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Chuck Connors turned down $10,000 because he refused to make fun of Westerns

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“I proved I wasn’t money hungry,” the Rifleman star said.

he Big Party was a kind of TV show they just don’t make anymore. Premiering in 1959, the program was just what the title suggested — a posh soirée where celebrities mingled in their best evening wear. Sponsored by Revlon, The Big Party invited the likes of Rock Hudson, Sammy Davis Jr., Carol Channing and Eva Gabor to sip cocktails, sing at the piano and chit-chat. The CBS series ran for a very brief time but remains a fantastic snapshot of late-’50s Hollywood.

Chuck Connors, who was starring in The Rifleman at the time, popped up once. But he did also turn them down.

“He nixed $10,000 for a guest appearance on The Big Party,” gossip columnist Erskine Johnson dished in 1960. “They wanted him to kid TV Westerns, which he refused to do.” That’s about $100,000 in today’s cash.

“They got a big surprise,” Connors said. “I proved I wasn’t money hungry.”

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But he could easily recall a time of being broke. “I can remember when I had to settle on Saturday nights for hamburger left over from Thursday night.”

Here’s the thing — Connors had principles. A “code,” if you wiull, when it came to Westerns: treat them seriously.

“I know we have an upbeat Western instead of a downbeat Western,” Connors reflected.

For extra cash, Connors would tour rodeos with his young costar, Johnny Crawford. They would sing country duets, despite the fact that Connors couldn’t sing a lick.

“I can’t sing. I’m tone-deaf,” Connors laughed.

Crawford would sing the bulk of the tune “Hey, Pa.” Connors would only interject a single line: “Yes, son.”

See? He could say “Yes” to some things for money. But only if they treated cowboys with respect.

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