It being Boxing Day, I thought it would be fun to post an ancient New Yorker boxing drawing of mine. Then I looked up the meaning(s) of Boxing Day. A major surprise (to me) that “boxing” in this case has nothing to do with fisticuffs.
Well I’m going to post the drawing anyway, despite it having zero connection to this day. I’ve always been fond of it as it reminds me of my late step-father, a first-generation Italian who fought professionally, pre-WWII under the name Al Murphy. After leaving the boxing trade he opened up a bar in Newark, New Jersey.
The bar was still functioning in the late 1960s when my family entered Al’s scene. A fascinating place for a little kid to visit. One of Al’s bartenders patiently taught me to play pool at the single table at the back of the bar.
I saw my first go-go girl there. She danced on a high small stage covered in tin foil. A revolving multi-colored light pointed at the stage really heightened the experience.
Here’s Al behind the bar of his Hollywood Gardens. Judging by the decorations, it’s around Halloween (appears as if he’s just served his sharp-looking customer a glass of beer). Al was a barrel-chested Cadillac-driving tough guy with a cauliflower nose who, to quote Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne character in The Bourne Identitity, “knew how to take care of himself.”
As for the cartoon, there’s no doubt I was thinking of Al when I drew the boxers (he was, as I said, barrel-chested). It’s a multi-panel drawing — something you don’t see too often in the New Yorker anymore. Back when this was published, in the issue of February 3, 1986, multi-panels were common (I think I did five of them).
And here’s how it appeared in the magazine: