By RACHEL C. DOVE
HUNTINGTON - “This story has a landmark Supreme Court case, a Romeo and Juliet type of forbidden- love story, friend against friend, brother against brother fighting in the Civil War and the burgeoning Industrial Revolution that followed it and tales of family loyalty that stemmed brutal slayings of individuals they once considered their friends,” said Bill Richardson, West Virginia University Extension Professor for Mingo and Logan Counties, as he spoke about the History Channel “Hatfield and McCoy” three night mini-series slated to begin tomorrow evening at 9 p.m.
Prior to the start of the mini-series, an episode of “Pawn Stars” will air at 8 p.m., which will feature a gun that allegedly belonged to “Cap” Hatfield.
“And then there are these characters who do things that seem so unrealistic and bizarre to us in today’s world that it is hard for people to fathom,” Richardson remarked. “It’s these fascinating characters in unbelievable events during one of the most turbulent times in American history that were the basis for an incredible mini-series that is thrusting the Tug Valley area into the media spotlight.”
Richardson was one of the local “Hatfield and McCoy” expert historians who was interviewed by Hollywood actor, writer and producer, Darrell Fetty, a West Virginia native who produced the History Channel six-hour mini-series and also produced a two-hour documentary, “America’s Greatest Feud: Hatfield and McCoy’s” that will premiere at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 2.
During the “invitation only” media session and star-studded reception held inside “The Palms” ballroom and at the viewing of the first part of the mini-series in the beautiful, historical Keith Albee Performing Arts Center in downtown Huntington, Richardson was at the front and center of the events and arrived at the Keith Albee in a white, stretch limousine.
He walked the red carpet in the company of Fetty, veteran Hollywood actor Tom Berenger who was chosen to play the role of Jim Vance, uncle to Devil Anse in the series; Huntington-native Hatfield and McCoy actor Jonathan Frederick, who played Jefferson McCoy; and Prestonsburg, Ky., native Boyd Holbrook, who was cast as “Cap” Hatfield.
A select number of media outlets from several areas of WV were invited to meet with the producer and stars at 5 p.m., where they were treated to photo opportunities, comments from the stars and a question and answer session that allowed the reporters to pick the brains of those in attendance.
Fetty, a 1970 Marshall University graduate and whose former wife, Caroline, was a direct descendant of both the Hatfields and the McCoys, said that his wish for the highly anticipated mini-series would be that it help correct a 150-year-old injustice.
“Back in 1881, Wyatt Earp, his brothers and their friend Doc Holliday delivered up some frontier justice with guns blazing at the O.K. Corral,” Fetty commented. “Afterwards, they rode off into the sunset and were proclaimed as western heroes whose story has been told many times over, all in a positive light.
“Now, fast forward one year, 1882, when the family members of William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph “Randall” McCoy found themselves involved in a violent, bloody family feud filled with their own brand of frontier justice.
“Their images were painted in the pages of history in an opposite tone than those of Earp and Holliday, and instead they were dismissed and labeled as dumb hillbillies that began a feud over the alleged theft of a pig that claimed the lives of several family members of both clans.”
Fetty hopes to set the record straight as to the real story of the Hatfield and McCoy feud with the airing of the six-hour long mini-series that will play out over a three day period.
“I want those watching to see that our heritage involved the same type of rugged circumstances and events as in the tales of the old West during this highly glamorized time frame in American history,” said Fetty. “These families were simply trying to protect their loved ones and live by a code of honor that was built on the belief that a man’s word was his bond.
“They had a strong sense of clan loyalty and would die protecting their family, because in the mountains and wilderness areas of Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia in that time frame, family was truly all you had.
“The justice system failed to render judgments in the crimes one clan accused the other of performing, and was often bias in their sentencing due to being “kin-folk” with the defendant or the accuser. The killings that occurred during the course of the feud were not random acts of violence and were always over specific issues. Most of them happened after feelings developed that justice was not served.
“This simply fed and fired the tempers of both families.
“Some of the killings of the opposing family members were public and most were extremely violent,” said Fetty. “After Devil Anse’s brother Ellison Hatfield was stabbed 27 times and shot in the back in 1982, the three McCoy boys were captured and shot more than fifty times by the Hatfields.
“It was an eye for an eye.
“The public hanging of ‘Cotton Top’ Mounts, the illegitimate son of a Hatfield who was said to be mentally challenged, had over 7,000 people attending,” Fetty remarked.
The series’ stars Academy Award winner Kevin Costner as Devil Anse Hatfield; Golden Globe nominee Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy; Tom Berenger as the firebrand warlord of the Hatfield family Bill Vance; Emmy Award winning actor Powers Boothe as Wall Hatfield, Devil Anse’s level-headed, fair minded older brother who was the justice of the peace and judge who presided over most of the hearings during the feud; Mare Winningham as Sally McCoy, wife of Randall McCoy who lost four sons, one daughter and her own sanity during those times; Matt Barr as the oldest son of Devil Anse who developed an unquenchable appetite for Roseana McCoy, the beautiful daughter of Randall who is played by Lindsay Pulsipher; Noel Fisher as Cotton Top; Andrew Howard as “Bad Frank” Phillips, a private detective and for-hire gunman; Sarah Parish as Levicy Hatfield, the strong-willed wife of Devil Anse and Ronan Vilbert as Perry Cline, cousin and political savvy attorney to the McCoys.
When asked how close the story written for the mini-series follows facts recorded about the feud, Fetty said that to date, it was the closest ever written or produced for the screen.
“This production is probably more important to me personally than any I’ve been involved with before,” Fetty said. “To be honest, I have to say the stereo-typing of these two clans that has been recorded on the pages of American history really pissed me off.
“It’s time to show the world what the Hatfield and McCoy feud was all about and about the nature and character of the men and women who lived it.
Fetty spoke with Richardson about his hopes that the Tug Valley area will reap the benefits of the feud media exposure, and thanked and praised him for his never ending dedication to improving tourism and growth for the Mingo County area.
“We shot the documentary that will air on July 2 in Huntington at the Heritage Farms, in Pikeville, Ky., and also in Matewan,” said Fetty. “It was important to film this in places specific to the feud.
“I want to localize as much as I can, which will in turn be a win-win situation for the entire Tug Valley area’s tourism.”
Berenger spoke about his role in the series, and said he felt that this production contained the same levels of excitement and “sitting on the edge of your chair” anticipation as the highly acclaimed movie “The Godfather.”
“It was an honor to have been a part of this mini-series,” said the actor. “I love working with Darrell, Kevin and all the others. It took about four and a half months to shoot this and at times, was very challenging, but was definitely worth it.
“We had a blast.”
During the premiere of the series at the Keith Albee, Berenger seemed to stun not only his girlfriend, Huntington native Laura Moretti, but all those in attendance when he announced that following the show, he had plans to propose marriage to the “love of his life”. Berenger received a standing ovation when he proclaimed his intentions.
“Wow! We did it!” exclaimed Fetty when the evening’s activities concluded in Huntington. “That’s one more project I can mark off of my bucket list.”
“I’ve written, produced and starred in several different movies,” Fetty said with an emotion-filled voice. “None of those projects have even come close to how I feel about the successful completion of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.”
“I not only gave this project my full attention and dedication – I gave it my heart.”