Celebrating Sam Gross’s 50th New Yorker Anniversary

The most recent Sam Gross cartoon in The New Yorker appeared August 5th, 2019.  Mr. Gross’s very first New Yorker cartoon appeared August 23, 1969. Do the math and you’ll find we are in the year, month, and exact day of Mr. Gross’s New Yorker golden anniversary. With today being the date of publication of his debut New Yorker cartoon, I thought I’d check in with Mr. Gross and ask him about that very first sale to the magazine. My call caught him during his morning exercise routine, but he was gracious enough to pause and chat with me for a few minutes.

When I asked him if he recalled the moment when he learned he’d sold to the magazine, he replied, as I knew he would, “Of course I do.” I haven’t met a cartoonist yet who doesn’t remember their first OK (“OK” is New Yorker cartoon lingo for a sold cartoon); in this cartoon world, that moment is a life-changer.  Before telling me of his first OK, he said that he’d actually been selling ideas to The New Yorker for Charles Addams since about 1963. He also sold an idea for Otto Soglow, of Little King fame, but mostly the ideas were for Addams.

And now the story:

It begins with a lunch that included the renowned French artist J.J. Sempe. Mr. Sempe, not yet a New Yorker contributor, had come to town to do a piece on behalf of L’Express.  While in the city, Mr. Sempe was asked to lunch with James Geraghty, then The New Yorker‘s art editor. Mr. Geraghty was interested in having Mr. Sempe submit work to The New Yorker. Originally, Mr. Geraghty’s art assistant, Barbara Nicholls, was to accompany them to lunch as the interpreter, but she had to cancel. In her stead Mr. Geraghty asked the multi-lingual cartoonist Peter Porges to come along. Mr. Porges told Mr. Geraghty he would only go if his friend, Mr. Gross could accompany him.

And so, at lunch, Mr. Gross found himself seated to the left of Mr. Geraghty. Mr. Geraghty asked Mr. Porges to ask Sempe if he would submit work to The New Yorker.  Sempe, through Mr. Porges, replied “he says he’s too busy — has too much work to do.”  Mr. Geraghty then asked Mr. Porges to ask Sempe “if he would consider submitting rejects.”  To which Sempe replied, through Mr. Porges, “What are rejects.”

Shortly, after sipping some wine, Mr. Geraghty leaned over to Mr. Gross (also drinking wine) and said, “Instead of buying the idea [of a recent submission by Mr. Gross] we’re going to buy the whole drawing.” And Mr. Gross replied, “That’s great, thanks.”  Mr. Gross went on to say, “And then, after Geraghty had had another glass of wine, and I had had another glass of wine, he leaned over and said, ‘Oh, and we’re going to buy another one too.'” 

Above: The first Sam Gross New Yorker cartoon

Mr. Gross had heard from Mr. Porges that Mr. Geraghty would “drive cartoonists crazy” with editorial changes to cartoons. Back at the New Yorker’s art department following lunch, Mr. Geraghty handed Mr. Gross the rough drawings of the two bought cartoons [most cartoonists submit “rough” drawings.  If bought, the cartoonist will then do a “finish” — the drawing that will be published].  Mr. Gross tells us what happened next:

“So with that particular drawing [the first published cartoon], he gave me the drawing, and I stood there with it, and said,I’m not going, Mr. Geraghty until you specifically tell me what you want in the drawing.’ So he said, ‘put the kid here, dispense with the awning’ and he was very specific on what I had to do.  Afterwards, with all the other drawings I sold, I never had any problem with him. Every time I sold something he told me exactly what he wanted.” 

I said to Mr. Gross, “That’s a big deal, selling two your first time.” to which Mr. Gross replied, “I can credit the wine for it.”

So here’s to one of The New Yorker‘s cartoon giants. It is quite a feat to sell just one drawing to The New Yorker.  To continue on for fifty years (and counting) is another kind of feat. Mr. Gross is one of a select group of cartoonists with a thumbprint style — i.e., no one else has drawn like him, and he draws like no one else (true, as well, of George Booth, also celebrating his New Yorker golden anniversary this year). Feeling in a oh-what-the-hell Grossian spirit, I’ll say too that no other cartoonist even comes close to thinking like him.

 

Further reading:

For an extended interview with Mr. Gross I highly recommend Richard Gehr’s I Only Read It For The Cartoons, published in 2014, by New Harvest. Mr. Gross is one of a dozen New Yorker cartoonists interviewed.

If you want to listen to Sam Gross being interviewed, there’s this wonderful podcast from Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories Show.

All of Mr. Gross’s cartoon anthologies are must-haves in any cartoon library.  A quartet of them are shown:

An Elephant Is Soft And Mushy (Dodd, Mead & Co. , 1980)

More Gross (Congdon & Weed, 1982)

I Am Blind And My Dog Is Dead (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1977.  Reissued by Harry N. Abrams, 2007)

No More Mr. Nice Guy (Perigee, 1987)

 

 

 

Peter Porges Work Shown In Vienna; New Yorker Art Aplenty In Swann Catalog; Out Of This World Eckstein Cartoons Auctioned Today; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Tom Chitty

Peter Porges Work Shown In Vienna

Work by Peter Porges, a New Yorker cartoonist who passed away in 2016, is currently on exhibit in Vienna (beginning today).  All the information here.

Mr. Porges began contributing to The New Yorker in 1965.  His first drawing appears above.

