Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Crowded Life in Comics – Jerry Marcus

.Sketch by Jerry Marcus (1924-2005).

A Moving Farewell

by Rick Marschall

My first major job as a newspaperman was with the Connecticut Herald in Norwalk. A generation earlier it was the Bridgeport Herald, so powerful in the Nutmeg State that it published editions as far away as Hartford and even Springfield MA. When I was hired as reporter and cartoonist it was a shell of its former self… but. There I was in Fairfield County CT, home of many great cartoonists; and the paper was large enough to have vestigial influence around the state, but small enough that I was asked to assume additional chores, handling wire copy, composing front pages on the weekend, and so forth.

The best days of my life, except for others. But, consider: the paper was then owned by William Loeb, owner, also, of the Manchester (NH) Union-Leader. He was famed then, and still is, for being the most conservative of major newspaper publishers (he had a small chain). So when I was pulled from reporting to write a political column (me, being then, and still, fairly conservative) I never received a complaint for going overboard from Bill. In fact, a lot of “attaboy!” notes.

Besides, Loeb was the son of Theodore Roosevelt’s influential private secretary, and we both worshiped TR.

All of which made for a great job for a few years. I eventually was given the new weekend magazine section to edit, a dream; total freedom. The paper’s condition was rocky, and Loeb ordered several shake-ups… but always instructed on-ground exec to leave my magazine intact. Yes, a dream. Add to that, phone calls from, say, Dik Browne or Leonard Starr or John Cullen Murphy, complimenting me on a cartoon or column.

But two things, maybe inevitably, intervened. The Herald was indeed on a rocky footing, and a young professional with marriage in his sights could not rely on its security. Also, I received a job offer from Sid Goldberg at United Feature Syndicate in New York to edit comics for them. This seemed too good to resist; and its duties also included drawing two political cartoons a week and celebrity caricatures.

(The job was partly arranged by Tee Wheeler, the widow of John Wheeler, syndication pioneer whose earlier protege was Sid; and Sid, by the way, was husband of conservative firebrand Lucianne Goldberg – Google Monica Lewinsky; Linda Tripp; and the blue dress – and father of Jonah Goldberg.)

Tangent, sorry. My fatal disease. When I took the job in New York City, I was able to commute from Weston, about an hour by train. Sparing more tangents, eventually we moved to Pennsylvania, where I was offered a teaching gig at the Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts. When the “final” break from Fairfield County came, a few cartoonist friends arranged a Good-Bye party for us.

I think it was at Jack Berrill’s house; he drew Winnie Winkle. Jerry Marcus (Trudy) was there; and the great gag cartoonist Orlando Busino; and author and comic expert Ron Goulart; and gag cartoonist Herb Green; and the amazing Bob Weber (Moose) and others. It was a great evening, of course tinged with sadness.

The cartoonists all drew Farewell cartoons. I’ll share them here eventually, but Jerry Marcus’s was funny and memorable. In fact I made it into a change-of address card!

Jerry was one of the great companions and unforgettable dining companions. Perhaps half the time six or eight of us would gather somewhere for lunch, he would have a problem with the menu or the water glass or the sun streaming in the windows or the angle of the napkins… and up we would all get, headed for a different restaurant. Story for another chapter of a Crowded Life…


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