Here’s a look at Garden State born New Yorker contributors (including its current editor) as well as New Yorker contributors (all cartoonists) not Jersey born, but currently living there. Also included: New Yorker contributors who, though not native-born, grew up there and/or lived there for a good while. If anyone out there has others I’ve missed (and I’m sure I have) please contact me. (click on the map to enlarge).
What better way to begin to close out the year here at Ink Spill than with a map of Manhattan highlighting some of the people and places most associated with The New Yorker. I’ve stayed away from current contributors & editors for privacy reasons – that updated map will have to wait a few decades.
Here’s the who and why of the map: people have a habit of not living in one place on the island of Manhattan. For instance, Peter Arno’s Park Avenue pad was not his only New York City address – it was his last city residence before he moved north to plant a garden. And Dorothy Parker lived in numerous places, but I’ve just indicated the address where she spent the last 15 years of her life. Some of the names below are so well known that I’ve provided no information other than when they were born and when they died. There are many more New Yorker writers, artists and editors who lived in the city but who do not appear on the map. Perhaps another map, another time. (I believe if you click on the map, it’ll enlarge and make reading much easier)
As you’ll see below, the Key is divided into Places & People. Have fun!
The New Yorker has moved four times in its history, and will be moving again shortly, down to the new World Trade Center. The map shows (in the circular zoom-in of the 42nd Street area) the four addresses:
1. 25 West 45th St The magazine began publishing here in 1925 and remained at this address until 1935, when it moved downtown to…
2. 25 West 43rd St. This magazine stayed here the longest, from 1935 until 1991. It was here that Thurber wrote and drew on the walls (a fragment of wall bearing Thurber’s drawings from here was removed and has since been relocated at the magazine’s newer offices.
3. 20 West 43rd St. Basically a move right across the street, just south and due east a few feet.
4. 4 Times Square. The current address, but not for long.
Bleeck’s Artist & Writer’s (formerly Club) Restaurant 215 West 40th St.
Bleeck’s (pronounced “Blake’s”) was a regular hang-out for, among others, the Herald Tribune and New Yorker crowd. It was here that something called the Match Game (not the one on tv with Gene Rayburn) was played with increasing seriousness (or maybe just increasing losses and gains). And yes, that’s the actual name of the place, parentheses, singular spelling of “Artist” and all. Decor was English tavern with wood paneling, heavy furniture, dim lighting and a tarnished suit of armor near the door. Life magazine profiled the joint in its issue of November 26, 1945.
Costello’s East 44th St.
Once Thurber tired of Bleeck’s, Tim Costello’s place became his favorite place to hang. Like Bleeck’s, Costello’s was favored by more of The New Yorker crowd than you could shake a monocle at. The murals Thurber drew here became the stuff of legend (and contention).
The Algonquin 59 West 44th St.
It’s not where The New Yorker began (it began in Harold Ross’s brain), but it’s where so many of its ingredients gelled, most especially around and because of the famous Round Table crowd. The Algonguin will always be closely tied in spirit to The New Yorker in more ways and for more reasons than can be gone into here.
The Corner of Madison & 42nd St.
This is the intersection where the five month old New Yorker, just killed off by Raoul Fleischmann at the Princeton Club, suddenly sprang back to life as Fleischmann waited with his fellow business partners for the light to change. Fleischmann overheard John Hanrahan (Fleischmann’s publications advisor) say to either Ross or Hawley Traux (Ross’s financial expert), “I can’t blame Raoul for a moment for refusing to go on, but it’s like killing something that’s alive.” Fleischmann later wrote that Hanrahan’s remark had “gotten under his skin” and so he changed his mind about closing The New Yorker and gave the magazine a reprieve. The rest is, well, you know…
Charles Addams 25 West 54th St. (b. 1912 d.1988) Charles Addams! Need I say more?
Peter Arno 417 Park Ave. (b.1904 d.1968) Harold Ross called him “the greatest artist in the world” — Arno’s name appears on a metal plaque outside the old New Yorker offices on 25 West 43rd St.. William Shawn included Arno in his list of four New Yorker contributors and editors who “did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.” (E.B. White, Katharine White, and Thurber were the other three).
Donald Barthelme West 11th St. (b.1931 d.1989) Writer. Read his Snow White to understand why he was the toast of fiction world.
