TCJ ARCHIVE

Jerry Robinson: Been There, Done That

GARY GROTH: It occurred to me that that part of your career starting in the ‘60s was much more deeply political than your previous career.

JERRY ROBINSON: Completely so, yeah.

GROTH: You integrated your professional life with political activism and I assume that was a very deliberate choice.

ROBINSON: Oh, very much so.

GROTH: What happened at that time or in your life that prompted your decision to become more politically active or to move in that direction?

ROBINSON: Well, it was definitely something I had in mind to do for a long time. After I did Jett Scott, the newspaper strip, I felt I did everything in the comics that I had ambitions to do, and I’d always been kind of a political animal. I always followed politics avidly. I came from a political family — particularly my mother, who was active in local Democratic politics when I grew up. Believe it or not, I can even remember the F.D.R./Hoover election. It was ’32, so I was only 10 years old. It must have played an important part in our life to remember that; usually kids at that age don’t get involved in politics.

GROTH: Your family would have been for Roosevelt, I assume?

ROBINSON: Sure.

GROTH: And there was discussion in the house about politics?

ROBINSON: Yes. As I say, my mother worked for the local Democratic party as a committee woman. She was as activist as she could be with her limitations of five kids at the time. This was all during the Depression, and my father was trying to get back on his feet and so forth. I read everything, even in years doing comics. You know, New Republic, and Time and Harper’s, Nation and In Fact … and other … Oh, it was edited by Seldes. Was it George Seldes?

GROTH: Gilbert Seldes?

ROBINSON: No, it was George. His brother was Gilbert Seldes. Yes. I got to know Gilbert quite well later. He wrote The Seven Lively Arts. And I interviewed him for my book on comics: The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art. He was living in Truro, the 20 years we spent on Cape Cod. I was a good friend of Lee Falk, creator of The Phantom and Mandrake, and an intimate of Gilbert, so I got to know him quite well. But, anyway, I read his magazine In Fact, which was kind of a pamphlet of political activism. It printed things that the commercial press wouldn’t touch. He was a great investigative journalist — a muckraker. You should read his great autobiography, Witness to a Century.

GROTH: I have, but it’s funny: I didn’t realize he was Gilbert’s brother. When would that have been?

ROBINSON: That would have been in the ’40s and ’50s, I would say. In fact, I still have a bound volume of it somewhere. He was succeeded by another guy who operated out of Washington. He did a newsletter in the tradition of In Fact.

GROTH: I.F. Stone?

ROBINSON: I.F. Stone. Yeah. So I would read all of I.F. Stone — a maverick, a fascinating character.

GROTH: Well, now this didn’t — correct me if I’m wrong — but it didn’t quite manifest itself in your professional life until the early ’60s.

ROBINSON: That’s correct. Well, I just didn’t have the opportunity.

GROTH: It sort of sounds like you spent the first part of your career honing your craft and of course struggling to make a living and so forth. And then you regrouped at some point and decided to focus on another passion as well.

ROBINSON: In a way, yes. Of course, I was also raising a family at the time, a daughter and a son.

GROTH: Sort of laying the groundwork.

ROBINSON: Yeah. In a way, I did make a conscious break. I remember … I was now, what … in ’60 I was 38. I figured that if I was going to make a change and do what I had a great desire to do, which was political commentary and satire, it was time! I think I was inspired by the work of Jules Feiffer, who I subsequently met at a mutual friend’s house, Irma Selz, a fine caricaturist. I remember we walked away from the party together and chatted. I was taken by Jules and his enormous talents. He’s been a lifelong friend. He lives quite near me and we meet often. I didn’t know him personally outside that first visit, when I first wanted to make that change. He was then appearing in the Village Voice, where I followed his work every week.

GROTH: He really pioneered a radical, political use of comic strips in the ’50s.

