Steve Friesen had to tell Pawn Stars that Buffalo Ben was only "a legend in his own mind."
Steve Friesen had to tell Pawn Stars that Buffalo Ben was only "a legend in his own mind."

Buffalo bull! Steve Friesen gets a visit from Pawn Stars

It's been a great week," says Steve Friesen, head honcho of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden — and a week that William F. Cody, a hell of a publicity hound, would appreciate. On August 1, Friesen guest-starred on an episode of the History Channel show Pawn Stars titled "Buffalo Bull," in which he examined an alleged Wild West scrapbook kept by "Buffalo Ben" for the stars (who own the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Vegas) and determined that it was so much bull.

On Thursday, Friesen learned that the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave has just been named Museum of the Year by True West magazine, outranking many larger institutions. (The National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville rated number four.) And then the week got even better when the museum received an unexpected donation — particularly these days, when cash-strapped fans of the Old West would rather sell their artifacts than donate them — of a saddle used by one of the Wild West performers. Really. "We'll document it," Friesen promises, "but we know it didn't belong to Buffalo Ben."

The week before, Friesen had been up at the Wild West History Association meeting in Cody, Wyoming — another hangout of Buffalo Bill's, and the town that once threatened to steal its favorite son's body from his grave up on Lookout Mountain. Also there was William Koch, the billionaire who came to Denver in late June (while his arch-conservative brothers were holding a political confab outside Vail) to bid on the tintype of Billy the Kid (above right) and wound up winning it for $2 million (plus a 15 percent fee to the auction). "He's intently interested in the Old West," says Friesen, who adds that Koch apparently plans to loan the photo to museums across the country.


Pawn Stars

Friesen was bidding at that same Old West Show and Auction — but not for the tintype, since the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is owned by Denver, and city credit cards max out at $2,000. Instead, he bought a bargain lot that included programs and other memorabilia that "fill in gaps for us." That material won't be showing up in the museum's next exhibit, though. "Our next exhibit will be dime novels about Buffalo Bill," Friesen says. "We got a donation of dime novels and programs worth about $50,000."

No bull.

Weeding is fundamental: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was big business in Denver a century ago. These days, of course, the biggest growth industry is medical marijuana.

By June 30, 2010, when the city stopped taking dispensary applications because of a state-imposed moratorium, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses had received 347 dispensary applications. As of August 1, 2011, there were 217 licensed dispensaries in the city (Denver licenses run two years), with 70 pending approval; 39 had been denied and another 21 withdrawn or forfeited, according to Tom Downey, the new director of Excise and Licenses.

Those stats indicate that Denver's been a lot more liberal with its licensing than liberal Boulder. A year after requiring that all medical marijuana operations be licensed, Boulder has rejected 41 of 119 applications, reports the August 7 Daily Camera, with just 38 businesses actually getting their licenses so far.


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