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By Photo courtesy of Joey Dillon
BY ASHLEY FISCHER Contributing writer
Being a professional gunslinger isn't always about shooting from the hip.
For Joey "Rocketshoes" Dillon, it's a precise form of spinning, twirling and juggling that has made him a three-time gunspinning world champion and teacher to the stars on gun-handling techniques.
'The Wild West at the Tejon Corral'
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tejon Ranch Indoor Equestrian Center, 1401 Crane Canyon Road in Lebec.
Admission: $12; $7 for children 4 to 11; children 4 and under are free; cash only.
"When I was young, I had a wooden and metal pirate pistol from Disneyland," he said. "It was so easy to spin back and forth, I'd go to sleep at night twirling it around my hand. We're all blessed with certain talents -- I'm not good at everything, but this (gun-spinning) is something I can do well."
Dillon may have realized his love for gunplay at an early age, but creating a career that showcased his unique talent wasn't by any means a straight shot. He first entered the entertainment industry with ambitions of becoming an actor and standup comedian.
His dream led Dillon to Chicago, where he wound up living with a relative near a Wild West park. He got a job performing there and it didn't take long for him to realize he could make more money spinning a gun than he could taking the stage at various open-mic-nights throughout the city.
"I figured if I could combine my humor and personality with what I could do with a gun, I could become more of a variety act."
On the road, Dillon took his act to fairs, festivals and corporate conventions -- just about anywhere that would book his unique combination of singing, comedy and expert gunplay.
It was his talents with his replica Colt Peacemaker and Remington Army revolver -- not his standup act -- that finally took Dillon to Hollywood. The entertainer stepped behind the camera when he was hired to show actors how to handle a gun.
"'Jonah Hex' with Josh Brolin was the first big movie that I worked on," Dillon said. '"Looper' and 'Gangster Squad' are more recent ones; they're not even Western-related. They each just had a character that was a cowboy-quick-draw kind of person."
These days, when he's not out at a firing-range with Ryan Gosling or some other celebrity, Dillon can be found working in his shop, Rocketshoes Vintage Repair in Frazier Park, where he lives with his wife and two children, Cash and Daisy.
"We love smaller towns and we love nature, so Frazier Park has been a good fit," he said. "For years, I thought it was just a few gas stations. I didn't know there was a whole community up here. It's kind of a hidden gem."
It was after moving to Frazier Park that Dillon, a lifelong history buff, discovered the Ridge Route Communities Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the mountain areas south of Bakersfield.
"I'm kind of a history freak about everything, especially about automobiles and old roads -- Route 66-type stuff. Whenever I move to a new location, I try to figure out anything historical about it."
Dillon's love of history is what inspired his upcoming performance, "The Wild West at the Tejon Corral."
Hoping to raise some money to bolster the museum's limited income, Dillon and professional trick roper Will Roberts will perform a two-hour variety show full of tricks and quips about the old West.
Light refreshments will be provided, and Dillon is encouraging everyone to come out dressed in their Wild West best.
"It's going to be a good time and a great show. If you've got a family or not, and you want to see something interesting and entertaining that's not a movie, put on your best Western duds and come on up."