Ralph Barton 419 e.57th. ( b.1891 d.1931) Cartoonist extraordinaire. Ross included his work and listed him first in his Advisory Editors in The New Yorker’s very first issue (he was followed by Marc Connelly, Rea Irvin, George S. Kaufman, Alice Duer Miller, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott).
Robert Benchley 44West 44th St. The Royalton NY Hotel (b.1899 d.1945). A member of The Algonguin Round Table, and so much more. Humorist, actor, New Yorker Theater Critic. Note that he lived just across the street from The Algonquin.
Gardner Botsford Grammercy Place (b.1917 d.2004) long time New Yorker editor of non-fiction, his writers included Joseph Mitchell, Roger Angell, and A.J. Liebeling. Step-son of Raoul Fleischmann.
John Cheever Hudson & Horatio (b.1912 d.1982)
Peter De Vries 32 West 11th (b.1910 d.1993) Novelist, humorist, Cartoon Doctor.
Alan Dunn 12 E.88th St. (b.1900 d.1974) One of the most prolific of the magazine’s cartoonists. Married to Mary Petty.
Raoul Fleischmann 955 Fifth Ave. (b.1885 d.1969) In 1924, when Harold Ross proposed he and Fleischmann start a “new comic paper” Fleischmann put up the money.
Wolcott Gibbs East 54th St. (b.1902 d.1958) Writer, editor, critic, playright (“Season in The Sun”) (New Yorker theater critic – he took over the job from Robert Benchley)
Philip Hamburger East 80th St. (b.1914 d.2004) Writer of non-fiction for The New Yorker for over 60 years (serving under all of the magazine’s editors from Ross to Remnick). He occasionally wrote under the name, Our Man Stanley.
Gus Lobrano West 13th St. (b.1903 d.1956) New Yorker fiction editor from 1938 – 1956. Following Lobrano’s death, E.B. White wrote of him: “His contribution to The New Yorker was deep and extensive; it is hard to get it all down in a brief report. Probably his most telling contribution was this: that because of knowing and loving him many writers felt that The New Yorker was their home.”
Russell Maloney 413 East 50th St. (b.1910 d.1948) A wildly prolific Talk of The Town writer, on staff from 1934 – 1945.
William Maxwell East 86th St. (b.1908 d.2000) Author & fiction editor to Salinger, Cheever, Nabokov, and Updike, among many others.
Joseph Mitchell West 10th St. (b.1908 d.1996) Writer. A New Yorker staff writer who became known for not writing after writing so well for so many years.
Grace Paley West 11th St. (b.1922 d.2007) Writer
Dorothy Parker 23 East 74th St. (The Volney) (b.1893 d.1967) Ms. Parker was perhaps the most, if not one of the most celebrated members of the Algonquin Round Table. One of Ross’s original contributors and listed as an Advisory Editor in the very first issue of the magazine. The subject of numerous biographies.
S.J. Perelman 134 West 11th St. (b.1904 d.1979). One of the great humorists of the 20th century.
Mary Petty 12. East 88th St. (1899 – 1976) New Yorker cover artist and cartoonist. (See Alan Dunn).
Harold Ross 52 East 11th & 412-414 West 47th St. (b.1892 d.1951). Ross dreamed up The New Yorker. Thomas Kunkel wrote an excellent biography of Ross, Genius in Disguise
J.D. Salinger 300 East 57th St. (b.1919 d.2010)
Willam Shawn East 96th St. (b.1907 d.1992) The New Yorker’s legendary second editor. He succeeded Harold Ross in 1952. Would someone please write a biography of Mr. Shawn.
Saul Steinberg 6th Ave. & 11th St…and at the end of his life: East 75th St. (b.1914 d.1999). The New York Time’s front page obit labeled him an “epic doodler” – how I wish they could take that back. The man was a genius.
Otto Soglow 330 West 72nd St. ( b.1900 d.1975) He created The Little King.
John Updike West 13th St. (b.1932 d.2009)
E.B. White A number of addresses, beginning with 112 West 13th St., and later, with Katharine White at 16. East 8th St., then uptown at Turtle Bay Gardens, and in the mid 1940s, 37 West 11th St. (b.1899 d.1985) In his earliest days in Manhattan, White roomed at 112 West 13th Street along with Gus Lobrano.