ROBINSON: Yeah, he did. I wanted to do in my own way something he was doing, in a very unconventional form. So I remember saying to myself, “If I’m going to do it, I gotta do it now.” I guess I got a break at work where I could concentrate on it. The first feature I did was Still Life, which was a social satire using inanimate objects.

GROTH: You started that in 1961. Can you explain why you chose that particular format, using the still objects?

ROBINSON: There was a very specific reason for that. In looking over what the possibilities there were for a political cartoonist, I soon learned that almost all political cartoonists were employees of a particular paper, and then you possibly were syndicated, although only a few of the very top people at that time were widely syndicated. Herblock, Bill Crawford of NEA, and a few others. At that time almost all of the papers, I think without exception, only had an editorial page. There was no such thing as an Op-Ed page or an Opinion page as we’re familiar with today. That played a crucial role in why I selected the inanimate objects and also the panel form, because I could see that the only place to sell such a feature was on the editorial page. They wouldn’t use another conventional editorial cartoon on the same page where their own editorial cartoonist did their daily cartoon at the top of the page. The rest of the page was made up by the paper’s editorial cartoons, columns, usually a political column on the right, and maybe another columnist, or letters to the editor on the page certain days of the week and so forth. That comprised the editorial page and there was hardly any space left. So the only venue to break in was on the editorial page, but I knew they wouldn’t …

[Phone rings. Robinson answers.] Hello? [Takes a business call; returns to the interview.]

GROTH: Jerry, you’re always working.

ROBINSON: That was my son. He’s the editor of CWS in L.A. He’s faxing me some things about the syndicate. It’s always something.

GROTH: You were talking about the fact that newspapers didn’t have an Op-Ed page and that you tailored …

ROBINSON: Got it. So I saw that the only way that I could break in as an editorial cartoonist was on the editorial pages and I couldn’t do a conventional editorial cartoon — usually horizontal format. The only political cartoons that the paper would subscribe to would be to replace their own editorial cartoonist on the one or two days that he wasn’t working, or not even print one on a day or two. So I thought the only way to break in was to have a different look and feel entirely, and I figured they might pick up a panel, which they could use at the bottom of the page under one of the columns. I could see that they wouldn’t have space for a conventional, horizontal editorial-cartoon strip. Then I didn’t want it to look like a conventional editorial cartoon. I figured that just putting it in a box instead of horizontal wasn’t the answer either.

You never know where ideas come from. In my desire to make it look different, I decided not to use people but to use objects that could comment on the news. On the one hand, it gave me a lot of freedom. I could have things talk about anything or anybody. For example, two of the characters were the wastebasket on the street corner and the fire hydrant, and they would talk to one another. The wastebasket would know all of the latest news because he read it in the papers that were thrown into the basket. Or I’d have the President talk through his Oval Office and presidential seal and so forth. So that was the format. The next step was what in the hell to call it, and Inanimate Objects was not a good title. God, I don’t know all of the permutations I thought of. One day my wife came in my studio and I told her what the concept was. She’s the one who came up with the perfect solution to call it Still Life. Inanimate objects but yet there was life, and a very short, catchy title.

GROTH: Yeah, it’s perfect.

ROBINSON: Yeah. It was. I could never have thought of something that good.

It’s funny how things happen with timing. Timing is so important … and luck. I sat down and rattled 30 ideas right off the bat, and I said, “Jeez, this will be a snap.” I drew them up — of course, in the first blush of creativity, you can do that, but then, when you get to the hard task of doing that everyday for months or years, it’s a different story. Anyway, I did a whole batch and I was putting them in shape to take to a syndicate when a big newspaper strike was called. I guess it must have been in ’60 or ’61 — probably early in ’61.

GROTH: Yeah.

ROBINSON: In New York all of the newspapers went on strike — the Times, the Daily News, the Journal, the Herald Tribune, whatever. During the strike, which was very extended — I think it lasted a month or two — so-called interim papers sprung up. They were little eight- or 16-page newspapers that were published to make up for the lack of major newspapers. They were staffed by the striking reporters and editors of the major papers. There must have been four or five of them. They were very viable. And also in New York the major stations — NBC, CBS — had expanded news coverage. Whereas the typical news program at that time was only a half hour, they expanded it to an hour and so it had a lot more local news, about theater, about sports.

