Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

About Face.

by Rick Marschall.

I have been blessed through the years to meet a lot of cool people – one of the excuses for this running column. Not all of them have been celebrities, in comics or out of comics. I cannot guarantee that people I met have come away with the same feelings I have, of course, but Sick Transit Gloria Monday, to cite the woman who fell ill taking the subway after a rough weekend.

Between my memories and huzzahs are some disappointments, in myself, that I neglected to get photographs of some encounters (more difficult in the BC era – Before Cellphones); and too often I was dissuaded from asking for autographs or book inscriptions or sketches, not wanting to appear to be a fanboy. Me. Not wanting to appear to be a fanboy.

But occasionally I drew sketches or caricatures, and usually I was bold, or suicidal, enough to ask the victims to sign the drawing.

When I was with the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists we descended on Washington DC, I think in the Spring of 1975 or ‘76. The annual meeting, given the location, was a bigger event than usual, and the AAEC was invited to the White House by President Gerald Ford.

In one of the receptions I pulled out my sketchbook and, virtually one-handed and quickly, attempted this caricature. I signed my full name, Richard; and he signed “Jerry” instead of Gerald. Saved ink.

Jack Tippit, my cartoonist friend who worked for a while as Director of the Museum of Cartoon Art, was asked by a large newspaper group in New York if he could secure Herblock to receive an award. Jack did not know Herb, but he knew that I did, and asked me to persuade the famously shy Pulitzer-Prize winner to come out in public for the honor. Indeed Herb was reluctant, but it was a great honor. Herb donned a tux, traveled to New York City, and confided how awkward he felt.

However, his attendance was in doubt to the last minute. Somehow, for some reason, the group (honestly I forget which one, but the turmout was huge; tuxes and gowns everywhere) discovered that Henry Kissinger was available and willing to glom a medal too. The Secretary of State was controversial and – in addition to suddenly sharing the honors with Herblock – was no favorite of the liberal cartoonist.

But Herb affably accepted his award and spoke a few words of thanks. So did Kissinger, except that the audience actually could understand Herblock.

During the dinner I sketched each of them. I tried to capture Herblock’s mood. Kissinger was Kissinger, and as he signed his caricature he asked me, “Did you haff to make me look so morose?” Mirror, mirror, on der vall…

Of the many country music stars I met and interviewed, I sometimes drew large, formal portraits and had them inscribe them. Jerry Lee Lerwis, Linda Ronstadt, Tom T Hall… a nice gallery, probably now in the den of Bob Cole, a former sheriff in Nashville, who swiped them from me. Oh, well; a lot of country songs are sad stories.

But I sketched Merle Haggard backstage once, and the rough sketch came out OK. He signed it with a nice inscription. I made a “tighter” drawing of him for publication, based on the sketch, and it ran with a review of his concert. Through the years I lost the signed sketch, but the “finish” has remained on top of various piles around here…

I have many more caricatures done of me, by other cartoonists. With a face as funny as mine, some of the artists found it irresistible to depict my “phiz.” I will share them some day when I am not looking...

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