Britain’s fever pitch of stress about Brexit is cranking up, day by day, as each new deadline approaches. One thing all the Brits seem to agree about is how they dislike Theresa May, her Brexit deal, and how she has gone about pitching and re-pitching the deal to Parliament. The topic dominates the minds of our international editorial cartoonists.
I like Theresa May. I don’t think her position on Brexit matters much since Parliament and the EU wouldn’t be able to agree on anything. Whatever position May had taken would lead to the same toxic impasse. My cartoon with May struggling to support Big Ben is actually a positive cartoon about her – I think she’s trying hard in a no-win situation.
I like the vertical cropping of my cartoon better than the wide version that I sent out to newspapers. I wanted May to look small under the crushing weight of the huge tower that looms over Parliament, but I wasn’t quite sure how small she could be to still be perceived as holding up the tower, rather than just looking like she’s being crushed –which would be a cartoon that means something else. I drew this as two pieces, one was the “Elizabeth Tower” (Big Ben), and the other was Theresa May, then I placed and sized May in Photoshop, making her as small as I thought I could for the cartoon to work.
I thought the tower was pretty forgiving and I got most of the architectural details wrong along with the perspective. The circle of the clock face is especially bad – I wasn’t thinking much about that at the time but now that I look at the reduced version, it bothers me. I should have generated a good circle in Photoshop and traced it, but no, I thought my lousy cartoonist freehand was fine. Too late now; it went out to newspapers already. Water under the bridge.
I don’t think I’ve seen any cartoons supporting May in the deluge of Brexit bashing that has been pouring into Cagle Tower in recent weeks. Powerful people get no sympathy, and editorial cartoonists aren’t known for sympathy. Here’s my wide cartoon and some of my recent Brexit favorites.
This one is by my buddy, Steve Sack of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
This one is by the brilliant, Dutch cartoonist, Hajo.
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.
Here’s another story about being a freelance illustrator in New York in the 1970’s, from my brilliant cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos.
Some years ago I went into New York City with my young friend, an aspiring illustrator named Debbie; I was going to take her on my rounds with me and introduce her to art directors at NBC, New York Times, National Lampoon and more. I had been working on some big project and I was lugging my biggest black portfolio. I had to show some work to a client and then I was going to go home that evening and work some more on the project and return the next day.
This morning was going along nicely and before we were to have lunch, I thought we’d quickly go to a show of Jean-Michel Folon’s work at the LeFebre Gallery at 47 E. 77th Street. We hopped into a cab and arrived across the street from the gallery/townhouse. As I crossed the street with Debbie, I patted my pockets, as I was accustomed to do, to make sure I had everything … and … I discovered my wallet was missing! I realized it must have fallen out in the cab. I whirled around and the cab was gone! Panic!
We went in to see the show, anyway, which, ironically, consisted of collages in which there were actual coins. Each piece of art re-enforced my sense of present poverty.
Back out on the street, we assessed our financial situation. Between the two of us, we just had enough coins to get us back down near Grand Central Station by bus. So, we got on a 5th Avenue bus and headed downtown. As we approached 52nd Street, Debbie said she wanted to visit her new acquaintance, the illustrator, Bob Blechman so I told her to get off there and I would continue down to one of the next stops, visit my art directors at NBC, and we would meet later on the train to go home.
At 49thstreet, I hopped off and walked a few steps up the street before I realized that I wasn’t carrying my big portfolio with all the components of the job I was working on. I had shoved it into the space behind the driver’s seat while we had stood in the aisle of the bus. I looked south on 5th Avenue to find my bus and instead I saw about three identical blue busses. Fortunately, I had looked at the driver when I was on the bus and he was a large black man. So, I ran quickly to overtake the nearest bus to me. As I caught up with it, at the next stop, I saw that it wasn’t my driver.
I started running to catch up with the next bus in front of that one. Again, not my driver. It was hot and I was out of breath at this point and panic was setting in as I imagined my fate of losing my portfolio and its contents to the vast black hole of the New York Transit Authority. Who do I call? What do I do? I started running again. I could see that there were two or three busses approaching the library stop at 42nd Street. Big stop. I was sure to find my bus there. My hopes were up. I ran like I have never run and probably will never run again. I swear, as I crossed 41st Street, I think I was running over the hoods of cars. I felt this was my last chance. As I got there, a bus or two had pulled away but there were still one or two left. I checked them out……. not my driver! I looked down the avenue. I couldn’t run any more. My chest was heaving, I was sweating.
