My Felix Heaven

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers and other Deitch Studio fellow travelers know that there is a wonderful tradition of Kim making me my very own special valentine each year. It is the most beloved manifestation of my uber Deitch fan status and today I share it with you all.

One recent year Kim drew the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as a cat band for me (that one can be found here) and in 2017 Kim’s work on Reincarnation Stories had our minds focused on our 86th Street apartment building morphing into a rollicking toy museum for me, which in turn inspired the valentine that year. (Reincarnation Stories, that extraordinary missive, can be purchased here should you somehow be without a copy and that valentine post is here.)

Recently, I was strolling through ebay, looking over the array of Felix items and wondering specifically about a certain kind of china Felix I do not collect. Much of it seems to be promotional item give aways made by British Pathé Films. There are small ashtrays, match holders, miniature jugs, and things best described as gewgaws. They must have been universally saved as they are very available, almost a hundred years later.

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Pictorama readers also know that given the confines of our studio apartment (which I like to pretend expands magically to house an infinite number of toys, but in reality not really) and our two felines who race through (and up and down) it daily, I am somewhat discrete in my collecting and try to keep fragile items to a minimum. Therefore, there is a world of early Felix I have not really touched. In addition, there are tea sets and other space hogging items I must refrain from acquiring or threaten to tip the gentle ecosystem of our abode. (I have opined on my vision of a Felix filled home in my post Living the Felix Life which can be found here.)

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However, on this day as I was looking I was fantasizing about a seaside British cottage, filled to the brim, positively sparkling, with all these Felix items. As if somehow this woman collected them all in the late 1920’s and kept them all to perfection. Kim asked about my thoughts for the valentine right at that moment and over my morning coffee I conveyed that vision (very ineptly, I have to admit), to Kim who then somehow managed to translate it PERFECTLY in this valentine. Yay, Kim!

He asked me to do some image research so he could better see what I was talking about. And the real find during that research was this image from Getty below. Wow, wow, wow! This is one of the best Felix photographs I have ever seen. I must find a way to get a real copy from Getty somehow so I can hang it on my wall. (Look at the Felix dolls stuffed in their belts!) The big winking Felix in the middle finds a place of honor on my valentine and I get to wear the cool Felix girl outfit!

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Getty Image photo

 

Although in one sense I art direct the valentine, our largely unspoken division of labor means I generally do not make a lot of specific requests about execution concerning things like color. This year I think I surprised Kim with the request that my dress be orange. I think it mystified him a bit, but he has given me my orange dress and I do love it. Perfect.

Of course, Kim’s version of Felix memorabilia is far more ribald and raucous than any reality. Felix is tooting on a nippy hookah while I serve him tea; dancing animated Felixes make up the tablecloth edge (wouldn’t I love to own that); and Cookie and Blackie (who, as I write is trying to push me off the computer chair) make an appearance. Blackie is behind the hookah and Cookie is behind a Felix urn where she eyes her tail suspiciously. (Cookie, even as a very adult kitty, still chases her tail constantly. I think she’s convinced me that a demon really does reside there that periodically needs subduing.)

Of course, out the window is a jolly scene which is the East River version of my fantasy. There’s a Mickey Mouse running off the page and there will be more about him to come in future posts. (Think birthday gift.) A crazy Felix clock, the traditional one crossed with an especially good Norakuro one we were admiring online. Tea Time! Tea Time!

And there you have it, the 2020 Deitch Studio Valentine and it is a beaut! Thank you so much Kim! I am the luckiest wife in the world.

Meanwhile, I think maybe next year we need to make our way into the Felix tea room those women were beckoning us into…

February Festive

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Getting into a pre-birthday and pre-Valentine’s Day mode here at Pictorama today. I will report that Kim is hard at work on the annual Valentine which will debut (hopefully) next week, and I am here to say it is going to be a stunner! Meanwhile, I have a few commercial kitty-esque offerings to start the ball rolling today.

It seems that cats have always figured somewhat largely in the visual language of Valentines and I therefore always keep half an eye on what ebay has to offer in vintage Valentines in the weeks leading up to February 14.

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from Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

 

The cat and mouse card caught my eye early – there was something truly feline in the way this puss studies the mouse (a mousy looking mouse despite her anthropomorphic portrayal) and she seems is dancing in a strange little holiday dress. My valentine is written across the dress, with a little cheat of the nt in order to make it fit neatly. A nod toward the crueler side of feline nature is a bit surprising in a Valentine sentiment, You look sweet enough to eat. This cat means it folks, a bit of blood lust in his eyes. Nonetheless, it was sent To Jean From Lorraine as per a very childish pencil script on the back. We’ll assume it was taken in the best spirit meant.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

This second card is identified as having been made in Germany which seems to be the place of origin for some of the best early Valentines and is more traditional. I liked something about it’s wide-eyed kitten enthusiasm and bought it for a few dollars on a whim. I think I would have been pleased to receive this one. And I do hope it made the recipient, Elsie Minke, feel kindly toward Raymond, as per the inscription on the back of the card. It is a sweet card and has a tiny bit of cardboard in the back to enable it to stand up on its own and evidence of use tell us that it was employed to do that at one time.

Piles of childish Valentines were exchanged each year in my elementary school days. My memory is that class lists were distributed in the early years and we routinely wrote one for everyone in our class thereby removing the possibility of someone not getting any I would guess. We bought big plastic packages of tiny cards with envelopes and dutifully filled them out, collecting mostly the same in kind in return with perhaps the addition of the occasional box of candy hearts.

High school brought a gauntlet of single roses to be ordered in advance and delivered day of – a fundraiser for some group or other. This afforded an annual (somewhat ambitious) opportunity for anonymous Romeos to put a bid in, or even bolder declarations by others. Purchase by boyfriends was requisite. (We also did something similar in the fall with large white mum corsages – with purple ribbons, school colors – to be worn to the Thanksgiving football game. It always seemed to me like a tradition that probably dated back to the 1950’s as the 1980’s were not a corsage-wearing decade for the most part.) Yes, the holidays could be competitive affairs for adolescent affection.

Meanwhile, my father was always the very best Valentine and he would show up from work with boxes of candy and something special for us. I still have a silver heart key chain he gave me one year, a matching one for my sister, and which I used for years. Dad was a splendid gift giver. Despite never being equipped to remember my precise age after I turned 18, he was always very good about holidays and gifts.

On the (many) occasions he was traveling during a holiday he either sent missives in his absence or showed up with them a day or so later, but they were always great. As a news cameraman his travel was by its very nature unplanned so I am a bit amazed when I think back on it. Dad kept a suitcase ready packed in his locker at work so that he’d at least have a few days change of clothing if sent abroad without notice. He frequently would end up having to buy clothes when a story lasted longer than a few days. This lead to my father, who liked clothes and buying them, having a much more robust wardrobe than my mother, who is somewhat ambivalent about them. (I take after him.) Somehow, probably with my mom’s organizing help, he managed to hit all the holidays and birthdays splendidly.

Pictorama readers know that Kim has found a way of topping this, producing an annual, very personal drawing for me. I will share this year’s great Valentine reveal next week. (A few from years past can be found here and here.) You still have a few days folks, get out there and stake a claim on your Valentine, there is no time like the present.

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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.

 

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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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

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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