So the idea hit me that to test the idea of Still Life — nobody had seen it yet, outside I guess my family — I would take it down to one of the interim papers and see if I could get it published there, and get a reaction to see how it floated. I picked out what I thought was the best of the interim papers. It was called the Metropolitan Daily. I think it was edited by an editor from the New York Times and some editor from the New York News and so forth — top people. Somehow I got right in to see the editor. These papers, as you imagine were very informal, and set up in storefronts and whatnot.

He took a look at it and said, “OK, we can start tomorrow.”

I had showed them the panels that I had worked up to show for national syndication. So I had to demure and say, “Well, no. These are just samples, and I’m saving those to show the syndicate, but I’d be glad to do new things for you every day.”

So he said, “OK, fine. Come in tomorrow morning and I’ll publish the new ones.” He took them sight unseen. He saw that it was professional and they needed decent material I guess. I was just elated — here the first editor I showed it to took it, even if it was an interim paper. I don’t think he would have taken it if he thought it wasn’t a viable concept.

I was so high when I walked out of the office. I remember it was way downtown. I figured, on my way back uptown to my studio, I would stop off at NBC. NBC had one of the expanded-hour news programs everyday. So I went to see them, and luckily I got in to see the producer and I showed them the same material that I showed the daily paper that morning. I figured if it sold at the paper maybe it could sell TV.

So he looked at it and he said, “Well, you know we have a big show coming up Friday night. Another big hour show that’s going to be broadcast nationally on network, not just the local NBC program. I could use a spot like that.” He said, “Can you do a half a dozen of them?” I think this was Wednesday or Thursday, something like that. I know I had a day to do it.

So I said, “Sure,” Gulping a few times. Now I was confronted with a real deadline, a real pressure, not only for the TV but also for the paper. I figured some of them could be the same thing: the network show, I could do more national themes. For the New York one, they wanted to focus on New York affairs. So anyway, I went back elated but scared about getting this done. But after struggling perfecting this thing all this time, all of a sudden, one day I sold it to the newspaper and the TV! So I did come through with apparently passable stuff they used.

Then when I brought in the TV stuff, they said, “Well, we’d like to slate this a couple of times a week, for local things.” Thereafter I think I did twice or three times a week, several cartoons for TV 
and then one every day for the interim paper for the duration of 
the strike.

GROTH: Were you getting paid for the Metropolitan Daily strip?

ROBINSON: Yeah. Minimal; I forget what it was, because I didn’t even ask, you know? I got a check, yeah. It was $10 or $20 a cartoon or something. It was nothing.

GROTH: But it was important to get your foot in the door.

ROBINSON: Oh, that was the main thing. I would have done it for nothing, because I didn’t even ask for payment. I wanted the exposure and to see whether the idea worked. Because nothing like that had been done, just inanimate objects commenting. I might say also that I deliberately set out to develop a style just for that concept. Both in the drawing and the inking and even the lettering and the border. It was all to set a style for Still Life. I used upper and lower case in the font. A complete package and with the off-beat commentary [and] satire coupled with, I hoped, a unique look.

GROTH: When the strike was over, it moved from the Metropolitan Daily to syndication?

ROBINSON: Correct.

GROTH: Can you tell me how that happened?

ROBINSON: Yeah. Well, another interesting, lucky break. One of the syndicates I intended to take it to was the Chicago Tribune/New York News syndicate (now Tribune Media). It was one of the biggest next to King. I probably would have taken it to all of them eventually but again I was lucky I sold it to the Chicago Tribune/New York News on my first visit. Warren King was a very good friend of mine, who was then the editorial cartoonist for the Daily News. Originally he was the ghost for Rube Goldberg. He did Rube Goldberg’s editorial cartoons for some years. Rube suggested ideas and so forth, but Warren was the one who did them. Warren was a very jovial, very nice guy and I knew him for a long time. We both belonged to the National Cartoonists Society and the Society of Illustrators. I figured nobody would be there at the paper, since the strike was lasting so long, but Warren was there. So I told him I had something to show the news syndicate and the editor of the paper; is there any chance of getting in to see him? Does he come in during the strike?