Katharine White Several addresses, including 16 East 8th St. (see E.B. White above). (b.1892 d.1977) The New Yorker’s first fiction editor. She was hired in August of 1925, and shortly thereafter was involved in nearly all editorial aspects of the magazine. Listed by William Shawn as one of the four who “did more to make the magazine what it is than can be measured.”
Alexander Woollcott E.52nd St. (b.1887 d.1943) Wrote The New Yorker’s “Shouts & Murmurs” column, also the magazine’s drama critic. He was a member of The Algonquin Round Table, and was among those listed as one of Ross’s Advisory Editors in the first issue of The New Yorker. He shared the 412 West 47th St address with Harold Ross and his wife, Jane Grant. Woollcott later moved to the very far east end of East 52nd St., the place Dorothy Parker dubbed, “Wit’s End.”
With the release this past week of The New Yorker’s Cartoons of the Year 2013 (a relative of a long line of New Yorker Albums seen in the photo) I thought it would be fun to leaf through The New Yorker‘s very first collection, simply called The New Yorker Album. published in 1928, just three years after the magazine’s debut. For starters, I love this part of the introduction (authored by “The New Yorker”):
The New Yorker has been dealing with artists for upward of three years. We are tired but happy. Our artists, we feel, have been worth the trouble. They have taken the electric and protoplasmic and comic town and reduced it to page size. To be merry and wise and subtle every week is scarcely possible; but there have been good weeks.
If you substitute the “upward of three years” to “upward of eighty-eight years” the excerpt could’ve easily introduced the 2013 collection.
The very first cartoon you run into in the 1928 collection is a full page by Peter Arno. This makes perfect sense as Arno was, just three years into the New Yorker’s life, already its star (his co-star was Helen Hokinson). Arno was fond of the full page cartoon, but paging through the Album, you’ll find he had plenty of company in that department. Ms. Hokinson, Rea Irvin, Gluyas Williams, George Shanks, Al Frueh, Gardner Rea, and Reginald Marsh, to name but a few, all worked well on a full page (you’ll find a number of full page cartoons in the 2013 collection, but none originally ran as such; full page cartoons in the modern New Yorker are rare, with Roz Chast’s work being one of the exceptions.
What might be remarkable to anyone looking through the 1928 Album is the absence of plenty of the marquee names we associate with the magazine’s past. Cartoonists such as Charles Addams, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, Thurber and George Price had yet to begin contributing drawings to the magazine (Thurber had begun contributing his writing in 1927, but The New Yorker’s founder & first editor, Harold Ross, wouldn’t publish a Thurber drawing in the magazine until 1931). Addams’ work didn’t appear until 1933, Steig’s not until 1935, Steinberg’s not until 1941, George Price’s not until 1932. The Album of 1928 was a blueprint for what was to come in later years on the magazine’s pages: a variety of styles, of cartoon worlds, beautifully co-existing.
Much as the 2013 collection is heavy on a handful of cartoonists, such was the case in 1928. The aforementioned Hokinson, Irvin, Rea, Frueh and Arno command the most space, with plenty of full pages. Alan Dunn and Barbara Shermund’s work is everywhere, but mostly half-page or quarter-page. Work by other familiar names (or soon to be familiar names) are sprinkled about the volume. There’s a single Mary Petty drawing (if my counting is correct) with healthier showings by, among others, Otto Soglow, Perry Barlow, Leonard Dove, Peggy Bacon, John Held, Jr., Alajalov (still spelled “Aladjalov”), I. Klein, Carl Rose and Garrett Price (in an early style, far less fluid than his later work). There are a few spreads in the Album (unlike the spreads in the 2013 Cartoons of the Year, which were created specifically for that publication, the 1928 spreads ran in the The New Yorker).
What struck me as I looked back and forth between the 1928 collection and the 2013 collection (much as a spectator watches the ball during a tennis match) is that here we are eighty-eight years after the magazine’s debut, still highly entertained, and yes, sometimes still puzzled, by the very simple format Harold Ross and company fostered and nurtured: a drawing atop a caption. Every week we continue to dive into each issue, turning the pages, eager to run into the next cartoon (and lately, the Cartoon Caption Contest cartoon). As someone commented on this site following a post on the Cartoons of the Year, “Can’t wait for the shiny new cartoons of 2014.” Me neither.