Just then, a police car came creeping up. AHA! I dragged myself over to the curb and flagged them down. The window went down. I … I … tried… to … tell … them my problem. I was incoherent. The two cops looked at me puzzled. I kept trying to get the words out but I couldn’t catch my breath. They gestured for me to get in the car. I collapsed into their back seat telling them, as best I could about the lost money, the portfolio and the big black bus driver. The cop next to the driver said, “What was the number of the bus?” The number of the bus? The number of the freaking bus? How the hell did I know what the number of the bus was! He then instructed the driver to overtake the bus we saw ahead of us and see if a “n****r “ was driving. We caught up with it and driving by the left side we could see that it wasn’t my driver. I pleaded with them to catch up with a few other busses we could see. They did… to no avail. Finally at 23rd Street, where 5th Avenue forks, they tired of me and decided that I should consult the bus dispatcher we could see on the curb at our left. “He’ll help you out” they said. I went over to the man holding a clipboard and started telling him my tale of woe. As I was speaking, I looked across the fork in the avenue and saw a bus pulling away… WITH A BIG BLACK GUY DRIVING!!! The dispatcher blew a whistle and flagged him to stop. I ran across and the driver opened the door and there was my big black portfolio just where I had left it!
I slowly dragged myself along the street completely worn out with my precious portfolio in tow while a crazy bag lady screamed something at me. I paid no attention for I was now concerned with how I was going to explain why I didn’t have a ticket to the train conductor, because it was in my lost wallet where I always put them. BUT … maybe not. Sometimes I put them in my shirt pocket. I patted my pocket. My ticket was there. A little wave of joy … just a teensy one, wafted over me.
As I slunk into my train seat next to the ebullient Debbie, she was chortling about her visit with Blechman. She asked if I had a good time at NBC. I grumbled something incoherent and glared her into silence.
At home that night, I received a phone call from the man who had gotten into the cab right after me and found my wallet and my phone number therein. I told him that I was coming in the next day and he gave me his business address.
The next day, in a downpour, I trudged across the street from Grand Central to a small liquor store to buy my benefactor a nice bottle of wine. Then, with bottle in hand along with my portfolio and umbrella, I made my way up the street to the address he had given me. It was a labor union office. I climbed up a narrow stairway on which were seated a few of their members to a little office at the top with a little pay window. I asked for the man who had called me and I was directed down a hall to an office from which I could hear serious negotiations transpiring. I dragged my dripping self to the open door and was spotted by a robust fellow standing behind a desk in the midst of an argument.
He spotted me, “I know who you are” he smiled, “I saw your driver’s license picture in your wallet.”
He drew my wallet from his drawer and handed it to me. I, in turn, handed him a soggy bag which contained my gift of wine.
“No… NO” he said, “I can’t take that!”
“Please take this” I said
“No, I couldn’t take that!”
“Yes, you have to take it!”
“Oh no no no, I can’t accept that!”
Finally, I screamed, “LOOK… IT’S POURING OUTSIDE… I’M SOAKING WET AND I’M LUGGING THIS BIG HEAVY PORTFOLIO AND THIS DAMN UMBRELLA AND I’M NOT CARRYING THIS BOTTLE OF WINE ANOTHER STEP!”
Another cartooning memory from my buddy, Randy Enos.
No, not Frank Sinatra, sorry. I mean the other ol’ blue eyes… Paul Newman. Newman and his wife Joanne moved to Westport shortly after I did and was a familiar figure around town until his death in 2008. My wife Leann’s parents were in the frame shop business and Paul and Joanne were two of their best customers. The Newmans liked to frame movie posters of their films from foreign countries. Paul was also an avid photographer so he brought a lot of photos in to frame. My mother-in-law, Tecla was immune to the celebrities she dealt with in Westport which were all the famous illustrators and cartoonists plus famous writers, musicians and the like. We also had Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor and Eva Gabor from time to time. They were all just regular customers to her.
One day when Newman came in to see if he had any outstanding bills to be paid, Tecla ruffled through her Rolodex and then gave up and said plaintively to him that she had forgotten his name. He roared with laughter. John Hersey, the famous author, was a favorite customer who often ducked into the frame shop just to sit for a while to get away from the bustle of Main St..
