Fort Sill employee shines on red carpet
June 27, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Normally, she sits at the front desk for Fort Sill's Public Affairs Office. Last Friday, Francine Frisch walked the red carpet for a special advance screening of Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films' "The Lone Ranger" at Carmike Cinemas in Lawton.
"When I was growing up, Tonto was like the Lone Ranger's partner. They didn't portray Tonto in a specific Native American way. You just knew he was Native American. This was geared more toward Comanche ways," said Frisch.
Frisch is a Comanche housing board commissioner for the tribe. Her sister, Donna Wahnee, organized the red carpet event, and her sister, Vickie Sanders, strutted along with her.
Altough Frisch was in a seat this time, she has captured her own VIP audience before.
In February, she went to Washington, D.C., on behalf of Comanche Nation to explain the needs of the tribe. She said Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, along with representatives from Arizona and Alaska, understood because of their Native American backgrounds.
"We went to Washington to let Congress know we have this dire need for housing. There are tribal people out here who are practically homeless. There may be a house with a grandmother, her grandchildren, children and you need more to accommodate everyone. The tribe has given money in the past, but this year they couldn't because they were having to support other departments," said Frisch.
The Lone Ranger
She said the movie was exciting and she found herself laughing at the incorporated "Indian humor," which, she added, even non-tribal members understood.
Frisch graced the red carpet before Johnny Depp, but has yet to meet the actor. She did hear him speak last year when he was officially adopted into the tribe by LaDonna Harris, Americans for Indian Opportunity president. Fritsch said she will always think highly of him for that.
"He talked to the children in such a way it was like he was letting them know that there were things he did in his past that he realizes now he shouldn't have. So he encouraged them 'go to school; get your education; go on with your education; become what you want to become; don't get into gangs; don't fall into alcohol and drugs. He was very sincere with them. I think the young people listened," said Frisch.
Hundreds of fans welcomed Depp back and, despite high temperatures, he stayed outside to greet them for the better part of an hour. Depp said seeing the Comanche Nation again was like a family reunion.
"I'm going to take the Comanche Nation with me for life. Just being welcomed into the nation, welcomed into the family, has been, aside from having kids, the heaviest thing that has ever happened to me," said Depp.
Chairman of the Comanche Nation Wallace Coffey said Disney and Bruckheimer decided to show Tonto as a Comanche because of the tribe's history as great riders.
"Our warriors of the past established a label for us called the warriors of the plains. There was no tribe that was able to command a horse like the way we did. We're pleased that the portrayal shows Comanches," said Coffey.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer said he hopes the audience is excited by the twists and turns in the movie and to enjoy the very grass roots action.
"We have shown it to some of the leaders in the Comanche Nation and so far they're very pleased with our portrayal of the Native Americans especially the Comanches."
In the old fashioned western-comedy the actors performed all their own stunts a bold move the director is very proud of.
"We had stunt men asking their grandfathers how to do things. In the hey-day we had access to so many guys who could fall off horses and jump off trains. I really think it's a lost art," said director Gore Verbinski.
During filming of one scene, Depp fell off his horse and was trampled. He was able to get up relatively uninjured, but the tribe winced at the fall.
"The inside joke around there is we better bring him back and teach him how to ride a horse. We're known as horsemen," said Lynn Schonchin, Comanche Nation Department of Environmental Protection Agency assistant director.
The TV series showed Tonto as more of a sidekick to the Lone Ranger, while the new movie makes him a mentor to the masked man.
"It's really nice to see the story of the Lone Ranger told from Tonto's perspective. This is more of an odd couple relationship. In the beginning it was really interesting to kind of explore these two characters as they move their way through this quest,"said Verbinski. "You'll just have to see the movie."
The movie officially opens in theaters July 3.