By the late 1940s, Harold Ross, The New Yorker’s legendary founder and first editor, had assembled either by happy accident or design (depending on which version of the magazine’s history you want to believe) a stable of magazine cartoonists unrivaled in American publishing. Some have called that era of the magazine’s cartoons its Golden Age. The guiding forces of the New Yorker‘s art (besides Harold Ross, of course) were Rea Irvin (who is most known for creating The New Yorker’s signature mascot, the top-hatted Eustace Tilley) and the magazine’s first Art Editor, James Geraghty, a former gagman who began working at the magazine in 1939 and retired in 1973.
As mentioned on this site this past summer in a profile of Anatol Kovarsky, there are just four surviving New Yorker cartoonists from the Ross era: Frank Modell, James Stevenson, Anatol Kovarsky and Dana Fradon. Mr. Fradon was the last cartoonist contracted by Mr. Ross, who died in December of 1951.
Fradon’s first New Yorker cartoon (below), published May 1, 1948, launched a career that spanned half a century; he went on to contribute nearly fourteen hundred more cartoons, placing him in the stratosphere of such other New Yorker artists as William Steig, Alan Dunn, Robert Weber, Warren Miller, Helen Hokinson, Lee Lorenz, Mischa Richter, Robert Day, and the aforementioned, James Stevenson and Frank Modell.
A native of Chicago, Fradon studied at the Art Institute there, and later, following service in the army during WWII, he studied at The Art Students League in New York. Fellow classmates included future New Yorker colleagues, Joseph Mirachi, Herbert Goldberg, and James Mulligan.
In a recent phone and email conversation with Mr. Fradon, who is now 91, we covered a lot of territory, from his beginnings at the New Yorker all the way up to today and whether he’s still thinking up ideas for cartoons.
Beginning our conversation, I asked Mr. Fradon if he had any thoughts as to why the Art Students League turned out so many New Yorker cartoonists.
“It’s a great school, it’s in New York, it’s cheap, and there were no marks given or attendance taken; a future cartoonists paradise.”
Michael Maslin: What brought you to The New Yorker—was it that that was the place to go?
Dana Fradon: No, I didn’t know anything about The New Yorker. My sister married Albert Hubbell and then I heard about The New Yorker [Mr. Hubbell was a jack-of-almost-all trades at The New Yorker, contributing fiction as well as pieces for the Talk of The Town. He was, briefly, The New Yorker’s Art Editor during WWII when James Geraghty left for service. He was also a cover artist and contributor of “spot” drawings as well as an in-house idea man, creating captions for cartoonists, including, among others, Mary Petty] I admired Albert and I admired some of the things he pointed out [in the magazine]. I decided that’s where I would channel my work.
I did the first cartoon that Geraghty took notice of when I was still in the service. Apparently, when Geraghty showed my work to Ross, he threw Geraghty out of the office. Geraghty said to me later, with that nice little grin he had that he [Geraghty] didn’t think what I sent in was that bad. It was a panel gag—I still remember it—it was rejected, but nevertheless Geraghty said, “Keep coming.”
MM: I noticed that your first five cartoons in the magazine were captionless—was that happenstance, or was that something you were doing a lot of?
DF: I guess that’s what I thought Geraghty thought was funny. In the beginning I had the idea that he was buying only stuff of mine that was rather topical. And I thought that was a restriction—that I could not do the ordinary funny gag—that they were just going to want politically topical stuff. And I thought that would limit me. I didn’t know that it would become, in a sense, my hallmark. I thought at first it was a sign of failure—that I couldn’t do the straight old cartoon. But of course I did end up doing those kinds of cartoons as well.
MM: In the beginning you had almost two different styles. You had a heavier style and a looser style.
DF: I think the thicker lines came after about five years, ten years—that was still early in a career that spanned 50 years. I went to a felt tip marker that was heavier; I look back at those drawings and I really like them better than some of the thinner line drawings I did later in life. It was not a conscious change—it was a change in paper, and what kind of pen I used.
MM: You were trying to find your way?
DF: Absolutely. I was trying to find my way for about thirty years.
MM: Let’s talk about Geraghty. Obviously he was a huge part of your career.
