Randy Enos’ stories inspired me to tell an old story from my own New York cartooning days.
When I was a young cartoon illustrator in New York City my biggest client was Henson Associates, the Muppets, who kept me busy drawing pigs and frogs all the time.
I think it is 1981 and I’m 25 years old in the photo below. The Muppets were hugely popular in 1981 and I had already drawn them so many times that the Muppets all lived in my head; I knew all the names and I didn’t need to look at photos to draw them all.
The Muppets had taken over a large part of the Macy’s Herald Square department store with Muppet licensed merchandise and they did a promotion where I would sit in the middle of the Muppet products and draw Muppets at the request of customers. I hadn’t done anything like this before, but it sounded like it would be fun. They hired me to sit and draw for three hours.
Some people from the Muppets and Macy’s set me up with a table and made an announcement over the PA system to come to the Muppet section of the store to get a free, live drawing from an official Muppet artist –and then they left. The photo shows me just as they left. The calm before the storm.
I asked people to request a Muppet, and asked them what they wanted the Muppet to be doing, and I drew pretty fast. Most of the requests were for Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo and Animal. I signed them with a Muppet signature, like “Kissy, Kissy, Miss Piggy.”
I couldn’t see beyond the edges of my table where people were standing, pressed up against me. What I didn’t know is that the line of people waiting for their free drawing snaked all through the floor at Macy’s, doubling back and forth with hundreds of people waiting for their free drawing. There was no one managing the line –the Muppets and Macy’s people had walked away when I first sat down and they didn’t come back.
After about two and a half hours I yelled out, “I’m only here for another half hour!” The people only pressed in harder. At the three hour mark, I stood up to gather my materials and the people turned surly. Some guys yelled, “I’ve been waiting for my drawing for THREE HOURS!” I learned that my drawings weren’t really free –the people had been paying for them with the time they spent waiting in line and they wanted what they paid for!
Women held up their kids and whined, “Just one more for little Doofus?” The men were angry. They mulled around me, making their demands as I tried to sulk away through an endless mass of people that seemed like a crowd crushed into a subway car at rush hour.
I see how lines like this are supposed to be managed at the San Diego Comic Con, where volunteers keep the line single file, estimate the time remaining and hang a sign on someone that says, “Last in Line.”
At Macy’s I was chum thrown to the sharks!
When I was 25 in 1981, the Muppets were promoting their movie The Great Muppet Caper, and I was doing lots of art projects tied into the movie. Here are a couple memorable ones from my garage.