalong Cassidy tree ornaments. There is also an ad campaign in the works, but Rosenthal says it hasn’t been budgeted yet. Hopalong Cassidy was a character created by writer Clarence E. Mulford, and was featured in Mulford’s novels about the Bar 20 Ranch. He called the character Hop-A-Long because the character had a game leg. The original character was a gun-slinging, roughneck cowboy, but Boyd devised a softer personality. By the end of World War II audiences knew “Hoppy” as the good-guy cowboy in black who rode a white horse. Hoppy appeared in more than 66 feature films and had his own television program that ran for seven years. Boyd also starred in 104 radio shows as Hoppy. “We are dealing with a classic product here,” said Rosenthal. “Hoppy appeals to everyone.”

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