Reality series coming to a fantasy town

Mike Caraffa inside his business Doc Holliday's Saloon being interviewed about his opinions on improving tourism in Tombstone by Echo Entertainment producer Gary Marks. Photo by Terri Jo Neff
Mike Caraffa inside his business Doc Holliday’s Saloon being interviewed about his opinions on improving tourism in Tombstone by Echo Entertainment producer Gary Marks. Photo by Terri Jo Neff.

The Real Housewives of Tombstone?

Not quite, but the reality television genre is coming to town.

Producers and local residents hope the show, titled Tombstone Renewal, will stimulate tourism and boost the economy of the financially struggling town.

Terri Jo Neff, creator of the show, began experimenting with the idea in late 2013.

The idea got started when a man from New York approached the people of Tombstone and explained how he wanted to create a reality show that would focus on the feuding, controversy, and small-town politics. Although the show could be entertaining, Neff believed it would bring a negative aspect to town.

Neff approached George Scott, executive director of the Southeast Arizona Economic Development Group, and they decided that a reality television show that showed the positive sides in Tombstone would be a great benefit for the community.

Instead of creating a dramatic show that focused on Tombstone negativity, Scott and Neff wanted to bring about a show with positive and feel-good vibes that would attract people to the small town and benefit small business owners.

“I wanted to come up with an entertaining concept that would make people want to come to Tombstone and bring money to the town,” Neff said.

Scott was interested in the idea because of the economic growth that it would bring to Cochise County as a whole.

“I thought that the show could help bring jobs to Cochise County and also give local people a chance to work,” said Scott.

Shortly after their brief discussion, Neff began to speak with Tombstone business owners and came up with an idea for the show to follow around re-enactors in Tombstone and show the audience what they go through on a daily basis.

“We wanted to show the audience what the re-enactors go through, their rehearsals, doing their show, being out in the street trying to get tourists to come in the show which is really hard to do,” Neff said.

Neff took this pitch to a television producer who directed her toward Echo Entertainment, a California production company that has the reputation of working with major networks around the country.

Neff pitched her idea to Echo in December 2013, and Echo was immediately sold. Five days later, Echo representatives made a trip to Tombstone and met with the business owners in town to explain their intentions with the show.

The next few months after that consisted of on-camera interviews with re-enactors as potential stars. After six months, Echo Entertainment gathered up the interviews and put a trailer together to send to television networks all over the country.

After sending the trailer out, they realized they needed to focus not only on the re-enactors of the town, but also the small business owners, bartenders, waitresses and other folk in Tombstone. Gary Marks was hired as producer and decided to bring in more characters.

One of those characters was Mike Caraffa, part owner of Doc Hollidays Saloon and the Tombstone Gazette. Caraffa believes he can offer entertainment to the show through various ways.

“I think I’m a pretty entertaining person,” said Caraffa. “People will be able to see how sometimes my life in Tombstone can be difficult and how sometimes it can be fun.”

Caraffa moved to Tombstone from Florida and never looked back. After vacationing in Tombstone for 11 years, he decided it would be best for him and his family to make the move.

“I want people to see how great Tombstone is, I want them to see how you can go from one side of the street to the other in half an hour because you stop and talk to people,” Caraffa said.

Neff decided to bring Caraffa into the project because he has no issue on speaking his mind.

“Mike is probably one of the most entertaining characters you will ever meet,” said Neff, “Mike has an opinion on everything in Tombstone and what’s really entertaining is that he’s willing to share his opinion with anyone who asks.”

When asked if he fears being followed with a camera every day, Caraffa responded, “Not at all, I have absolutely nothing to hide. I don’t think I’ll change as a person at all because I really enjoy talking to people.”

A major concern for Neff and Marks was attracting a younger audience to their show. According to Neff, the majority of the Tombstone residents are 50 and over.

“For the show we are intentionally going for the 20-50 year-olds who may not know about Tombstone’s real history. All that they may know about is the movie if they even know the movie,” Neff said.

This is one of the reasons why they decided to interview R.J. Herrig, the young manager of the Crystal Palace, a historic bar and restaurant in Tombstone.

RJ in his office at the historic Crystal Palace ponders a question about his efforts to attract more tourists to his family owned business. Photo by   Danielle Edwards.
R.J. Herrig in his office at the historic Crystal Palace ponders a question about his efforts to attract more tourists to his family owned business. Photo by Danielle Edwards.

According to Neff, Herrig is a definite favorite to star in the show. Herrig is from Iowa then later moved to Tucson. He made the move when his mother bought the Crystal Palace bar. Herrig is expected to bring entertainment and interest from a younger audience.

“Me personally and my staff at the Crystal Palace, I’ve got a fairly young staff that is energetic and we’re a bunch of goof balls and we have to have a sense of humor living in a town like this,” said Herrig.

Herrig claims that there are ups and downs when it comes to the Crystal Palace but his hope is to make his bar a steady and busy place after the show airs.

“I have no idea why they picked me, I’m actually kind of camera shy and I freeze when I see a camera,” Herrig said, “but I’m willing to do it because I think it will help the town as a whole brining attention to Tombstone.”

Last fall, Marks went to a Time Warner network available to 91 million households to show them the new interviews. The network agreed with Marks to develop the show with the condition of including the whole tourism industry in town.

Marks and Neff went on to interview even more people and were finished by the end of January. Neff is hoping to get the official production started by the end of March and film from scratch for six weeks. After that, the show will air during late summer.

“Until we actually have that check from the network, we can’t contract anybody specifically even though we do have a couple of favorites, but we have close to 50 people that will get free exposure for themselves and their business,” Neff said.

Larissa Teran is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.



One comment Add yours
  1. Being a fifth generation native of Tombstone, I believe a reality show will benefit the tourism, however, there are a lot of residents in this town, you can’t base everything from one person. Especially if you get involved in the politics. I would love to see Tombstone thrive again as it did when i was growing up. We didn’t travel to nearby towns for groceries, we had three grocery stores here. We also had a theater, numerous full service gas stations/garages. I realize everything changes with time and Tombstone won’t ever be as it was in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s, but, the potential is there too be a prosperous little town. I wish your endeavors the best. Carraffa isn’t the only game in town. Of course he is equal to, maybe, the attitude of JR Ewing!!!!

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