DF: He was a huge part of The New Yorker magazine. His taste was what guided the magazine—in cartooning and in those days, all the artwork. He bought the spots and the covers. He’s best described by something which has become reasonably common knowledge. He said it to me originally about making a drawing beautiful. He said, “Make it beautiful, Dana. Make it beautiful.” And very often he would OK a drawing—the final OK would either be Ross’s or Shawn’s—or he would bring to their attention cartoons which were borderline funny but would make magnificent drawings.
It was Geraghty’s belief that New Yorker cartoons provoked a chuckle (not laughter) and, of course, much thought. He once went through an act with me imitating a commuter on the New Haven R.R., city bound, opening and skimming through his recently arrived New Yorker. I can imitate every one of Jim’s marvelous gestures and soft grunts (chuckles) to a tee.
MM: And the “magnificent drawings” bought—would they be tinkered with?
DF: Towards the end under Lee [Lee Lorenz, James Geraghty’s successor as Art Editor], maybe because I was more experienced, there was not much tinkering. But yes, in the beginning there was tinkering down to the last finger. You couldn’t even distinguish where the fingers were [on] my early rough drawings.
MM: Did you ever meet Harold Ross?
DF: Never met Ross, but nodded to him dozens of times. My only close experience with Ross was at one of the first huge parties the New Yorker threw at the old Ritz-Carleton. Geraghty gave my then wife [the cartoonist, Ramona Fradon] and I an invitation. My wife said, “Fasten your eyes at the guy at the next table.” It was Ross. So I fastened my eyes on him, and he looked at me like I was a freeloader or something. Everything I know about Ross I heard from Albert [Hubbell]. Albert was the be-all and end-all if you wanted a connection with Ross—he had it and he had total recall.
I can’t tell you much about Ross except that I accepted from the beginning that he had impeccable taste. That was the greatest period of drawing, if not ideas: Arno, and those other guys—Whitney Darrow, Robert Day—all brilliant.
MM: I have a list of names I want to run by you, but first, before I forget, I want to ask you if you ever provided ideas for Peter Arno, or anyone else?
DF: Yes, Arno, one or two, and for Charlie Addams, half a dozen to a dozen—he was another wonderful artist. You might say Geraghty would look at me and say, “This needs a better artist.” But then it got to where he would give me a trade. He’d say “This would be better if George Price did it.” And he’d give me a simple idea. [Mr. Fradon recalled one idea given to Addams, of Martians coming to the door on Halloween. It ran in The New Yorker November 1, 1952]
MM: When I was researching the Arno biography at the New York Public Library, and looking through The New Yorker’s archives there, I found a lot of interaction, a lot of back and forth—idea-wise—between artists.
DF: When I first started working there—it might’ve been about the tenth cartoon I did—it was a couple of kids watching television, a close-up on the kids. Geraghty didn’t like the faces on the kids. I couldn’t do kids; now I can, but then I couldn’t at least not on the New Yorker level. Frank did one of the faces on one of my drawings on one of my kids. He [Frank] was sitting out there in the office and Geraghty said, “Just a second” and took the drawing out and Frank did the face and they bought it [the cartoon appears above].
MM: We do that around here sometimes. Liza [Donnelly] will ask me for some help on perspective and I’ll ask her to help me with cats. We have cats here, but that doesn’t help me—I still can’t draw them.
DF: Well, certain poses, they’re [cats] hard to draw. You know, Ramona used to do all my horses. It wasn’t until I started doing kids books, and I was divorced, that I learned to do my version of the horse, which is more like a merry-go-round horse. I learned to draw them out of necessity because Ramona wasn’t there to draw them for me. There are a couple of my New Yorker cartoons with horses in them, and she drew the horses.
MM: There’s one I have here on my desk…you have an invading army…
DF: Is it “Beware of dogs?”
MM: Yes, yes.
DF: She didn’t do the finish, I inked them—but she drew the horses.
MM: As long as we’re talking about specific drawings, there’s one I thought would make a good title and cover drawing for a collection: “The gods are antic tonight.”
DF: That drawing has a story behind it. Lee put the word “antic” in there. I had the “gods are something-or-other” and I believe he changed it to antic. He asked me, of course, if it was ok. I didn’t get the fine difference between what I had and he had, but apparently the antic thing was pretty cute, and he knew what he was doing. “Antic” was not in my vocabulary.
MM: Can you list for me some of the cartoonists you knew back in those early days. Let’s begin with Arno.
