Toward the last gasps of The National Lampoon, there began a migration of Lampoon editors, publishers and associates of the Lampoon empire to Hollywood. Doug Kenney, one of the founders went out there and unfortunately died in Hawaii. People like John Belushi, who had been involved in Lampoon stuff in New York went to Hollywood along with Matty Simmons the Lampoon publisher and Ivan Reitman and made Animal House. It seemed like lots of Lampoon people suddenly got the Hollywood movie bug. My close friend and art director Michael Gross moved his family to Hollywood and became a producer for Ivan Reitman’s films. One of their most notable being Ghostbusters.
Through all of Michael’s endeavors, the Lampoon, his subsequent foray into his own design firm, some art directing for Esquire, art directing for Mobil Oil and a brief experiment with an artistic porno site, I was always there to supply him with my art work. So it was with Ghostbusters. He called on me, from California to do a fake Atlantic Magazine cover for the movie. At that point in my career, I had yet to do an actual Atlantic cover.
In the film, after the boys get their Ghostbuster business established, they get quite famous and a brief sequence in the film is a montage, of sorts showing headlines in various newspapers, cover of Life magazine and a cover of the Atlantic Magazine all popping and panning across the screen accompanied by the famous “Who ya gonna call?” theme song. I was to show caricatures of the three “busters” in their uniforms and Proton Packs chasing a ghost.
In a stupendous display of over-kill, four fairly large cardboard boxes arrived at my house. One box contained dozens and dozens of pictures of Bill Murray, and another, pictures of Dan Aykroyd and another of Harold Ramis, the three main stars. I had shots of them close-up, at every angle and full figure –in their costumes and out of them. The fourth box was loaded with pictures of them posed together in various action shots. A caricaturists’ dream of reference material!
I set to work and created a sketch for approval and then when I got the okay, I did the finished art in linocut. Michael slapped an Atlantic logo on it and some type and made it look exactly like an Atlantic cover. We had done many fake jobs like this for the Lampoon, of course, so we knew how to do this stuff. Then, to my surprise, the fake cover had to go to The Atlantic for approval which it secured and into the movie it went. It only appears for a few seconds. It zips onto the screen… holds and then zips off. It was a kick to see it on the big screen.
I let Ivan Reitman have the original which I saw framed and hanging in his office when I visited Michael later on at the studios in Hollywood. I also got to see some of the models of the ghost creatures and an actual Proton Pack which was a bit of a disappointment in the flesh being that it was basically cardboard with duct tape wrapped around stuff. Michael also showed me the head of the moose he created for The Lampoon’s Vacation movie where Chevy Chase has to punch the moose character in the nose. The head was a hard plaster but the nose was soft.
Michael often came to New York to shoot parts of films and my wife Leann and I would always go into the city and watch the action. He even gave Leann an “extra” part in Legal Eagles. He also came in for the premier of Animal House where they had a party at the Village Gate afterwards and Belushi and Aykroyd performed a song as “The Blues Brothers” –AND, I got to meet one of my heroes, Ralph Nader, of all people.
But, after all that exciting stuff, the very best thing about the whole experience was that I now get to say, “My very first Atlantic cover was not an Atlantic cover”.
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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: