Krazy Cat & Celebration

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo turned up under a poor listing on eBay and I snatched it up before anyone else spied it. After all, who wouldn’t want this photo of this jolly grinning fellow, clutching archetypal straw hat, flowers and Krazy Kat? I will go out on a limb and speculate that he was a courtin’ and the flowers and Krazy were an offering to his beloved. And really, who wouldn’t be wooed and wowed by that? That toy cat would go a long way to winning me, let alone the flowers and the dapper appearance. According to the back of the photo this is Harry Smith and he is in Augusta, Ga. He’s quite the sport with his hat, sunglasses, clearly parted hair and offerings. No date, but we can make some assumptions about it being the 1920’s from his togs and that great Krazy Kat toy.

Here at Pictorama a year of birthday and Valentine’s Day have just passed. Having a birthday a few days before Valentine’s Day meant a childhood of Valentine decorations at my parties which was always cheerful – however as an adult the bright red and shiny cupids and hearts remind me more of a houseful of kids charged with birthday cake and chocolate than love and romance, the two will always be intertwined.

My father was the first man in my life to meet this double celebratory challenge gallantly. He always had a little something special for us kids for Valentine’s Day, despite it being days after my birthday which had been appropriately celebrated. Heart shaped boxes of candy, a silver heart-shaped keychain one year which I used for a very long time after. (And I’m still a total sucker for those boxes of Russell Stover chocolates which are the taste of my childhood Valentines. I just bestowed an extra large one on my office. The Easter baskets and candy have the same effect on me.) February in the Northeast tends to be a cold, snowy and somewhat miserable month, so the additional festivities make it a bit more cheerful to get through.

My sister Loren put her stamp on my birthday in adulthood by insisting on calling me at an ungodly early hour, claiming that she needed to be the first to wish me a Happy Birthday. On another occasion she declared that my birthday should be a day off from work and we spent the day together. I acquired tickets to the live butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, which was brand new at the time. However, Loren had not told me she was afraid of butterflies until we were there and they were landing all over us! (She said she hadn’t wanted to disappoint me.)

After Loren died and birthdays suddenly became difficult, I instituted the Aquarian month of dinners and lunches to cheer the month up. I totted up all my fellow Aquarians and invited each one to get together for dinner, or lunch failing dinner availability. It cut an interesting and somewhat random path through friends and acquaintances, and time spent with friends is always a good way to focus one’s energy for a year ahead. The participants have waxed and waned over the years with only two original invitees still in the mix – over a dozen years folks moved away, some elderly ones died. I haven’t added anyone in a few years, although I just found out that someone at work is a candidate, a late January birthday that just slides into the Aquarius fold.

In addition, I am lucky that I have Kim, the best husband ever, who always makes my birthday and Valentine’s Day very special – we spend a day (or more!) near my birthday devoted to digging around in antique toy stores and the sort of dusty haunts that result in the purchase of interesting photos and strange odd bits. And of course he tops himself each February with his Valentine’s Day drawing. (Actually this production starts in January annually as it has grown more elaborate. For anyone who is a new to Pictorama a few of these can be seen herehere, and this year’s here.)

Kim actually did in fact also give me my very own Krazy Kat toy (this same Averill version as Harry Smith clutches here) on my birthday years ago, which is a story for its own post one day. This year’s birthday adventure and acquisitions, some great toys and photos, will also be upcoming as well in a series of future posts. In fact, I will finish this post up so Kim and I can get ready to go out. There was a store which defied us by closing unexpectedly last week. Let’s see what can be found there today. I will be sure to let you know.

 

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From My Sweetie

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For those of you who are familiar with Deitch Studio and Pictorama tradition, today is the long anticipated day when the nexus of Valentine’s Day’s meets my birthday (tomorrow) and the Kim Deitch Pam-specific annual creation is unveiled. Yay! Recent readers may remember that I foreshadowed animal imitators with my post, Ratters and Mousers (which can be viewed here) and this year’s spectacular missive from Kim addresses my affection for folks dressed up in animal costumes.

This interest in animal costumed performers pre-dates my meeting Kim and the beginning of our story. My own drawings and paintings favored this as a theme for a number of years. I collected animal masks (cheap plastic ones) to this end for awhile, and I like to think it was this fascination which provided a germ of the idea for the cat costume storyline featured in Kim’s book Alias the Cat. (What kind of wife would I be if I didn’t provide a link to purchasing it here?) I have had a deep (to date) unfilled desire to find a definitive antique cat costume and searched eBay for years to no avail. When I purchased my first photo of kids posing with Felix, I did wonder if it was perhaps a small person in a costume, until I was able to study it closely enough to know for sure it is a stuffed toy. (Quick photo off the wall below, low quality but it tells the story.) If I am being honest they do frighten me a bit, people in animal costumes, but it that good scared way that just makes you think hard.