He said, “Oh, yes. He’s there. Sure, I can set up an appointment for you,” which he did. So I went in and it was Richard Clarke, who was then fortuitously the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily News, as well as the president of the syndicate. He held both hats. And a very mild-mannered, self-effacing but very astute editor. I guess he was astute. He took me, right?

GROTH: [Laughs.] Right.

ROBINSON: Anyway, he had that reputation of being very low-key but very smart. So I walked into his office and he had me sit down at his desk. He took out a file and he laid it down on his desk. He was called out for something for a couple of minutes.

GROTH: This is not the Richard Clarke who recently published Against All Enemies …?

ROBINSON: No. No. Not that one. It was an earlier Clarke.

GROTH: I figured it can’t be that small of a world.

ROBINSON: Yeah, that’s true. The recent Richard Clarke is much younger. This is back in the ‘60s, you know? And he was no kid when I dealt with him.

So he had me sitting in a chair really flush right up against his desk. It was very intimate. When he left the room, he had taken out a file and laid it across his desk, and sitting there — I had nothing to do — I couldn’t help but look at the file. And there I saw at the top “Jerry Robinson.”

GROTH: He had a file on you.

ROBINSON: Yes. I didn’t get to touch it, but I was very curious, of course. He had made a file in preparation of the meeting or something. I didn’t know what it was. Well, he came back and sat down and he opened the file and began to flip through. He had clipped all of my cartoons that appeared in the Metropolitan Daily and also copies from the television.

GROTH: That’s a good portent.

ROBINSON: Yes. Very good. I was still kind of curious. It didn’t start to sink in yet.

I started to show him my things and he said, “Oh, yes. I have them here.” And he looked through them. I probably brought the same things he had clipped. And he said, “Well, I thought you were syndicated already.”

And I said, “No, That’s the first time they appeared.”

So he says, “Well, I like them very much and I’d like to have them appear in the News.” He called in a secretary and he dictated a letter at that one sitting, one page, which was the contract for both the Daily News and the syndicate. It was just a simple letter and we signed it, we shook hands, and that was my contract for the next 17 years or so with the Daily News. It was flabbergasting when things like that happened. So I was with the News until I formed my own syndicate and took over the syndication.

GROTH: Well, now it occurs to me that you were taking a bit of an economic risk by starting the strip and not getting paid much for it. Is that true?

ROBINSON: Oh, yeah. That didn’t occur to me. I was so amused with selling it and the excitement of doing something I wanted to do. There’s an excitement and satisfaction about political cartooning in newspapers that really doesn’t come from hardly anything else, including the comic books, because here you have a space every day to say something that you want to say, your opinion. Of course, you have to have opinions, and you have to know what you want to say. That comes from drawing on your background, your life and history, and your reading. I mean, an editorial cartoonist is an avid reader — you have to be — and enjoys talking about social and political events and gets riled up about things.

GROTH: I assume that was much more fulfilling than drawing comic books?

ROBINSON: Oh, it was a big change. I guess I turned to that because I really was not getting the enjoyment that I once got out of the comics. I’d done a newspaper strip and I enjoyed that, but that I found was a terrible, confining ordeal. I’d done a lot of books by that time, so this was really the one field that I truly had ambitions for but never really tried. I never had the opportunity or the time to try for it.

GROTH: You took something of a risk, but you had a family, a growing family at the time, didn’t you?

ROBINSON: Oh, yeah.

GROTH: Did you have a nest egg built up so that you could support yourself while you were …

ROBINSON: Not too much. No. There was never that much made in comics in those days.

