My cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos, is a generation older than me and comes from the same New York City illustration background that I jumped into, fresh out of college in the 1970’s. I grew up following Randy’s work in the National Lampoon and all the top magazines as I was a budding illustrator. Randy knows all of the famous illustrators who were my heroes in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I’m delighted to syndicate Randy’s off-beat editorial cartoons and I’m enjoying the memories he’s writing for my blog –especially this one. –Daryl
Toward the end of November 1973, my buddy, Stan Mack, called me in to The New York Times to do a cover for the Sunday magazine section which he was art directing at the time. They were doing a story on John Wooden, the famous coach of the UCLA basketball team. Wooden was famous for giving his players a mimeographed sheet of platitudes which reflected his recipe for succeeding in sports and in life. He arranged these platitudes on the paper, in ruled boxes that stacked up to form a pyramid. He called it his “Pyramid of Success.” It was just a simple typed up sheet of words to live by. Each time a player was recruited, he would find this sheet of paper in his mailbox the next morning.
Stan had been at a loss as to how to feature Wooden on his cover. He wanted to avoid he obvious montage of, perhaps, a head shot with a basketball player in the background. Then he stumbled upon Wooden’s “Pyramid” in the text. Stan had seen a couple of jobs (one I remember was for Esquire) where I had done some wood-block or lino-block lettering and he thought that I could take this homely little typewritten page and do something nice and artistic and colorful for his cover. So, I tackled it in my normal lino-cut collage technique where I would print my lino block on different colored papers (in different colored inks) and then collage the whole thing together. The finished art appeared on the cover, Sunday, December 2nd, 1973.
Bright and early Monday morning the telephones started ringing at The New York Times – and they continued ringing until finally the Times had to recruit outside help to man the phones. Then the mail started pouring in, sacks of it. Then the Times gave out my phone number and address to callers and my phone started ringing and my home mailbox started filling up. Each time, I would go to the Times to pick up or deliver a job, I would be presented with a sack full of mail addressed to me at the Times. They dealt with the ones addressed to them.
This deluge was caused by readers, who seized with the passion of Wooden’s words, were demanding copies, re-prints, ANYTHING we had to offer. We were getting correspondence and calls from, mayors’ offices, corporations, law enforcement bureaus, libraries, universities, along with just plain ol’ ordinary citizens – LOTS and LOTS of them. Some were upset because they had also written to Wooden and received only a dopey little mimeographed sheet in black and white. They wanted the one in color – the POSTER!
I had created a FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER!
It went on for months and months and finally years and years … and years. My son recalls visiting a friend in college and seeing it on many students’ walls. My wife was getting tired of the constant phone ringing and cursed the Times for giving out our number and address.
Years later, people would write or call and say that their copy of the Times cover was yellowing on their wall and did I know where they could get a better reproduction of it. My answer to all of them was that I couldn’t sell them or give them a copy or a poster of it because it wasn’t totally mine. It was Wooden’s thing. I merely had interpreted it in color. They would have to get his permission and then maybe something could be worked out. They never got back to me. Finally I contacted Wooden by letter and said that he was obviously getting the deluge that I was and so perhaps we should get together on this and make reproductions of it for sale or something. Leann was already imagining a life of exquisite bliss on a tropical island where we and our 5 horses would be sipping daiquiris and never having to work again. But Wooden never replied.
Years would go by and I would think that maybe it had finally gone away. And then, the phone would ring, or I’d get a letter with the familiar phrase, “Back in 1973 you did a cover for the …”
Okay. I lied. One entity got through to Wooden. It was McDonald’s. They sent me a letter from the coach that said that I could give them the art for a Christmas card for their employees. I had previously told them that if they got permission from Wooden that I would let them use my picture for free. Of course, I never thought they’d get it. So a big black limo pulled into my driveway and I handed over my original art. Later they returned with it and magnanimously provided me with a coupon entitling me to two free hamburgers and a coke. I never redeemed the coupon. And I never saw the Christmas cards.
The Times had given out repro rights to some people like IBM, who used it as the cover bearing the Times masthead.
Many decades have passed and I haven’t had any more letters and calls for a while. Of course, I haven’t checked the mail yet today. Out of the thousands and thousands of requests that the Times and I received, not one single one was complimentary about my art (I’m sure Wooden hated my grotesque version of his beloved, mimeographed Pyramid). It was only the sentiments expressed by Wooden that captured their imagination and desire to own a copy of it (suitable for framing).
Years and years after 1973, I was at the Times one day and one of my art directors said, “Randy, I want to show you something.” I followed him to a back room where there was a closet. He unlocked it with a key and there before my astonished eyes were shelves laden with copies of the Sunday, December 2nd, 1973 edition of The New York Times Sunday Magazine.
Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories: