Unmask that Man

On this evening's All Things Considered, Robert Siegel focuses his lens on the Lone Ranger. What a backstory! I had no idea. Now I understand why every boy I knew growing up was a fan.

We've received well over a hundred essays from listeners. Perusing the entries I can tell you we've got lots of fans of Forrest Gump and Cinderella. (She's not American so we won't be putting her on the couch. But Gump is a strong possibility.)

Just a reminder to essay writers: Be sure to tell us why this character is important to you on a personal level.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I find it interesting that Robert Siegel and your editors failed to mention that in much of the Latino world "Tonto" is an insult roughly meaning "idiot". You may also note that when the program is presented in Spanish he's called "Toro" (Bull) removing the insult and lip-syncing well with "Tonto".

Sent by Don Loftis | 4:50 PM | 1-14-2008

I loved this segment -- the Lone Ranger was a hero of every GIRL I knew growing up too. I was thrilled when the Masked Man's horse was stabled close to our home just outside Detroit at one point. He had a silver name plate on his stall that read "Hi Yo Silver". Was that the horse's full name, not just "Silver"? -- Jane

Sent by Jane Pratt | 4:59 PM | 1-14-2008

I didn't know until now that he and I were the same age. He was and continues to be my most important boyhood companion. He/I was alone, but he had a faithful companion. But that companion was somehow just that, not quite a friend, held apart by his/my need to fulfill his quest, to find justice. He/I was still alone, and in the end, he/I rode away on our white stallion, turning for a last look back.

Then there was the music. If the mask, the silver bullet, and the white stallion made him easy to visualize, his musical theme completed the heroic setting.

I cannot hear that final winter section of Rossini's William Tell Overture and without coming to a complete halt, whatever I am doing: my years disappear and my childhood floods back.

Sent by malcbern | 5:18 PM | 1-14-2008

The Lone Ranger rides again! Great radio about great radio. Thanks.

Sent by Bill Larson | 7:05 PM | 1-14-2008

I suppose everyone has a favorite LR episode. As usual, I can't remember a favorite main plot; it's always the subplots that snag my attention.

In the case of the Lone Ranger, I recall one television episode wherein the Lone Ranger and Tonto find a corpse beside the trail they are riding. Investigation reveals that the man has been murdered. Our heroes' first suspicion (later confirmed) that the man was a bad hombre is the smell of cologne that still hangs about the body. Honest man, don'tcha-know, don't have to wear that stuff.

And we never got to thank him . . .

Sent by Scott Hooker | 7:48 PM | 1-14-2008

Great to hear from the Lone Ranger again! He was a fixture in our childhood home, since Dad (John Allen) had been the engineer at WXYZ in Detroit, and put him on the air!

Dad spoke so fondly of those early radio days, and the excitement of putting on the show, esp. when cast members didn't show - Dad filled in! Our family asked to have the William Tell Overture played at Dad's funeral, but got overruled by the church organist.

Sent by Susan | 7:57 PM | 1-14-2008

There was never a disparaging word about minorities? How about "dumb" or "idiot", which is what Tonto means in Spanish? Imagine my shock, growing up in Puerto Rico and watching the old Lone Ranger show on TV, to discover that my hero Toro (bull) was actually Tonto! I'm still curled up in a fetal position.

Sent by Luis Rodriguez | 11:10 PM | 1-14-2008

Re Don's comments. We just learned in Spanish class this week that Tonto means "stupid". Pretty appalling to think the producers actually used this word. Maybe
The Lone Ranger was more racially biased than we would like to believe.

Sent by K Lorquini | 11:21 PM | 1-14-2008

Fran Striker allegedly derived the name Tonto from the title of Zane Grey's book, Stranger From The Tonto (referencing the Tonto National Forest in Arizona).

Since the Zane Grey novel Lone Star Ranger undeniably inspired "The Lone Ranger", more than likely Mr. Striker didn't know that Tonto meant "fool" in Spanish.

Sent by Mark | 10:09 AM | 1-15-2008

When I grew up in South central Idaho in the '40s and '50s, there was no TV. We listened to the kid's shows on radio after school. I am so surprised that there is no mention of the radio voice of Brace Beamer, who was the Lone Ranger for years. His strong voice was quite similar to that of singer Vaughn Monroe's.

Sent by Jon H. Hollinger | 3:34 PM | 1-15-2008

I am 55 years old and still get chills when I hear "A fiery horse with the speed of light..." etc I have collected the lone ranger radio shows ansd telivision episodes and enjoyed them time and again.An interesting side note about the Lone Rangers nephew Dan Reed. Dan becomes a newspaper editor and has a son named Brit. Who in keeping with the Reed family tradition becomees the GREEEN HORNET

Sent by Bud Santos | 8:03 PM | 1-15-2008

The Lone Ranger was a cowardly imperialist who hid behind a mask and condescended to his American Indian guide who was obviously the better man but who, in the imperialist West, had to bow to the imposed power structure.

The Lone Ranger added insult to injury by employing silver bullets, thus flaunting his wealth as a weapon against those who would upset the western American empire.

The Lone Ranger may have superficially cast himself as an iconoclast, but he served his imperialist masters well.

Sent by John Brown | 3:06 AM | 1-18-2008

The knee-jerk reaction to the translation of the name Tonto in Spanish (the fictional character Tonto was of Latin descent? That's news to me) is really pretty disheartening.

Would it be so hard to just accept the notion that the writer used a name he found from a geographic feature that appealed to him? That there was no disparaging or malicious intent in the choice of name?

I am of the opinion that the people who seize on this sort of thing are generally on the lookout for something to pounce on, regardless of how nonsensical their leaps of logic might be.

Sent by Rich | 9:52 AM | 1-18-2008

My earliest memories of childhood play are of becoming the Lone Ranger in my fantasies. I listened avidly to Brace Beamer's rich voice as the character on radio and read each comic book over and over. When television came to our home in 1955, the Masked Man was the first image I wanted to see. My father worked for radio and TV sponsor Merita Bread, and in 1956 and '57 I suited up in my Lone Ranger costume and had pictures taken with Clayton Moore when he visited the Knoxville bakery on promotional tours for two feature films. As a radio reporter 20 years later, I interviewed Mr. Moore in Atlanta and delighted him with my knowledge of Lone Ranger trivia. But I never appreciated the character's origins in the context of the Depression until hearing this report. As a modern liberal contemplating that perspective and re-reading the remarkably timely and timeless Lone Ranger Creed, I feel even more bonded than ever to my most precious childhood imaginary friend. Many thanks, NPR!

Sent by Chris Moser | 1:32 PM | 1-30-2008

Could anyone out there sent me a picture of Brace Beamer out of uniform? I have wondered what he looked like for 60 years.

Sent by James Santmyer | 11:04 PM | 5-3-2008

Can you provide some biographical information about Brace Beamer, the super voice of The Lone Ranger on radio.

Sent by Gerald Euster | 7:40 AM | 7-29-2008