GROTH: No. I couldn’t imagine.

ROBINSON: You could make a good living, and you know, have an apartment, and spend summers at the Cape, but it wasn’t like a newspaper strip, where you had hundreds of papers and made tens of thousands a week by no means.

GROTH: Were you prepared to fail if that were the case?

ROBINSON: Well, if I failed I would go back to what I was doing. I guess if I had had to I could always do more book illustration or more comics if I’d wanted to, advertising. I wouldn’t relish it. I didn’t want to go back to that because I’d felt that I’d done it, and this was so exciting to me. I was determined to succeed with it.

Still Life with Nixon

GROTH: The Still Life strips that I’ve seen were politically generic in nature. They were about politics in America …

ROBINSON: Right.

GROTH: … as opposed to specific politicians and policies. Was that the general gist or did you just send me by chance an unrepresentative sampling …

ROBINSON: No. I guess I sent you the most … the things that were most green, rather than specific issues that might be outdated. No, I went into day-to-day politics and issues and personalities. Everybody from [Anwar] Sadat and [Menachen] Begin to Kissinger and [Richard] Nixon and the whole cast of domestic and foreign rogues!

GROTH: I assume your politics were somewhat to the left?

ROBINSON: I guess you could say that, although as an editorial cartoonist you take pride at taking shots at anybody who deserved it.

GROTH: Sure.

ROBINSON: I guess maybe we find at the time Nixon deserved it more than others?

He was a fan of mine in the beginning, believe it or not. I have a drawing I did of him on the wall, signed by him. What happened, if you want a diversion in this story …

GROTH: Yes.

ROBINSON: I met him once in Washington at one of our editorial-cartoonist affairs. We had lunch with him and I did a sketch of him, which he signed. He was just getting a face in national politics. I think he was still a senator, before his first run for Vice President with Eisenhower. Then I remember one meeting we had in Washington where several of us cartoonists knew about the Watergate story before it really broke. I did some cartoons about Watergate not knowing his complete involvement yet. It was a convention — and probably still is — of editorial cartoonists, if a notable wrote for your original that you did about him, which was quite often, most would send it to him right away. I tried with a few others, when I was in the cartoonist society, to say, “Yes, we would send them the drawing but for a donation to the Milt Gross fund, the charitable fund of our society” — just not to diminish the value of the original. I remember in a couple of cases, [if] I didn’t get a donation, I didn’t send him the cartoon. We were only asking for $50, $100 for the original. I remember one request was by Spevak of Meet the Press. Remember him?

GROTH: Uh huh.

ROBINSON: He wrote for one. I asked for a donation and I didn’t hear back for one, so I didn’t send it to him.

GROTH: Can you tell me what the Milt Gross fund is?

ROBINSON: Yeah. That’s the fund of the National Cartoonist Society. It was named after the cartoonist Milt Gross. It’s a fund to helps members and artists in financial need. We would give them money in the form of a loan, when they were ever able to pay it back; we didn’t insist on it, but if they did it, that would be fine, so that we’d have the funds to pay for the next one in need.

GROTH: Why was it named after Gross?

ROBINSON: He was an early luminary of the society, and it was named I think before I joined. It must have been very early on, so I don’t remember specifically why.

GROTH: Does it still exist?

ROBINSON: Well, I think the name was now changed. But it existed for 50 years. Milt Gross did the book Nize Baby, Dave’s Delicatessen, and Count Screwloose, a lot of very funny early strips.

GROTH: What was your political attitude toward some of the social and political issues of the ‘60s? That was an incredibly volatile period in American history.

ROBINSON: Yeah.

GROTH: Vietnam, the ’64 Civil Rights legislation…

ROBINSON: Yeah.

GROTH: … and the radicalization of blacks and so forth. What was your — I don’t know if you can generalize — but what was your position or your attitudes throughout the ’60s?

