So, if you’re old enough and happened to be a New Yorker (or in NYC) during the 1970’s and into the 80’s, there was a chance you could walk into a certain place at a certain time of the year and have a caricature drawn by a world famous (or nearly world famous) cartoonist for FREE. Yes, that’s right. Before the days of “Pay me!” comic convention art, ebay, and heck, the internet, a lucky few locals and tourists smart enough to find out about the event could queue up at The Manhattan Savings Bank for it’s yearly (National) Cartoonist’s Show.
I’d heard about this back in the early 80’s and wanted to go, but never could find time to get downtown until 1987 when I was working in Manhattan. If I’m not mistaken, a friend of mine had gone either the previous year or the year before and lucked out big time, getting Al Hirschfeld to draw him. Who wouldn’t want a Hirschfeld for nothing? I recall not knowing who was going to be at the 1987 event, and with only an hour for lunch, I figured (correctly) that the more popular cartoonists would get the longest lines. I don’t remember every artist at the event (there were no cell phone cameras back then and I didn’t think to pack a camera with me on a warm summer day to record history), but I eventually made it in front of three of them and the results you’re seeing below the jump…
For some reason, the late great Sam Norkin had at least one pair of cranky detractors at the show. I can clearly remember walking into the event as two well-dressed older women were leaving with their rolled up sketches and one saying to the other (a wee bit too loudly) “Eh, I should have come when Hirschfeld was here!” followed by “I coulda had a Hirschfeld!” Yeesh. Ungrateful is ungrateful in any era, people. Anyway, I recall Norkin zipping this out so fast that I was amazed he was done. His marker work was impeccable. He also made me laugh before he started sketching, so that was a bonus. If I’m not mistaken, the wait for a Norkin was about fifteen or twenty minutes when I stepped up, but it may have been longer.
Don Orehek‘s work I recognized from all over the place as he was quite the prolific cartoonist. I think there was one person getting sketched when I walked up and two more waiting in line. I also recall him being quite a funny guy as well, laughing when I told him I was a fan of his work. I think he said something like “not all of it, I hope!” or something else self-deprecating. There was a man waiting with his son behind me and I think he either knew Don, was so familiar with his work or had been drawn previously that the artist said something like “you again!” when he walked up for his turn.
Nancy Beiman didn’t like this sketch she did of me, but I thought it was quite cool. I think she was the only artist free when I looked at my watch and realized I had maybe ten minutes left before I had to leave. Well, it was a stop I’m glad I took. All the pieces here are on 15″x20″ paper and have been sitting in a big portfolio in the home office for ages. I haven’t shown them to many people because I don’t have a fat ego at all. But I needed some filler while my brain settles down from the winter haze it’s been in and this popped into my head as a subject. I couldn’t figure out how to fit the Al Kurzrok Casper sketch I got at a comic convention into this at all, but I guess that’s another (shorter) story for another time. Well, that and I need to find that sketch. I did see it sometime last year when moving some files around, so I know it exists.
Side note: While poking around researching this, it turns out I missed out on getting the great Frank Springer to draw me. Then again, I believe the event took place over more than one day, so I may have just been there on a day he wasn’t there. Also, finding out info about past shows seems to be tougher than I thought. Does anyone out there remember attending any of these events and do you have any sketches lying around or framed on your walls? Feel free to post below, as I’d LOVE to see who got who to draw them up.