Christmas in July – Part 2

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I decided that this summer weekend deserved some cooling down with recent Christmas finds. For many years when I worked at the Metropolitan Museum they had Christmas in July, a preview of the holiday line for the gift and bookshop. It would be set up in our boardroom and senior staff would be invited up to have a look. Anyway, the phrase stuck with me and ignited the holiday feeling with the British Felix card I shared yesterday. (It can be found here). Today’s treasure is a card that I saw a variation of quite awhile ago (same set and different photo? I wish I remembered), but it was priced very high. I snagged this one for considerably less.

Although this was a photo postcard it has traces of photo album paper stuck to the back of it. It does not appear to have been mailed. However, written neatly on it is Erma & Fred from Millard. While I think we can assume that Erma is the little girl perched on this grand beast, who is Fred? Is he dressed up as Santa? (Don’t suppose he could be the reindeer?) If you look carefully Santa is atop a box to make him sufficiently tall for the composition of this photo – and perhaps also to make him a little bit more grand?

If  you look carefully there is a small sign, on a little stand, which reads 1237 – December 1937? or a number to track which photo take this was to attach it to a person later? Of much more interest however are the toys scattered below, including a small Felix doll which is one that I neither own nor have seen previously. The dolls are generic from my perspective, but I say that understanding that perhaps to others they are as fascinating as Felix is to me. It is in some ways a sad and dry little set, yet I bet from Erma’s perspective it was pretty great to be there.

My own family wasn’t one for posed, studio holiday photos. We never sat on Santa’s lap for a photo or to tell him what we wanted for Christmas. We celebrated Christmas (and Hanukah), but in a secular way, and additionally we were never taught to believe in Santa Claus. My mother (raised Christian, but agnostic) thought lying to children about such things was an awful practice and told chagrined stories about her brother leaving the front door wide open on Christmas Eve to accommodate Santa better. My dad, as an atheist and ostensibly Jewish, was extremely ambivalent about the holidays and therefore no unnecessary pageantry was added. (Additionally, my younger brother Edward was born on Christmas Eve so we added a birthday party in there as well.) I don’t believe as a kid I felt like I missed much by not having the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap or to mail lists to the North Pole.  We had a tree, there were toys and big family meals – but alas, no toy-filled Santa photos!

 

 

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Merry Christmas from Deitch Studio!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama and Deitch Studio present – our holiday card! To those of you who are devoted fans of the card and have been watching your mailbox we apologize for the delay this year, as well as the electronic reveal before you may have received it, but my adventures with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra on the Holiday Big Band Tour (see my post of earlier this month Traveling with the Big Band) put me way behind on my end of the holiday duties which include getting the card printed.

The printing of the card, which dates back to the first year Kim and I started dating, has a history. (For the history of our cards and their production I recommend these previous posts, Cards of Christmas Past, Cat of Christmas Past, and Christmas Cards Redux Continues among others) I shopped the card from one small print shop to another each year. In the beginning I had a fantasy of finding a small shop that still did offset printing who would bring some care to the process – we even talked about two color. Ha! I let go of that almost immediately and began an annual trip from one copy shop to another – testing both large (Staples – don’t ask!) and small. Without getting technical let me tell you that the results consistently fell below the high standard of the most senior person here at Deitch Studio – resulting in an extraordinary flood of epithets and curses, not only aimed at the lowly technician, but the holiday season and the whole concept of a holiday card in general! In all fairness to him, we saw some really ham-handed results which could only be achieved by people who cared less than not at all about what they were doing.

In my attempt to assuage this eventual annual diatribe I continued my search for a suitable printer. One year I finally walked into the Yorkville Copy Shop, the tiniest hole in the wall establishment, tucked behind a pizza place on 84th, just west of Lexington. It is the kind of place I imagine exists only in Manhattan where real estate is so prime that even the smallest space can be carved out into a rent producing annuity for the owner and a living for the tenant. The counter was just a few feet from the door, on one side paper and outgoing jobs were stacked high, on the other was one of several copy machines. It reeked of toner, ink, paper and dust. There was a loft which made the ceiling low, the place lit by low-watt flickering fluorescent bulbs. The front window was entirely plastered over with business cards, other previous jobs and grumpy sayings, which also graced the inside as decoration.