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Luckily film arrived on the scene in time to capture things like the 1907 Dancing Pig – which I adore and Kim has included in his drawing. (For those of you who have never seen it, a version resides on Youtube, here.) I am overjoyed when I can find such snippets, however like so much popular entertainment of the past, much is lost beyond remnants and I am afraid this is true of Alfred Latell and his Bonzo Dog performance. I wrote about Latell (yes! you can read it here) after discovering a photo of him. I was subsequently contacted by some of his family seeking to find out information about him. (Keep a weather eye out for a further future post about him which helped inspire the Valentine theme.)

I think this Valentine also somewhat inspired by my morning habit of reviewing my Twitter feed which is, by design, almost exclusively cat videos, photos and a silent film and early music feed. Occasionally there is a GIF, video or photo so great I demand that he stop working and come see it. (Kim is very patient about this considering this is already part of his workday.) While a bit of bad news and world decay occasionally creeps in, this Pam practice is devised to be a largely happy, pure entertainment way to start the day. (There is a dose of the New York Times online each morning too – so as not to get too far removed from the realities of every day – heavy sigh.)

Meanwhile, who could ask for more than a husband and partner who seeks to recreate that which is lost to the sands of time (or perhaps never was, but should have been) for my personal entertainment? That rascal Waldo even makes an appearance. Thank you Kim! It’s wonderful. Here’s to many future Valentine’s to come!

 

Big Band Valentine

Pam’s Pictorama Bonus Post: Happy Valentine’s Day! Those of you who have known us for a bit know that it is an annual tradition here at Deitch Studio that a very special Valentine is produced each year in honor of the combined Valentine’s Day and Queen of Catland (my) birthday – as recently noted in Sunday’s post A Happy Birthday to Me. It has grown into a several week project – the conceiving of which often germinates weeks, if not months. in advance.

This year Kim has outdone himself with this rendition of the Jazz at Lincoln Center band, all as anthropomorphic cats of course, each one nodding to the actual gentleman who owns that seat in the orchestra. I don’t know how Wynton, Carlos, Sherman, Walter , Marcus and the rest will ultimately feel about their cat edition selves, but I hope they love them as much as I do! Kim and I are in our garb from the upcoming Reincarnation Stories book and I especially like what I call my Queen of Catland regalia. We are of course at the soon-to-be famous toy cat museum, of which I am the proprietress, featured in the latter pages of the same story. Kim is busy with the appendix of that book now which means it is slowly crossing the finish line!

The great rendition of a Feed the Kitty is on the floor – more a nod to my fundraising responsibilities than anything else. Kim also made the drawing below at my request recently. I will imagine the money and see it – and it will come!

And What a Party We Had!

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Pam’s Pictorama Post-Valentine Special: I am going to let you in on a secret. One of the really great things about being married to Kim Deitch is that whenever I want, I toss the dull, day-to-day world aside and enter the vastly more entertaining Deitchian world of anthropomorphic animals, demons in cat bodies and slightly sinister cartoon landscapes. This circus is going on right here – all the time! Yep, the front door of Deitch Studio is the portal to an amazing world of delight and fright – the rabbit hole you climb down every time you pick up one of Kim’s stories and that I come home to after a day out in the world. And once a year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Kim pulls back the curtain and reveals a behind-the-scenes glimpse for everyone who has wondered and as a testimonial to the love and joy of our corner of the universe. To that end, I share this year’s Valentine.

While recent prior years focused on King Kitty and his dominion over the toys – especially the mice – starting in 2015, Kim picked up the theme of a glorious cat toy museum run by me, the Queen of Catland, as the nexus. I think it is fair to say that in this third year, the Valentine intersects squarely and gloriously with the final chapter of Reincarnation Stories, his latest book – as some of you who have been following that progress on Facebook know. The phenomenal cat toy museum revealed at last!

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And what will future years bring? You will have to stay tuned each February. Meanwhile, sure stop by Deitch Studio sometime, but remember you could get sucked down the rabbit hole too.

Valentine’s Day Kitties

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This was a rare case of purchasing something I thought was old which turned out not to be – and it didn’t matter because I love them! I haven’t exactly figured out what to do with them – they are sort of Christmas ornaments for Valentine’s Day, but I like ’em either way. My only complaint was that in order to get the diversity I wanted it was necessary to order two lots and I have ended up with a lot of ornaments! I guess there will be some Valentine’s Day gifts to friends this year.