ROBINSON: Well, I guess I was very liberal: aggressive for human rights, civil rights, for which I worked for in many ways later on here and abroad. So I guess you could say I was very liberal.

GROTH: How did you feel about Kennedy?

ROBINSON: I liked Kennedy, although I had reservations about his connections, particularly with his father.

GROTH: Joe.

ROBINSON: And his influence. But he seemed to … except that he was snowed with the Bay of Pigs. He inherited that thing from Eisenhower, really.

GROTH: Right.

ROBINSON: But he went ahead with it. It was so early in his term he probably didn’t feel his oats.

GROTH: Which he felt during the missile crisis, I think.

ROBINSON: Yes. Well, by that time he had self-confidence, and it was lucky he was there, because he was one of the few who could say no to the Generals. He didn’t have the awe that Johnson had for them, because he grew up seeing them at their dinner table. He’d seen them probably bawled out by his father, so they weren’t big idols to him.

GROTH: Maybe the only good influence of his father.

ROBINSON: Exactly. Yeah.

GROTH: And of course LBJ [Lyndon Johnson] was an incredibly conflicted president.

ROBINSON: Exactly. I think he took the position that, “Well, if that’s what the Generals said, I’m taking their best advice.” You know, he hid behind them until the end. He began to get smart enough a little too late, unfortunately. Some of his taped conversations reveal that he was very uneasy about Vietnam as well.

Getting back to Nixon for a moment, telling you about the meeting with him. I was then appearing daily in the Washington Star, a very good paper. It was the only competition of the Washington Post for years and years — unfortunately, it subsequently folded, but it was still very strong then and read by everybody in the White House. My cartoon appeared on the editorial page every day there, so Nixon would see it. I got a lot of requests from the bigwigs on down from Nixon. The first week that he was in the White House I got two requests for originals from him.

For example, I show the White House with two balloons coming from it — this is night with the moon out — and one of them is saying, “I sleep a little better at night knowing you’re President,” and the other balloon says, “So do I, Pat.” [Groth laughs.] Nixon wrote me for the original. It was the convention that if the President writes you for an original and you deliver it to the White House, you get an audience. So I thought, “Well, this would be fun. It’s always exciting to visit the White House.” I knew I would be going to Washington shortly. I was going there fairly often in those days, appearing in the Washington Star and other business. So I brought along the cartoon and they gave me an appointment. I met with Nixon in the Oval Office; this was his first days or weeks in office. I also brought a drawing I did of him, which I thought he would just sign. He asked to keep the drawing and he’d mail it to me. I had no idea why. I thought maybe he’d make a copy of it or something. I got this package a week or so later of the drawing, very nicely matted. And inscribed by the White House engraver: “To Jerry Robinson, whose Still Life frequently brings smiles into my life. With Best Wishes.” Signed, Richard Nixon. So he went to the trouble. I didn’t bring many more smiles into his life because that was about the last time I heard from him because once I started criticizing him as President I never heard from him again — as opposed to Johnson. I lambasted Johnson from pillar to post about Vietnam and he would write for the originals!

GROTH: Well, Nixon of course was notoriously vindictive.

ROBINSON: Right. He couldn’t stand criticism.

GROTH: I’m surprised that Johnson was so sanguine about it.

ROBINSON: Well, he was. Johnson was a very complicated man in many respects. He did marvelous things in many ways with voting rights and civil rights legislation and so forth.

GROTH: Yes. Right.

ROBINSON: Carrying out Roosevelt’s New Deal. Vietnam was his undoing. Well, he inherited it and he had such awful people in charge of the army, like Westmorland and MacNamara. We needed a Truman at that point, to say no as he did to MacArthur and fire him.

GROTH: You know when he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act he said something like, “I just lost the South.”

ROBINSON: Yeah. Exactly. And he was right.

GROTH: It took a certain amount of courage to do that.

ROBINSON: But he got it passed, and I don’t think anybody else could have done it at the time. The South has been Republican ever since.

GROTH: Which tells us something. Did you ever meet Goldwater?