DF: Never met Arno, never saw Arno but always felt his presence. Knew fairly well: Sam Cobean, the magazine’s other genius; Charlie Addams, Richard Decker, Frank Modell, Whitney Darrow, Mischa Richter, Bill Steig, Dick Taylor, Barney Tobey and many more. I met, casually, Saul Steinberg (I suppose he’s another genius), Robert Day, Chon Day, Alan Dunn and Mary Petty.
MM: Did you know Stan Hunt?
DF: A nice gentle soul.
MM: James Mulligan?
DF: He was left-handed, but because of several car accidents, had to learn to draw with his right hand. His last few hundred cartoons were drawn with his right hand.
MM: Rea Irvin?
DF: Rea Irvin lived in Newtown [Connecticut] for several years. A really sweet guy. Worked with drawing board held in his lap in a, literally, closet-size studio in a large, beautiful colonial. Actually, HE is the genius of The New Yorker. Did the first cover, designed its typeface, and designed the headings, I think, of the various regular columns. Based on his drawing and the variety and depth of his drawing…he’s the number one guy that everyone always forgets about. Rea just seemed like Major Hoople…“woof woof woof” while he talked, to clear his throat.
MM: Speaking of covers…I couldn’t help but notice there was never a Fradon New Yorker cover.
DF: I submitted one cover and after about the tenth time of correcting it and fixing it, I gave it up and went back to doing something I knew better: doing cartoons and ideas. I was doing well on the cartoons and beginning to move into kid’s books, where I got all that color out of my system. I never pursued it. The one I did try lent itself mostly to design—there was nothing funny about it.
MM: What about Richard Taylor—you mentioned you knew him.
DF: Dick Taylor was a lovely man, and sort of a comic on his own. He had a unique way of drawing. There’ve been Whitney Darrow look-alikes and Bob Weber look-alikes, and dozens of Cobean look-alikes, and Arno look-alikes; when I say look-alikes, they’re not as good—there was a guy who did a lot of ads—nothing but ads—he was a pale version of Arno. I’ve never even seen a pale version of Dick Taylor.
MM: His work—his people were too different weren’t they? With those giant eyes…
DF: And the way he did his washes too. Layers and layers before he got the tone, without it going dead. Whereas most of us…I strive to splash it on as best I can.
MM: I loved watching the progression of your drawings from the very first ones to where they became very loose. The energy there—your heads would almost be disconnected from the bodies. I could see you were having a really great time doing these.
DF: That, and a little bit of writing is the only thing that absorbed me. And playing baseball.
MM: How did you work? Did you go to your desk in the morning, five days a week?
DF: Yeah, five or six days a week, I made it a point. The first thing I’d do—the first three hours in the morning, when you’re freshest—is think of ideas. I’d just think of ideas five days a week and come up with twenty or twenty-five of them and then let Geraghty comb through and pick out what he thought was funny.
The routine for thinking of ideas—you may feel the same way—I have no formula for thinking of an idea. It’s more of free association. You start out with a subject, and you may not end up with that subject.
MM: And you write everything down, right, because these things can float away.
DF: I had a big pad of paper, 14” x 17” bond paper; I’d make little notes and sketches and see where they’d lead me. Once, when I was giving a talk I said the important thing of thinking of ideas is knowing when to pounce. You kick ideas around in your subconscious and then this one is a straggler and you pounce on it because it seems funny. And that’s the one you draw up. I drew up a lot of rejections too of course [laughing].
Geraghty used to tell new cartoonists—and some of the established ones as well—about how he’d be at a party and someone would tell him a funny story and then say, “Why don’t you make a cartoon out of it?” He’d turn to them and say, “That’s not a cartoon, that’s a short story.” There’s a hell of a big difference. You know, they’ll start by saying, “There’re ten thousand people in a living room…” Well, who the hell is going to draw ten thousand people in a living room!?
MM: One of the things that fascinated me about Arno’s life was that his career spanned enough time at the magazine, 1925 through 1968 to see a change in the use of ideamen. He began using his own ideas but then shifted into using ideamen in the 1930s and beyond. Many of his contemporaries used ideamen as well (not all of them did, but a majority). By the time your era came along, late 1940s, early 1950s, your crowd, or most of you, were doing your own ideas. That just sort of happened? Or did someone encourage you?