Tecla framed the illustrators work because in the old days, work by Harold von Schmidt, Steven Dohanos, Robert Fawcett and the others were delivered to the magazines in crates all framed up nicely. The clients kept the art for the most part, especially the work done for advertising.
Everybody in town would see Newman in the photo store, the pet store and the Ship’s Lantern having a beer. He tooled around Westport in a little blue Volkswagen bug. Nobody ever bothered him. For one thing, he was well known as one who did not give autographs so no one even asked… EXCEPT, a charming young girl of my acquaintance who, by some means or other, actually got an autograph from him… on her leather jacket where she had many famous autographs (she was very kind to ask me for one also). I think Paul was amused by the fact that this girl had this beat-up old jacket with all these famous autographs scribbled all over it.
The Newmans also had a house full of Randy Enos linocuts hanging on their walls because I had a friend who was a close friend of theirs that would buy prints from me every Christmas to give them. I found out they had them hanging all over the house because their daughter Nell said so when she was attending an experimental “free” school that had started up in Westport and was a classmate of my younger son. My wife was visiting there one day and was showing the kids how to make linocuts and she was using some of my cuts as an example. Nell said, “Oh we have some of those pictures on our walls.” Nell also had a horse which was housed in my illustrator friend Bill Sheilds’ barn.
Paul came into the frame shop one day and asked my father-in-law, Jim, if he knew anyone who could make some signs for him to tell guests to shut off the water in the sauna (or something). Jim said, “Well, my son-in-law is a cartoonist”. So, I did some caricatures of Paul telling people to shut the water off.
One time Leann and I were at the Free school and I had brought my pet snake to show the kids. Paul was there with his daughter. He came over to me and asked what kind of snake it was. When I told him it was a Gopher Snake, he said that he used to play with them a lot in California and he took it out of my hand and walked around with it for a while.
But, the funniest encounter I had with him was when he brought an x-ray of Joanne’s chest into the frame shop and asked Jim if I could paint a little cupid on it with a bow and an arrow shooting into her heart. He loved the fact that he could see the shadow of her heart in the x-ray. My father-in-law brought it to me and I studied it for a minute and said, “That’s not her heart. You’re holding it upside down, it’s the Iliac crest!”
I turned it right-side up and painted a nice little cupid and bow on it for him.
Here’s another cartooning memory from my buddy, Randy Enos.
When I was in the 8th grade, we had desks that had lids. You lifted the lid and there inside were your pencils, notebooks and school books.
A Saturday Evening Post had come to my house with an amazing double-page Harold von Schmidt illustration. I cut it out and took it to school to paste on the inside of my desk so I could look at it every morning. It depicted a stalwart cavalry soldier standing astride a fallen comrade while he faced, rifle in hand, what seemed to be the entire Indian nation bearing down on him. The hopelessness and drama of the situation gripped me. I was enthralled by the terrifying way the action was depicted. Each morning, I would lift the desk top, look at the picture and then over to my right where my friend Ottello sat and say, “He’s still standing!”
Years later, I met the illustrator who everybody called “Von” when I worked at the Famous Artists Schools. He lived nearby in Westport and would visit the school frequently. A former cowboy, he would ride a horse in our Memorial day parades.
When Von died, his son Eric came down from Boston and moved into his father’s studio and rented out the big family house across the driveway. Eric and I became good friends. He was also an illustrator, painter and a well known blues and folk musician. He was close friends with all the famous folk people of the day like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan (Eric taught Dylan the song “Baby, Let Me Carry You Down” and is mentioned by name in Dylan’s introduction to the song on his first Columbia record). Another great friend of his was Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (called “Ramblin’” not because he travels a lot but because he rambles on and on when he talks). I got to play music with him one time at Eric’s studio/house.
The studio was a fantastic place where, every New Year’s Eve, Eric would throw a humdinger of a party where, it seemed like, hundreds of people would cram into the small studio with the big dusty north light window and where the Indian headdresses and drums and racks and racks of big canvases depicting scenes of the old west competed with space alongside easels, drawing boards, a model stand and an old piano. You could barely move in there when more and more people would show up as the evening wore on. Musicians also filled the room. There were banjos, guitars, gut-buckets, washboards, fiddles and mandolins… and, of course, the piano manned by a crippled fellow also named Eric. Chance Browne, who draws Hi & Lois, would always be there playing his great blues guitar and as the morning hours approached, Guy Lombardo’s nephew would arrive from his gig in New York all dressed up in a tuxedo. We always ended the evening with a very loooooong rendition of “Irene Goodnight”. While everybody always sang the accepted version “I’ll see you in my dreams”, I always insisted on singing Led Belly’s original lyric which was “I’ll GET you in my dreams”.