ROBINSON: Yes, I did.

GROTH: Really?

ROBINSON: I had Goldwater as my guest. Funny you would pick him out. When I was president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, I did serve president one time or other for NCS and AAEC. We met in Phoenix, Arizona, so a logical guest in Arizona was Goldwater. Wherever we’d meet we’d usually get some high rank politico, whether it was the President or a governor or senator, so I immediately went after Goldwater, because I was intrigued by him. His wife was ill at the time. It was very speculative whether he would be able to come, but he did show up with his wife. A very funny thing happened at that dinner. It was my year as president so I wanted to make it as successful a convention as possible. So I had Goldwater. I also invited Jane Fonda who was then married to … Who was that political activist?

GROTH: Tom Hayden.

ROBINSON: Tom Hayden. Fonda had an engagement, so she couldn’t come — she later came to an exhibition of mine in Cairo, Egypt, but that’s another story. But Hayden came. I persuaded Bill Mauldin to come. The other one I wanted was Paul Conrad, a great cartoonist living near Los Angeles. Paul very rarely if ever went to these things — hated to travel. The way I got Paul was that he had just opened an exhibition of his sculpture in Los Angeles. So I said, “Look, if we can get your sculpture there I’ll make a special display at the convention. It would be wonderful. All of the members would be delighted to meet you.” I think he won the Pulitzer two or three times; one of my personal favorites. So, on that basis, I persuaded him to come — and had his sculpture shipped to Phoenix. They were all of political figures. They were in the tradition of Daumier. One of them was of Goldwater. The Goldwater one I had at the head table with a cloth over it. I thought I’d reveal it when I introduced him to speak, and then give it a special spotlight. The piece showed Goldwater as a pilot, which he was, with his goggles on kind of peering off into the distance. His wife was sitting next to him on the other side of me. I introduced him and he spoke very engagingly. He had a unique blend of views. He was very right wing and liberal in some things. He was engaging with warm personal humor. We had a chat before I introduced him. So in the introduction, I take off the cloth and revealed Conrad’s statue of him, and he gives his speech and at the end I realized that he had the impression that we were giving him the statue. Well, Conrad’s statues were going for $5000, a lot at the time in the ‘70s. Oh, I was sweating blood.

I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do. Conrad is at the table right in front of us on the dais and I could see he’s turning pale. So I excused myself from the head table at the first opportunity and go down and I tell Paul, “He thinks were giving it to him. What should we do?”

And he says, “I’m not giving that sonuvabitch a $5000 statue.”

I’m on the spot. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Finally I got up the gumption to say, “Senator, this was entirely my fault. I think you assumed that that was a gift. We just wanted to show you Conrad’s statue that we thought was so wonderful.” Somehow I wiggled out of it. And I said, “Well, you know, the sculpture goes for $5000. They’re being sold in his gallery for that amount.”

So he turns to me and whispers, “OK. I’ll take it,” and his wife hears that and leans over and says, “You’re not going to buy that goddamned statue. And that’s that.”

A little while goes by and Goldwater leans over to me again and whispers, “Just send it to my Washington office.” Which we did, and he bought it. So everybody wound up happy. Conrad sold his piece and Goldwater got his statue.

GROTH: That’s funny. I wonder if Goldwater or Washington bought it.

ROBINSON: Goldwater or Washington?

GROTH: Goldwater or the government.

ROBINSON: I’m sure Goldwater bought it himself. Where it is now I don’t know. If his had anything to do with his estate it probably was thrown out. It must be somewhere.

GROTH: It’s probably in Arizona.

ROBINSON: By the way, the sad thing that happened there was that Mauldin, also a pilot, flew from Santa Fe for the affair, and he gets off the plane, trips and broke a toe. Or he twisted an ankle. And he couldn’t stay. He had to get back on the plane and fly back. He never was able to make an appearance at the convention unfortunately. All the cartoonists were disappointed.

(Continued)

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