The proprietor was a grizzled man of a certain age who seemed to engage exclusively in conversations about NY sports teams, which meant we had little in common in terms of small talk. There was also a woman who I eventually took to be his wife, and although age appropriate in all reality I have no idea. She rarely ever waited on me. I cannot say that once we started using them that there was never a problem – there were still do-overs, Kim curses and rages, and the year not long ago where they did the entire job folded on the wrong side which, given time limitations we decided to live with. Still, I knew that at least I could talk to Bill (eventually I learned his name) and on some level he cared. Over the course of more than a decade some of our past cards joined the decor of the shop – not all, Bill had a discerning eye – but I kept a look out and was always secretly glad when one joined the ranks.

I know that you know where this is headed. Late last fall I saw that Yorkville Copy was closed. Around the corner, in the window of the pizza place, there was a note saying that the copy store had been forced out and a telephone number to contact them, which I had the foresight to take a picture of. Shortly after, the pizza place itself was also gone, a family business to be replaced, ironically, by a chain pizza establishment.

So as the holiday neared I called Bill and he said he was looking for a new location, but could do our card anyway. We made arrangements for him to pick up the original from our doorman, ultimately drop the cards at our building and pick up the balance of the payment. It went okay, but as this year loomed Bill had not yet found a place and I resisted calling. After all if there was a problem there was no discussion or recourse. He would take our original and go and who knows what would happen to it.

The card is generally finished, drawn and inked, the weekend after Thanksgiving and it was this year. However I just could not manage the printing before leaving for that ten day business trip at the beginning of the month. While I was riding around the South I got a message, then a second, from Bill on my cell phone. By the time I got home I pretty much gave into the idea. Bill picked it up and printed it again. It is a fine job, I didn’t need to worry it seems.

So today we present to you a card printed by Bill of Yorkville Printers which now it seems only exists for those of us who know of it. A waxing salon has taken its former location, which I guess is willing and able to pay more for that tiny space, the chain pizza restaurant has been established around the corner. I left money and our artwork for Bill to pick up and copy in Yonkers, where he appears to reside according to the calls I get on my cell phone. I have an image of him having set up in his living room or garage there, paper piled high around, and sadly I will no longer know which ones he favors. But for now he remains our grizzled and grumpy elf of card printing.

There’s Gladness in Remembrance

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Kicking off the advanced Christmas season here at Pictorama this week with this recent purchase. This card caught my attention with its sheer oddity. I cannot exactly imagine how someone might have come up with the combination of a smoking cigarette, Christmas and cats on a postcard greeting. It makes me think that the designer was very tired and was desperate for ideas, or perhaps smoking something him or herself. Or maybe it was truly an example of these are some of my favorite things, like the song says.

Several of the cats seem to be escaping out of their surreal smoke rings, although that big, annoyed looking Persian is curled up on his or hers like a pillow. All fluffy Persian variations (or is it Maine Coon?) I can’t quite decide if four of these cats are the same cat or just similar markings. These are some serious looking kitties, especially the one without stripes at the bottom. It is obvious, but I might add, there’s nothing of the celebratory or festive about them – these aren’t some darling kittens – these are some frowning cats.

Meanwhile, then there is the burning cigarette and the matches, artfully falling from their match safe. More than anything about this card, which was never sent and without writing on the back, the match safe dates it for me to the early part of the 20th century. Books of matches were in high fashion by the 1940’s. (I have written about match safes in my collection on two occasions, Safety Match and Match safe – Ya Gotta Make Calls.

For my own part, I have never been a cigarette smoker, not even when I was a teenager. I have smoked maybe three in my life – I never saw the point in it; although I certainly understand that there are people who feel otherwise. Clearly this represents a time when smoking was both comforting and to some degree festive. My ambivalence about it does not extend to how good it looks in early films – it does indeed look sophisticated and cosmopolitan.

The sprig of holly is the sole festive Christmas touch. With Hearty Christmas Greetings…There’s gladness in remembrance it declares. Gladness in remembrance touches on the coming New Year – auld lang syne – out with the old year and in with the new. One can only wonder why this card was tucked away and kept pristinely for all these years except to say Christmas cards seem to be kept, although those are usually ones sent by someone. Perhaps, like me, the photo just entertained someone who found and hung onto it.