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New Yorker Art Aplenty In Swann Catalog

The June 4th Swann catalog features a large number of original pieces by New Yorker artists, including the New Yorker cover art by Charles Saxon cover shown above left, and the Richard Taylor drawing, above right, and Tom Toro’s below it.  Among the other New Yorker artists represented: Peter Arno, Helen Hokinson, Charles Addams, R.O. Blechman, Edward Gorey, Frank Modell, Misha Richter, Liana Finck, Donald Reilly, Liam Walsh, Gahan Wilson, Andre Francoise, and  J. B. Handelsman.

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 Out Of This World Eckstein Cartoons Auctioned

From Attempted Bloggery, May 7, 2019,  “Hello Roswell: Four Space Cartoons By Bob Eckstein”

The auction is today! All the info here.

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Some American history via Tom Chitty, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014.  Visit his website here.

 

A Memorial For Peter Porges; Early Gahan Wilson

There will be a memorial service on June 29th for Mad Magazine and New Yorker artist,  Peter Porges who passed away in December of last year.

Mr. Porges’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of July 3, 1965.

Sam Gross has passed along the details:

 

Peter Porges Memorial Service
 Thursday, June 29th
  Ethical Culture Society
  Ceremonial Hall
  2 West 64th Street, New York
  6 pm

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Dick Buchanan’s Cartoon Files is back on Mike Lynch’s site with a look at very early Gahan Wilson drawings, such as the one shown here from True, in May of 1955.  Check it out!

Here”s Gahan Wilson’s entry on the Spill‘s “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z”:

Gahan Wilson (photo above, by Michael Maslin, taken at The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, NYC, 2008) NYer work: 1976 – . Wilson’s website: http://www.gahanwilson.com/

Felipe Galindo on Porges and Leeds; New Yorker Caption Contest Mechanics; Sikoryak’s Carousel

Felipe Galindo (aka Feggo) who reliably takes photos at cartoonist gatherings,  sent in this wonderful photograph of the late Peter Porges. Felipe also added some thoughts on Mr. Porges and the late Stuart Leeds.

Peter Porges

I first met him at one of those cartoonists lunches. He had a grouchy expression that all of a sudden transformed into a comical act, making funny noises, like a marching band, imitating instruments. I recall that afterwards I went along Sid Harris and him to visit his studio at Union Square. He showed us stuff he was working on and his drawing technique with India ink and quill on large rag paper. Beautiful artistic renditions. He sometimes would lick the quill, his tongue and lips will be all black and Sid horrified, screamed: “Don’t do that, you’re going to get cancer!”. He said, “No way, I’ve been doing this for ages!” He did that 3 or 4 times. He would also tell me some words in Spanish. He was good pal of Sergio Aragones, my compatriot. I asked him where was he from, and told me he was born in Vienna. A comment that impacted me was: “When I was a kid I saw Hitler marching into Vienna in 1938! Later my family sent me away for protection.” He is the only person I’ve met that saw Hitler. Talk about 5 degrees of separation.
I was familiar with his work from Mad Magazine but later I enjoyed his cartoons from The New Yorker; he had several captionless gags, my cup of tea. But I liked in particular one about characters from a famous Velazquez painting: “Dauphin! Stop teasing La Infanta!”
Always a riot, in paper and in life.
Left: a Felipe Galindo sketch of Peter Porges at a cartoonist gathering in 1988
Stuart Leeds
I met Stuart at The New Yorker offices in Times Square, probably in 2002 or 2003. He would sit quietly at the sofa in the lobby, reading books after showing his batch. In 2008 I began to teach at an after school program in the Bronx and I was surprised to see him there and he me. He was moonlighting teaching cartooning to 4th graders and I was just learning how to teach, how to do mini graphic novels to 3rd graders. We used to chat a bit before class and share teaching methods.
He showed up at a couple of my exhibitions.  The late John Kane (they were neighbors in the Chelsea vicinity) once mentioned that he asked him to babysit Harry his parrot for a week, not at his apartment but at John’s place…and free range inside!
I think his his style was simple and his forte was in the ideas more than in a particular technical skill, but that simplicity – experimental at times- was just right to convey his wit. One favorite that comes to mind is his Greek Orders, showing 3 columns (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) and at the end the iconic coffee cup with the Greek motifs labeled “To Go”. His humor was very New York City oriented where he most probably felt at home. Stuart liked baseball and adored the former NY Giants before they moved to San Francisco. He would wear with pride a vintage Giants cap.
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From Isthmus, February 2, 2017, “Hi-tech Humor: UW Powers New Yorker Contest” — this piece on Rob Nowak, who created the program that reduced the eye-balling time spent on the magazine’s caption contest.
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Robert Sikoryak’s next Carousel is coming up.  This one includes the very same Felipe Galindo mentioned at the top of today’s SpillAll the information here.

 

So Long, 2016. Howdy, 2017

HNYGeez, what a year.  I’ve spent this morning looking back through Ink Spill’s  2016 posts. This was the year we lost more New Yorker cartoonist colleagues  than in any previous twelve month period in the magazine’s history:   William Hamilton, John Caldwell, Gerald Dumas, Michael Crawford, Anatol Kovarsky, Frank Modell, Robert Weber, and Peter Porges.

Their combined published work in The New Yorker adds up to approximately 5,000 drawings. An astounding number.  But of course what they really contributed to the magazine, and to us, whatever number of drawings published, were their distinct worlds, beautifully, thoughtfully, artfully  and engagingly set down on paper.

All of these artists helped define what a New Yorker cartoon is, and what it could be.  As as the old year takes a hike, and a sparkling new year begins, I suggest a fitting tribute to these fine fellows would be to seek out their work and revel in it.

 

 

 

Note: So Long, 2016. Howdy, 2017 is pinched from a line in Bob Dylan’s song, “Talkin’ New York”:  “So long, New York. Howdy, East Orange”