Favorite Hollywood cowboy of the 1950s through the 70s; perhaps best known as the B-52 pilot who, at the end of Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" (1964), "rides" a hydrogen bomb to destruction, Slim Pickens was a hoarse-voiced veteran of the rodeo circuit -- in fact he was said to have gotten his name when a sidebuster looked at him and said, "Slim pickins -- that's all you'll get in this rodeo." He was 13 when he joined the rodeo and he spent years as a rodeo clown and performer before he migrated to Hollywood in 1950. Pickens made his feature film debut in 1950 in an Errol Flynn western at Warner Bros., "Rocky Mountain." He was only a sidekick, but Pickens' exuberance shone through. He always seemed to be having a good time. He was serious about entertaining and a "pro," to be sure, but the audience took to his joie de vivre. John Ford saw it and cast Pickens in "The Sun Shines Bright" (1953), which Ford later said was his favorite film. The story of a kindly judge, Pickens played a role called "Mink Sterling" which may sound like a burlesque queen, but Pickens carried it off all-man and all smiles. He played dozens of sidekicks, scouts, and sometimes varmints chewing and spitting tobacco (or worse) in films of the 50s and 60s, among them "Old Overland Trail" (1953), "The Boy From Oklahoma" (1954), "Major Dundee" (1965) and the remake of "Stagecoach" (1966). His work as Major T.J. (King) Kong in "Dr. Strangelove" had been written for Peter Sellers, but after Pickens played in what would become a cult favorite of the intelligentsia, his critical acceptability rose, although he was never elevated to "prestige films." Still, Mel Brooks chose him to play Taggart, the prickly third lead of "Blazing Saddles" (1974). Whether a comically vicious outlaw in "The Apple Dumpling Gang" (1975), or Tex, the calculating survivor of the rotten "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" (1979), Pickens seemed untouched by weak material, being one of those old-time performers who came to do their job.