I have always been a conscientious writer and saver of cards of all kinds, even before my cat card collecting days commenced. As Pictorama readers and others know, Kim and I have been producing a holiday card together since we first started dating and it is time to start work on the one for this year. I admit to the possibility of some influence from this card as Kim and I begin to contemplate our card design for this year, but we will have to have to wait and see what comes of it. Keep an eye on Pictorama for an eventual preview reveal, but know that we are considering it as we partake of our Thanksgiving dinner later this week.

Big Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This card almost slipped through my fingers due to an email that went astray with the seller, but I am ever so glad it did not! This surreal image of a giant cat (a tuxedo cat no less) dragging this man and woman along as they clutch his (or her) leash is splendid and bizarre indeed. It falls soundly into the category of I have never seen another like it – although I would love to see more if anyone can send me in that direction. This card was mailed on December 23 (8 AM) Sierra Mac, CAL, 1920. It was mailed to Mr. & Mrs. H.H. Wear (?) & Family, 431-14th Street, San Bernadino, CA. I was tempted to save this until the end of the year and do a seasonally appropriate post, but who could resist sharing this sooner? Not to mention that it is not really a very Christmas-y holiday card.

For me what this card brings to mind is chalk talks. For any of you who haven’t encountered these before, it is an act where a cartoonist very quickly draws a drawing, or series of drawings, in front of an audience – stunning them with skill and speed. It took hold as early as the late 1800’s, had a hot five minutes first during vaudeville, then early film and finally once again in early television. (There is also an interesting tributary of bible chalk talks – the Methodists claim to have founded the practice.)

Kim was giving me some tips and tales earlier about it – some folks sketching in outlines that couldn’t be seen by the audience as a bit of a cheat, that sort of thing. Windsor McCay is one of the most famous practitioners of the chalk talk (think Gertie the Dinosaur) and when I think of it I tend to think of folks like him in the teens and twenties, but there are legions of others. Here is a link to The Enchanted Drawing from an Edison short in 1900 showing J. Stuart Blackton at work.

As I stumbled and bumbled around researching this, Kim also gave me an interesting lead – he met chalk talk (lightening cartoonist) Ernie McGee decades ago at a comic book convention here in NYC. Kim was carrying copies of Gothic Blimp Works and he gave Ernie a copy featuring his then strip – evidently an Uncle Ed strip gave the man a chuckle of approval, much to the surprise of a young Kim Deitch. Ernie McGee seems to have had his heyday in vaudeville. Cole Johnson gives a thumbnail blog post history of Ernie here at Stripper’s Guide 4/19/09 including the photo (look at all those bound volumes!) and strip drawn by Ernie below. Spoiler alert – it’s a bit of a sad tale ending with a down and out Ernie living in Philadelphia in the 1960’s, drinking too much and doing his act in his bathrobe at a lectern, in front of rows of chairs in his apartment, for his sole visitor.

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Ernie McGee strips, not in my collection

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Photo of Ernie McGee, not in my collection

West coast buddy Bruce Simon also did a strip about Ernie, published in Siegel and Simon’s Party Comics shown in a 2009 re-issue below. In an online write-up about the re-issue Bruce says, Party Comics came out in July, 1980 and the UG scene was just about moribund by then. We printed 5,000 copies and maybe sold half of them, about what a Vertigo book sells now…I screwed up on the color sep and the devil’s hands came out pink instead of red, too cheap to pull a proof. The cover character was based on a real 1930’s era ‘chalk-talk’ cartoonist named Ernie McGee who I had met in New York in 1971. Why I thought anyone would know what a ‘chalk-talk’ cartoonist was in 1980 is anyone’s guess.  

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Party Comics by Bruce Simon, not in my collection

Kim tells me that he thinks the drawing of Ernie here is from his business card which he remembers fondly – he once had a copy, but couldn’t put his hands on it if he does indeed still possess it.

I have once again strayed somewhat from my cat material, but their plenty of fun in ’21 may very well have included seeing Ernie or maybe even Windsor McCay.

 

Merry Christmas from Deitch Studio

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The 2016 Deitch Studio Pictorama card revealed!

 

Pam’s Pictorama Bonus Post: It’s that time of the year – that most wonderful season of all! Here is this year’s contribution to the holidays co-authored by Kim and I as usual. This year, for better or worse, Kim let me have my head and it is perhaps a tad more Butler than Deitch. 2016 was a tough year and being curled up in bed with the kitties, reading (me on my iPad and Kim with a volume which has its own meaning – to be revealed in his upcoming book) seemed like the only sane place to end the year!