One year, Leann and I went to the party early before the crowd arrived because I wanted to ask Eric something. I told him about loving that picture of the lone cavalryman standing his ground in the face of certain death. I asked him if he knew the picture. I said that I’d really like to see it again. It didn’t register on his memory but he said, “Let’s take a look at these books I have of my father’s work and see if we can find it”.
We went through a few books and suddenly there it was. What a jolt it was to see that old familiar picture again! The memories flooded back… of the 8th grade and my daily morning ritual of opening my desk to that dynamic flurry of stampeding hooves, howling Indians and the one Indian who was bearing down on the poor cavalryman with his rifle pointed dead at him.
And then Eric said … “Oh, yeah, I posed for that cavalryman. I remember standing on that model stand over there while my father painted me”.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has been battered by Parliament as the Brexit deadline looms.
Stars are the universal cartoon symbol for pain. Star swirling around the head symbolize headache and dizziness. The European Union flag is great for pain and dizziness and is something that most cartoonists have drawn. Here are some of mine. The first one is then-president Chirac of France from back in 2005 –I don’t quite remember why he had an EU headache back then, but the EU has been causing headaches for many years.
This bull with an EU headache went with some euro-stock-market troubles some time ago.
Here’s Germany’s Angela Merkel having a Greek, euro-economic headache …
Here’s one from brilliant Canadian cartoonist, Dale Cummings …
These two are from Martin “Shooty” Sutovec, my pal from Slovakia …
These two are from my Bulgarian cartoonist buddy, Christo Komarnitsky.
This one is by Kap from Barcelona, Spain …
Somehow I don’t think this EU headache will be ending anytime soon.
The news today is dominated by the Mueller Report, which has just been completed and delivered to Attorney General Barr. We don’t know what is in the report yet, but we know that there are no new indictments, so the speculation is that the report will not lead to any new drama –which may be good news for president Trump.
Cartoonists who have been drawing another shoe dropping are likely just to be disappointed by the air coming out of the balloon. I’m speculating here, since nobody knows what is in the report yet, and maybe this cartoon will be wrong.
It may be that there will be something nasty in the report, but the spin from the Republicans will be “the report shows that we were right all along, no collusion” and the red-state papers may reprint my cartoon no matter what is in the report. We’ll see.
Here are some of my favorite, recent, Mueller cartoons. This one is by Steve Sack.
Another memory from my cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos.
When I was not old enough to work on summer vacations (as I did later on as a caddie and a Western Union boy and putting jelly in jelly doughnuts and in the lab of the Titleist golf ball factory) my dad would often take me downtown with him to where he worked at an insurance company. I would go across the street to the Empire Theater and hang out with the old guy who would be cleaning up the movie house before the folks would come in at noon. When the movie was about to start he’d sneak me into a seat and I’d enjoy a free movie. This was my favorite thing to do. I loved movies and I still do. I’ve affected my two boys with that same fever so much that my oldest son is now a movie cameraman.
But, that’s not what I came here to write. I came here to write about a different adventure when I accompanied my dad down to his office one summer morning; he told me that he had a surprise for me. After Dad did a little business at the office we drove down to the south end of the city. We parked the car and got out. He pointed up in the air across the street; there, high up on a scaffolding in front of a big billboard, two men were painting an advertisement for Sunbeam Bread.
“You want to watch?” my dad said. Of course I wanted to watch. So, he left me there supplied with a tuna fish sandwich for lunch while he went about collecting the 10 cents a week payments for life insurance from the poor Portuguese living in the south end of New Bedford.