DF: Yeah, it just sort of happened, but it’s also something I think subconsciously that Geraghty was striving for. He probably thought it was taking too much time or thought or energy putting cartoonists together with ideas. If you could do it in one step, that was helpful…it became a real badge of courage to do your own ideas, your own drawings.
DF: One person who did his own ideas—I don’t know if you remember him, was Herbert Goldberg.
MM: I know his work from the albums, The New Yorker anniversary albums. I’m a sucker for those collections.
DF: You live in the world of cartoons.
DF: Well that’s one thing I’ve never have done and I’ve always been sorry for it. I’m not really a cartoonist. I’m a misplaced baseball player or something like that. But I look at [cartoonist] Orlando Busino and I’m just so envious of people who can get into that. When I drew I was in the world, but I wasn’t really there. I wish I could’ve appreciated who I was.
MM: Do you still take a crack at cartoons every once in awhile?
DF: For a time, when I thought of a good idea that I thought would go in today’s New Yorker, I stifled it. And then I said to myself: well don’t do that anymore, write ‘em down—so I write them down on a scrap of paper and throw them into a pile.
Dana Fradon’s books include:
Breaking the Laugh Barrier (Dell, 1961)
My Son the Medicine Man (Avon, 1964)
Insincerely Yours (Dutton, 1978)
Sir Dana: A Knight, As Told by His Trusty Armor (Dutton, 1988)
Harold the Herald (Dutton, 1990)
The King’s Fool: A Book About Medieval and Renaissance Fools (Dutton, 1993)
To see some of Dana Fradon’s New Yorker work, link here to the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank.
Someone once said that the greatest difference between Fred Astaire’s dancing and Gene Kelly’s dancing is that you could see Gene Kelly’s sweat. Pauline Kael, writing in The New Yorker in 1972 said, “Kelly isn’t a winged dancer; he’s a hoofer and more earthbound” which she compared to “Astaire’s grasshopper lightness.” Here are some other words you’ll run into when reading about Astaire’s dancing: effortless, graceful, floating on air. And for Kelly: muscular, dynamic, down-to-earth.
I pose this simple question: is it possible to divide New Yorker cartoonists into two distinct camps: Astaire Cartoonists and Kelly Cartoonists? Are there some cartoonists whose work seems effortless, like Astaire’s? Do others show the sweat, and muscularity of Kelly’s performances? Well of course I think the answer is yes. I’m not saying Astaire’s dancing was better than Kelly’s or vice-versa – I’m just saying they were different.
This has everything to do with what cartoons look like on the printed page or glowing screen and how a cartoonist’s work appears to the reader’s eye. Is the reader aware of the mechanics of the drawing (do you see the sweat?) or does the cartoon seem effortless?
I’m reminded of the story James Thurber told of the day he was sitting in his driveway in Connecticut drawing his car head on. Al Freuh, the great New Yorker artist happened by, and seeing Thurber struggling with crosshatching and perspective, said, “Don’t bother drawing like that – if you ever got good at it, you’d be mediocre.” (I’d put Frueh in the Astaire camp).
As an example of what I’m talking about, here’s my short-list of Astaire cartoonists and Kelly cartoonists:
Robert Weber definitely in Astaire camp. Mischa Richter in the Kelly school. Thurber, Astaire; Gluyas Williams, Astaire. Mary Petty, Kelly; and her husband, Alan Dunn: Kelly. George Price, Kelly. William Steig, Astaire. Richard Taylor, Kelly. Charles Barsotti, Astaire; Whitney Darrow, Jr., Kelly. Helen Hokinson, Astaire. Steinberg, Kelly & Astaire (yes, there are hybrids!).
I invite Ink Spill visitors to offer their lists; I fully expect some will completely disagree with mine – so let me have it.
From carlanthonyonline.com, October 13, 2013, “Honoring the First Lady of the World in Cartoons” — a look at how some cartoonists captured Eleanor Roosevelt. Examples include work by Robert Day (his classic drawing, “For gosh sakes, here comes Mrs. Roosevelt!” from the June 3, 1933 New Yorker appears to the left), Helen Hokinson, Alan Dunn, and Richard Decker.
You can see some of Helen Hokinson‘s New Yorker work here.
You can see some of Richard Decker‘s New Yorker work here.
You can see some of Robert Day‘s New Yorker work here.
You can see some of Alan Dunn‘s New Yorker work here.