Cookie and Blackie figure prominently in the spot they pretty much hold in real life at the foot of the bed. Blackie likes to curl up behind my knees, a bit higher than shown here. Cookie is usually at my feet – on her own pillow no less. This is a perch that came into fashion while I was recovering from foot surgery and had to sleep with my leg elevated all night. Cookie decided that the pillow should stay for her benefit. C&B keep us on a fairly regular schedule and Blackie is in charge of waking us up with his gentle cold wet nose kisses (quite) early in the morning. Kim is usually the first up and the feeder of them – they know I can sleep through almost anything and therefore am a bad bet. The other morning I woke in the middle of the night feeling stiff and strangely leaden and wondered what on earth was wrong – as I went to turn over I discovered that both the kits were sound asleep on top of me!

As I indicated above, Kim is reading a book that turns out to be a Deitch studio special and I am reading one of my Moving Picture Girls or Grace Harlowe series books on my iPad. (As chronicled in Grace Harlowe, the Automobile Girls and Moving Picture Girls Novels post of a few weeks ago.) Sorry the toys, which live at the foot and side of the bed, and the many piles of books, Kim’s side of the bed, didn’t make it into the picture, but they would complete the image of the Deitch-Butler clan at home in reality.

You can count on the fact that this is where we will ring in 2017 – cats, books and all, maybe a silent western playing on the tiny television which is also crammed into a room almost no bigger than our futon!

Merry Christmas and every best wish for a peaceful and happy New Year!

 

Merry Christmas 2015

 

Pam’s Pictorama: First, if you haven’t received yours yet, please know these cards are still making their way across the country and the world. We started off with a good lead on getting cards out this year, but somehow the month ran away with us once again.

Of course, Cookie and Blackie are featured on the card. I have never had cats from the same litter and the idea was that they would get along better – right? Not our kits – life is a constant battle over turf and access and it was an obvious theme for our card this year. Every night, just as I turn the lights off, a battle begins and eventually I hear Cookie scream and up I go, yelling for them to knock it off – usually waking poor Kim in the process!

Early in December one mad, daily romp through the apartment ended up with Cookie racing up Kim’s work chair to get away from Blackie (a favorite Cookie maneuver) and BAM! the top broke off the chair! Staples supplied a new one within days (the old one had come off the street so it wasn’t like it owed us much) – and then a fight broke out over the lovely, huge chair box which awaited opening the following weekend. I share below a series of photos of Cookie and Blackie fighting over the box spot which I took originally to amuse my mom – and ending with Cookie winning possession of the old chair before it was whisked away.

Merry Christmas and may we all triumph in 2016!

Cookie Finds the Box

Cookie Owns the Chair Box

 

Blackie Takes It

A Blackie Takeover!

Cookie Wins

Cookie in Action

Blackie Retreats

Blackie Retreats

Cookie on the Old Chair

Cookie, Queen of the Old Chair

 

 

Cat of Christmas Past

Pam’s Pictorama: The Christmas card parade continues with this one from a couple of years ago of Zippy. I paused a moment writing that – was Zippy our or my cat? Unlike Otto who was my very first cat but adored Kim, Zippy never really decided that he was also Kim’s cat. This really wasn’t Kim’s fault – he was always good to Zips. Made sure Otto didn’t beat up on him too much and did everything right – and cats love Kim. Still, despite living in extreme close proximity for many years, Zippy remained devoted only to me – and he adored me.

It started one day 20 odd years ago when I wandered into a store where I liked to ogle antique jewelry, over on First Avenue, down near the 59th Street bridge. On that day, there on the counter, was an adorable black and white tuxedo kitten who, in design, could have been a brother to my cat Otto. He had a bad eye, an infection from being born on and living on the street, which would ultimately wax and wane over the years. When I went over to pet him, he hurled himself into my arms. Well, I don’t really need to say it, I was a goner. Although I went home without him that day, I was back shortly thereafter and Zippy and Otto started a long, contentious relationship.

Shown here, is the one Christmas we celebrated with Zippy alone, as a very elderly cat. Zippy lived to 20, the following spring, and he was a bit tatty, if scrappy at that point – as shown here.

I don’t think I knew it, but I assume I was influenced by this print which I picked up somewhere along the line, and was living in the flat files. I found it while looking for our cards. I am sure I had it – or others like it in mind. Here’s to Zippy!

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