I settled down on the curb and for a few hours, I watched mesmerized by the two men working high up on the billboard. One of them was slowly and methodically painting Little Miss Sunbeam biting into a slice of Sunbeam Bread while the other fellow was painting in a large expanse of background color. Watching that head of the girl slowly emerging increment by increment was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. The painter was consulting a picture he held in his hand as he worked. It was obviously the master drawing that had been “squared” off and he was “enlarging” it by painting in each corresponding square on the squared off billboard. It wasn’t like a painter standing at an easel and, perhaps broadly stroking in fairly large areas and then working detail into them. This guy was finishing off each little section at a time. I was fascinated. A positive thrill was coursing through my brain as I watched the smiling face of the familiar Little Miss Sunbeam slowly emerging.
I could barely appreciate my tuna sandwich when lunchtime rolled around. Finally, I watched them finish the job. I don’t think they ever saw me across the street seated on the curb. The “master” painter ended by signing his name, “Joe Martin” down in the lower right corner. Later on I was to see his signed billboards all around New Bedford.
That was the first time in my very young life that I had ever seen an artist at work. It stays with me to this day. To me, he wasn’t just a commercial artist doing a mundane advertising billboard.
Disney finally closed their huge deal to purchase Fox studios, which doesn’t include Fox News, but include the Simpsons, and movie franchises like missing chunks of Marvel including TheX-Men, The Fantastic Four and Deadpool. Mmm. Tasty.
I did another Disney Eats Fox cartoon back when the deal was first announced.
Somewhere back in the 70’s I was awakened one early morning by a phone call. The gruff, low voice said, “Is this Randall Enos the illustrator?” When I answered in the affirmative, he went on, “This is Gene Hoffman.” This was a familiar name to me. I had seen his illustrations and sometimes our work had been featured side by side in Graphis, the international art magazine based in Switzerland.
He went on to tell me that he knew a lot of the illustrators in Westport and that he had always wanted to look me up because he knew I lived there. He said he was in town visiting. I asked him where he was and he said, “The Sherwood Diner”. It was only a few minutes from my house. I rushed over and entered and spotted a heavy-set “mountain- man”- looking bearded fellow in bib overalls.
I sat down with him and said, “Let’s have breakfast”. The waitress came over and asked what we wanted. Gene, reading from the menu, said, “Two eggs any style, toast and coffee”. She asked how he wanted the eggs done and he replied, “Any style!” When she pressed him further on how the eggs were to be done he finally answered, “Basted. Just put a little basting stitch around the edge.” At mid-meal the waitress returned to ask how everything was. Gene answered, “Well, I don’t know about this trouble in the Middle East”. Right then and there I decided that Gene should stay and visit us for a while. I took him home and introduced him to my Leann.
We owned two houses in Westport at that time and we were renting one out. We told Gene that we had to go over to the other house to clean up a bit because we were expecting a new tenant. He said, “Let me help. I can do the work of two men … Laurel and Hardy!”
So began my years and years long friendship with my best friend, who lived in Colorado. Gene always had me laughing. He told me that when he was young, he was so lonely that his mother had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him. When he got to know me better, he said that I was as useful as a screen door on a submarine. When I would call him and ask if he was busy, he’d say, “I’m as busy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” These bon mots would just flow out of him constantly. One time in a telephone conversation, I said that it looked like Ted Kennedy might run for President. Without missing a beat, Gene said, “Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!”
Every year or so, Gene would spend a week or two with us. We got to know each other and our comedic rhythms so well that when we would go out to the supermarket etc., we would entertain cashiers, bag boys, store managers and the like with non-stop patter that sometimes had surprising results. We were in a beauty salon picking up some hair conditioner that I liked and our conversation was clicking along so well at one point that a woman under a dryer laughed so hard that she actually fell off her chair onto the floor. Another time, we were in restaurant with a girlfriend of Leann’s who asked Gene what his “sign” was. With no hesitation, he said, “Feces!” A woman at an adjoining table fell forward and landed with her face in her soup. I am not exaggerating.
People in stores would say, “Are you guys a comedy team?”
Everywhere we went, Gene would chat up anyone we came into contact with. Everyone loved him and he was genuinely interested in every person he met from a famous cartoonist to the kid picking up the shopping carts at the grocery store parking lot.
When Gene would win a gold medal at the Society of Illustrators, he would come in from Colorado and take me as his date to the award ceremony. One time, he was at the podium receiving the gold medal and said, “Gosh, I can’t wait to get this home and have it bronzed!”
