Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Inscriptions: Requested Graffiti

 Walter Berndt

By Rick Marschall

In the last – I should say, rather most recent – column I wrote about Puck magazine and the Puck Building in New York City, and I guess an over-arching theme could have been acting on instinct, or boldness, or naivete, or… several categories of putting myself in situations where I could gain anything from an autograph to a collection to a lifelong friendship. I have been blessed in my associations (the first “Crowded Life” installment, 70 weeks ago or so, lists the hundreds of celebrities I have managed to meet)… however, in addition to luck and boldness and mutual friends, a lot of meetings can be ascribed, simply, to living long enough…

In truth, for all the memories and inscriptions in books, I have many, many regrets that people I have met I have not asked for autographs or sketches – usually not wanting to seem like a fan boy – or photographs, a category of bitter lost chances.

After I wrote my first of several books on country music, an encyclopedia, I brought that around to subsequent interviews, concerts, and events; also as a credential / calling card for another project. And I would ask singers and songwriters to inscribe their entries. As a result, the books now has more than a hundred inscriptions and messages from legends who have since passed on: Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, Mac Wiseman, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich, Jean Shepard, Grandpa Jones, Charlie Louvin, Phil Everly, Johnny Russell, Jan Howard, Jack Clement, John Hartford, Jim Ed Brown, Bill Carlisle, Skeeter Davis, Wade Mainer...

And so it was in different fields in which I have worked, hit and miss, opportunities taken or missed. And with cartoonists, notes and sketches when I joined or left a syndicate; moved from an area or moved into a new house…

So I usually share, here, clippings or personal Christmas cards, but I will share some sketches in books or inscriptions that would not otherwise see the light of days, or lights of day, whatever (I never did ask Strunk or White for an inscription…) I do have mere (mere?) inscriptions – that is, good wishes and autographs, but alas with no drawings – from some of my admired cartooners. I could have asked, but held back. Alas: Walt Kelly; Charles Schulz; Bill Watterson; Johnny Hart; Rube Goldberg…

But I never knew I’d be writing these memoirs! A Crowded Life with darn few regrets, overall. I hope you enjoy these private or personal inscriptions.

Roy Crane

George Baker

Harry Hershfield

Tony Auth – One of the nicest guys in the world, not only the business. He also did sketches in collection of Reagan cartoons, and another children’s book, one he did with Chaim Potok (who also inscribed.) Tony won a Pulitzer Prize of two with his piolitical cartoons; and drew the short-lived wonderful strip Norb.

Vittorio Giardino – The fantastic graphic novelist, about whom I will write here one day, evoked his erotic homage to Winsor McCay, Little Ego wrapped around the design of a “Glamour” volume published by my late friend Antonio Vianovi.

Will Eisner – Will drew this sketch in, I think, Erlangen, Germany, at a comics festival. The meaning of the inscription is this: we had just laughed over the fact that we seemed to see each other more at overseas comics fairs than in the US, and something like two years has passed since our last meal together…

Orlando Busino – I hope the silver ink shows here. My good and old (good ol’) Orlando made a visual pun of my last name. I love, love, love his drawing style – who wouldn’t?

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