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.

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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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Christmas Cards Redux Continues

Scan(5) copy copyScan(6) copy 3Pam’s Pictorama: As an examination of our history in holiday cards continues, inspiration seems to strike us differently each year. While last week I highlighted our self-portraits as a jumping off point, this week I am sharing a few where the cat concept became less about our specific cats, and more about the idea of cats. Starting with a favorite, the parade of black and white and white cats featuring a giant cat balloon. I am pretty sure the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade balloons were the inspiration – with a touch of Aesop Fables cartoons thrown in with that long line of cats.

I have never been to the actual Thanksgiving Day parade, although Kim has a great childhood memory of going at least once*. As past readers know, my father was a cameraman for ABC news for many years. His early years there were focused on local news which meant many a Thanksgiving working – filming the balloons being blown up the night before and the parade day of were frequently part of his annual beat. I gather from him that this meant a lot of standing around in the cold, and often wet, wishing he was home with his family. Therefore, as kids we never went and frankly he could never understand why I would want to either. Nonetheless, when I moved to NYC as an adult seeing the balloons blown up was an annual joy. I went in all weather and braved the crowds and always loved it.

I am not entirely sure the precise inspiration for the sort of steam-pump robot cat, although I do love his catty feet and the jolly hat blowing off his head! I like the string of lights too.  Since I do the first sketches and art direct to some degree, I always like to request lots of Kim Deitch snow and stars in our cards. I am especially fond of the anthropomorphic moon and sun as well.

Lastly, the one I think of as Cat-in-the-Box came out of the purchase of the pamphlet I featured in a recent post, Lucky Black Cat and things like it. Halloween was still on my mind that year and rather than include our kitties, we went with a Halloween meets Christmas theme and produced this little beauty.

Next week Cards of Christmas past continues followed by the big reveal – this year’s card.

*Footnote to Pam’s post. My great Thanksgiving day parade memory was when our family spotted, and met Hoplaong Cassidy waiting with his horse to be in the parade.

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