Sometimes his witticisms would fly high over the heads of the recipient as in the case of the guard at the Museum of Modern Art. When we got there, we found the employees on a picket line. We didn’t want to cross it so we spent over an hour conversing with all the strikers. Finally we each gave them a $10 donation to their organization and asked their permission to cross the picket line because we hadn’t seen the museum for a long time. They cheered us on. We went directly to the garden to see the Rodin Balzac sculpture. It wasn’t there! We asked a young guard standing nearby. He said he didn’t know because he had just started the job that morning.
“Survived the hazing of the frosh, have you?” Gene said.
WHOOOOOSH… right over the kid’s head.
Speaking of “Whoosh”, Gene and I had a running secret joke between us. He mentioned one time that a friend of his had said that everything was to no avail because it’s all going to be sucked into a black hole someday. So, every time Gene and I would be at an art show (and we went to many) and I would look at a label and say, “Oh look, it’s an original silverpoint drawing on acid-free, museum-quality, non-perishable hand-made paper”, we would both pass our hands over our heads and go “WOOOOOOOSH!” Into the black hole it goes.
At the Modern, we came to a room that had an installation artist’s wooden bed in the middle. In earshot of the serious-looking guard, I said, “I’m going to lie down a bit, Gene, I’m real tired!” The guard wasted no time in rushing over and telling me sternly that I better not even think about touching that bed. Well, we talked to the guard for a while and when we finally departed, he actually hugged us both.
Gene could tell the most amazing jokes. He knew elaborate obscure Russian ones that he would grandly embellish with minute detail as to the decoration on a Faberge drinking cup and so forth. The best joke teller that I have ever heard.
Gene was a graphic designer, cartoonist, illustrator, sculptor, and composer. He was the most well-read person I have ever met. His skiing posters were so important to Colorado that the mayor of Denver once declared an official “Gene Hoffman Day”.
When Gene would go to an event where we would get those little name tags that said “My name is…”, Gene would always write in “of German origin.”
His medium of choice for most of his later work was constructions made solely from the things people throw away… rusty nails, Tide bottles, paper clips, plastic forks, drinking straws etc.. When I’d take walks with him, he would stop and pick up old rusty things and fill his pockets with them.
The last time he visited me, I awoke to find him not in the house but out in the middle of the driveway staring at something that was very tiny in his hand. I approached and he called my attention to this tiny tiny little sprout gripped between his large fingers.
“Look at this, Randy, look how beautiful it is… look at those little veins!”
The last joke he ever told me was the one about the skeleton that goes into a bar and orders a beer and a mop.
When he had a heart attack and died, I wrote an obituary for him that was posted at the Society and eventually found its way to the internet where his daughter saw it. In it, I referred to “the late Gene Hoffman”. To show that the acorn doesn’t land far from the tree, his daughter wrote to me to say, “Randy, you know my father was never late to anything”.
Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar has become a gift to Republicans and a favorite on Fox News. She seems to be unaware of anti-Semitic tropes and stumbles into repeated, ugly slurs against Jews. Many Democrats defend her and an awkward attempt to condemn her statements was so watered down in the House that it was laughable.
Editorial cartoonists have a special responsibility regarding anti-Semitic clichés given the history of Nazi cartoons leading up to the Holocaust. At Cagle.com we have received many ugly cartoon tropes from worldwide cartoonists over the years, particularly from Arabic language cartoonists and Latin American cartoonists. When I talk to the cartoonists about it, they tell me that they were unaware, that it wasn’t their intent; they are generally happy to take the cartoons down and they tell me they appreciate being told about why their cartoons were offensive to an American audience. The most common images depict a Star of David representing Judaism, rather than the Israeli Flag representing Israel, and use images that equate Jews with Nazis, that show Jews crucifying Palestinians as they “crucified Christ,” Jews as rats, as spiders, Jews killing babies, or like vampires drinking baby blood – the whole Nazi panoply of Der Stürmer clichés in cartoons gets repeated frequently around the world, and these cartoonists aren’t used to hearing any push-back from their local readers. Nancy Pelosi seems to see it in the same way with Omar, who Pelosi thinks simply wasn’t aware and hasn’t been educated about the bigotry.
Whatever the reasons are behind Omar’s ugly comments, she is a gift to Republicans, Trump and Fox News. My cartoon from last week shows Democrats wrapped up in Omar’s hijab, to the delight of Republicans.
Here are some more Omar favorites from last week. This one is from Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune …