It was 1979. I don't remember the exact date because, frankly, it was a day that will live in infamy. But
one day, I had the honor of meeting Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger.
I was driving along the 101 freeway when I heard a newscaster say on the radio that Clayton Moore was
at the Superior Court House in downtown Los Angeles. Normally, I would not have intruded on whatever
Mr. Moore's business was at the courthouse. I missed the main body of the story and I had no idea what
the Wrather Corporation, which owned the Lone Ranger, was attempting to do to him.
I drove home, grabbed a color photo of Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, and headed for downtown
Los Angeles. Somehow I found a parking place where I could leave the car for a few hours and I
entered the Superior Court House. I asked a couple of people if they knew where the Lone Ranger was
and one told me which court he was in.
I went upstairs, found the courtroom and discovered there were newspeople and fans all over the place.
The proceedings had not started. I found a seat in the back of the room and saw Clayton sitting in the
spectator section of the room looking resplendent in an Eisenhower cut cowboy suit, a beautiful white
hat, and the mask. The judge took his place and asked if the man wearing a hat would please remove
it. At that point, Mr. Moore stood up and politely left the room. He felt this was a personal appearance of
the Lone Ranger and that the hat was part of the image. For that reason, he chose to remain in the hall
while the two sides argued.
I stayed in the courtroom for about a half-hour until I had a thorough understanding of what was going
on. It was heinous, what the Wrather Corporation was trying to do. The company, run by Clayton's old
boss, Jack Wrather, was attempting to slap an injunction on Clay to prevent him from ever wearing the
I slipped back into the hallway. Clayton was signing autographs. A lawyer came running up, begged to
cut in line, and said, "I'm going to be held in contempt of court for this, but, I’ve just got to have your
I said to Clayton, "I didn't realize what they were trying to do here. After all those years of talking to kids,
and letting blind kids feel the mask. They can't do it."
There was a brief recess. There was a fellow that knew Clayton, and we were chatting, and as people
started to go back into the courtroom, Clayton said, "see what's going on." The guy, who was a private
detective, and I went in. The judge was saying he had taken this case because a friend of his recused
himself because it was too emotional an issue for him. He said, "I must admit, in my heart, I'm for Mr.
Moore, but, Wrather Corporation has Mr. Moore's name on a contract. It kind of reminds me of the
I knew about the Lugosi case. Bela Lugosi Jr. couldn't help but notice that Universal Pictures was
making an awful lot of money off his father's image. He tried to negotiate with them and eventually sued,
but, he lost because his father had basically signed away his image in his contract with Universal.
The lawyer for the Wrather people was a classic heavy. Fat, whiny, and cynical. He actually spoke
derisively about Clayton the gist being that Clayton was too old to uphold the image of the Lone
Ranger. "Your Honor," he whined, "can't you see the schizophrenia of this man? On the one hand he
says he’s Clayton Moore an actor who played the Lone Ranger, and on the other hand he won't leave
his house without his mask and guns. This man is too old to be the Lone Ranger. Another younger
actor is playing the Lone Ranger now. There can't be two Lone Rangers. If Mr. Moore wants to hold up
a mask and say,'this is the mask I wore when I played the Lone Ranger,’ that's 0K. We'll give him a little
mask he can show them. We'll give him a little gun. He can show it to his ‘fans’ and say,' this was my
Lone Ranger gun.' But, he can't be the Lone Ranger. He can't dress as the Lone Ranger. He can't
wear the mask."
I stood up. I must have had "Them’s fighting words" all over my face because the judge looked at me
and motioned with his finger for me to sit back down. He was a good guy and I'm sure he knew just how I
felt. There was a little conference at the bench, then, the judge asked for Clayton to come back into the
courtroom. And he wouldn't have to take off his hat. The judge had Clayton step up to the front of the
courtroom and open his jacket. I didn't understand why, I thought he was demonstrating that he wasn't
carrying any weapons. Actually, the judge wanted to see if he was truly was physically unable to live up
to the Lone Ranger's image as the fat lawyer had suggested.
At that moment, Clayton was the handsomest man I ever saw. His eyes were like Paul Newman’s: sky-
blue, and they shone from behind the mask. He was in the best shape of any 50-year-old I've ever
seen, and he was 66. When he left the courtroom again, the detective and I rejoined him in the hallway.
By this time, the crowd of reporters had grown, and there were more fans.
I said, "Clay, you are in terrific shape. He threw a playful punch to my stomach and said, "pretty good
for an old guy."
He talked about himself a little. He told us he was from Chicago --- "city kid" he said. He signed my
picture. He asked, "what's the date?" Then he pulled his pen back from the photo. I knew why. It was
shaping up to be a day best not remembered.
Finally, the word came that the decision had been reached. Clayton's lawyer told him the news, Wrather
had prevailed, and Clayton swallowed hard. There must have been 30 news cameras by that time and
reporters and fans and Clayton had to say something.
"I just want to say that I'm shocked that this could happen because I've always believed in the truth and
I've always believed in justice and the truth is I have been the Lone Ranger for 30 years and I've always
loved my fans and I've always been a fighter, and I'm going to keep on fighting for you."
A roar of cheers went up from the fans, reporters, and even the cameramen, who were supposed to
The Wrather people made no attempt to take the mask off the Lone Ranger. Clay got to wear it home. I
was choking back tears, but then, I'm an Irishman, and I'm often choking back tears. I walked past a
phone booth on my way out of the building, and there was that fat lawyer for Wrather. "Well, we got
what we wanted," he was saying. Yeah! And a lot more that they never wanted.
I will put links to some of the wonderful websites that are devoted to Clayton Moore. They'll tell you how
he obeyed the court order, but, he didn't let it stop him. For five years, when he appeared in public, he
wore dark glasses. He looked great, but people couldn't clearly see those eyes anymore. I looked into
the Lone Ranger’s eyes and it was an incredible experience.
Five years later, the new Lone Ranger movie had long since been a resounding flop, Jack Wrather had
died, and, finally, the injunction ran out. Clayton suited up one last time. He was 71 and he looked like a
|The Day They Took the Mask off the
Old Lone Ranger by Patrick Culliton
The photo Clayton Moore signed for me that day.