As some of you who either know me (in the corporeal sense), or have followed the Facebook postings of Deitch Studio and Pictorama faithfully, are already aware of – my birthday is in February, perilously close to Valentine’s Day. A one-two punch burden to boyfriends and eventually my husband. However, as a child it meant a long and cheerful line of Valentine’s Day themed birthday parties. (For the record, my sister Loren – born on the Ides of March – had St. Pat’s Day and Edward is a Christmas Eve baby so we all had a holiday theme.) For the record, I remain an utter sucker for inexpensive boxes of Russell Stover chocolates covered in red cellophane and the large chocolate hearts filled with strawberry marshmallow! Yum! The delicacies of childhood. Of course we all loved those boxes of sugar hearts with writing on them – more for the novelty – I can barely remember the taste.

Meanwhile, as an adult I have expanded my birthday into a month long celebration – dinner or lunch with a series of Aquarian friends to keep things cheerful during one of winter’s dullest months. It isn’t news to anyone living in the northeast that February is perhaps the very snowiest month and I was born in a blizzard. I at least had the good grace to send my mother to the hospital at about 3:00 in the afternoon, rather than the middle of the night. Over the years I have made numerous birthday plans for travel or even far flung restaurant reservations that have been canceled or postponed due to many feet of snow piling up. These days I assume snow is likely and plan accordingly.

As a postscript I offer Cookie and her fascination with these ornaments this morning as a slide show! Fish glue? Did the seller have a cat? She won’t leave them alone! I don’t know where, but these will have to go on a high shelf if I am not willing to turn them into cat toys.

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Cranky Valentine

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Pam’s Pictorama: For all of you who still have the sickly smarminess of Valentine’s Day stuck in your craw and eating your teeth, today’s post is a logical antidote to show you that you are not alone. There is evidently a long history of the vinegar Valentine.

I am not sure why, but decided I had to have this card. I generally don’t like to go negative on cards, I really hate pawing through contemporary cards that often just seem mean. This card charmed me nonetheless. The poem does entertain:

Your crabbed actions are enough to vex
The most ardent admirer of your sex,
And you care for nothing that we can see
Except your cat and your cup of tea.

How much more does a girl really need in life? The black Halloween style cat is fun and she is mannishly well drawn. It is a common card, and I have seen others on eBay subsequently. This one wasn’t sent and I do wonder who exactly one would send it to – and also that they were kept all these years by the recipients!

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the history of the so-called vinegar Valentine and its popularity in the late 19th century. On February 14, 1871 the Times wrote the following:

Of all the valentines published those designated ‘comic’ are the most popular. They are the hideous caricatures which are to be seen at this season in almost every stationer’s window, and are made to burlesque every trade and profession. They consist of a few black lines and a daub of color, to which are attached a few doggerel rhymes. They pervert the idea of the valentine; for, instead of being love missives, or tending to afford gratification, they are too often sent out of spite, to carry anger or annoyance to the receiver. Of these there have been sold nearly 12,000,000, and strange to say, they are mostly purchased by women. Why women find more use for them than men would be a difficult question to answer, but such is the case, and the circulars issued by the publishers will bear out the assertion.

I believe our card in question is of a higher quality than implied here, but it is also clearly a later model. The poison pen Valentine clearly continued to thrive into the early part of the 20th century. Oddly, it is the one area I don’t find so many negative cards today – birthdays for example, almost hard to find an acceptable one. But the needling Valentine seems to have seen its day, although I know some folks who would be glad to bring it back.

Be Mine! Or The Luckiest Girl in the World…

 

Pam’s Pictorama Valentine Special!

Last year’s Valentine post was a midweek special – Valentine Bonus Post – but this year Kim’s extraordinary entry is getting the marquee treatment it deserves! As many of you FB readers know, at my request years ago, Kim has made me a Valentine’s Day drawing every year we have been together. Since I was a fan before I was a girlfriend (and then wife) I can’t think of anything better – me featured in a Kim Deitch exclusive. And here is this year’s hot off the press.

For those of you who have been following the sketches for his new book you will realize that this drawing falls within the new story, fleshing it out a bit. Here’s a sketch from this part of the story:

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Kim has expanded our real estate holdings substantially, and in the Valentine I am in one of the many rooms in our building dedicated to dioramas scenes designed to feature my toy collection. (Oh joy! Oh bliss!) Here I am with a variety of life size Felix dolls, lined up for people to pose with – we all know it is one of my life’s ambitions to get my hands on one of those, let alone several as shown here. Cookie and Blackie are checking things out, and you can make out Waldo considering a room dedicated to his origin story as well.

By way of reminder, below is last year’s Valentine, which as you can see, ties in here as well. I am sporting my Queen of Catland outfit and Bonzo, my Donald Duck and Oskar are there – even then Waldo was working the Plot Robot and of course Cookie and Blackie are going wild – and we are looking back in time to when this photo was taken. Hmm, looks like Katherine Whaley, Rousseau and Mr. Varney in that Felix photo!

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