Everett Raymond Kinstler Reminisces About His Life In The Worlds Of Illustration and Comics – And The Duke

Everett Raymond Kinstler, Self Portrait

I spent one afternoon with Everett Raymond Kinstler, Ray to his friends, in May of 2018. I was there ostensibly to interview him about his time illustrating crime comics. A spry nonagenarian, he greeted me at the door of his apartment in the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park like an old friend. He invited me in to sit and chat, and stated that we will go to his studio next door for the interview. An hour later, I realized that this was not going to be a typical Q&A, and this was the interview. I asked if I could start taping, and just let it rip. Ironically, it turned out crime comics was the one genre he worked in that his didn’t like. - Steven Brower

Steven Brower: How did you get started?

Everett Raymond Kinstler: With the pulps. They were on 42nd Street and Third Ave. And they must have had a hundred pulp magazines. The owner was Harry Steeger. And there was one sort of rogue pulp magazine, being published and I remember the office was at Rockefeller Center. And the woman’s name was Dorothy McIlwraith. If you were to say to me how do you possibly remember 75 years ago, I am telling you I see her as clearly as I see you. And she had one publication, which was called Short Stories. That’s all they published and it was a monthly. So that meant with Short Stories, it was a great title, because that meant it wasn’t just detective, or mystery, or love, or rail roads, it was short stories. And I remember she was kind of a dowdy, middle-aged very sweet lady, not at all the publishing type. And don’t know if Short Stories was maybe a play-toy. But she was at Rockefeller Center and I had to look for work. In those days I think they paid pen and inkers probably $8.50 to $10 a piece. Of course if you get 2 or 3 a day that’s $30 dollars a day, that was $150 a week. My god! You see there were others who would get as much as $15 or $20. But I could work quickly. It was one of the advantages I had financially, that I could work quickly. If I could get the work I figured out that 1 and 15 was not as good as 2 and 10, even though I dropped out of high school. My mind was sharp. [Laughter.]

Anyhow, I went up to her, and I remember very clearly, I looked at the covers. There were 2 covers there, I remember. One was done by a man named Rico Tomaso, who occasionally did a cover for True MagazineTrue was kind of the intermediary stepping stone to the Saturday Evening Post. And then they’d get people like Tom Lovell, who would do a job or two for True, wonderful stuff.  Oh my god, He was the last of the golden illustrators. And I knew him quite well, as it turned out. But the other one was done by a man by the name of Benton Clark. And there were two Clark brothers, that came out of I think Iowa or Pennsylvania. They both had studied with Harvey Dunn. And Matt, who I think without question was the more disciplined and finer of the two, was a wonderful dry-brush illustrator. Nobody worked like this guy. And Alex Raymond used to swipe for Flash Gordon, these great Matt Clark figures, which basically came out of Matt Clark’s imagination. And his brother Benton, and I think they both studied with Dunn, not Cornwell, and Benton Clark was a real painter, but totally undisciplined, and really sloppy at times. Heavy paint. But boy, when they were good, they were earthy, and when they were bad they were just plain sloppy. The point is, he had covers for Short Stories, as did Rico Tomaso, and it would be as if I was a young actor going to Hollywood, and somebody saying, oh, that is Clarke Gable. That was my Hollywood. And I remember this and it did not make me feel good, this McAlaney lady said, “Well, you get the same price they do, $50 a piece.” What had happened is that these old illustrators couldn’t get work anymore. Years later I joined a very prestigious arts and letters club, called the Century and I was on the board, at a very young age, because they had the idea then that if you were on the club, don’t wait until the guy is 80. “Put him on, it doesn’t cost nothing.” Very good thinking, so they threw a young man out into the membership. And I was sitting at a board meeting the first night and there was a man sitting next to me, I turned to him and said “Hi, I’m Ray Kinstler”, and he said, “I’m Matt Clark.”  I looked at him, I said, “What do you do, Matt?” and he was the medical editor for Newsweek. Very good looking guy, I think he is still alive, he is older than I, so really ancient. I said, funny, you know I started out as an illustrator, and one of my great heroes was an illustrator named Matt Clark, spelled just as you, M-A-T-T Clark. “That was my father,” he said. I got to know him a little bit, I was up in his apartment. He had a huge Harvey Dunn, and a couple of his dad’s paintings, wonderful, wonderful! They were real painters, real painters, and he told me about his uncle Benton, the older brother, and he said he had a very serious alcohol problem. Because I remember saying how much I liked them. I said, we could talk just this way, and I said, I always felt his work got so sloppy with the Saturday Evening Post and the structure of the horses was not good and he said he had a terrible drinking problem. Terrible drinking problem. And I think he died a very far gone alcoholic. My point was, these men couldn’t get work. Even Cornwell. The saddest to me was to watch Dean Cornwell, and I was 23, 24, and Dean could not get work. And they made him change his style from painterly into a very hard edge, if you remember them at all, very linear, and he lost that whole painterly … I thought he had lost it, he hadn’t, they just said if you wanted to do the Eastern Airlines family you’ve got to do … so they made him more into a renderer and the great Cornwell paintings … but he was a very disappointed and understandably almost bitter man that things had passed by. At one point I believe he was the highest paid illustrator working in the ’30s.

Above Rockwell?

Yes, I think so. That might be arguable but he had to be, because of the amount of work he was doing, he was unbelievably prolific. And he was doing the Los Angeles murals, and I think it was something like $100,000, which is like millions today, and he had to support himself, with the illustrations, because he was taking so long with the murals, that he was paying his own salary to finish them. You know the Hotel Warwick? I don’t know if it still called the Warwick, on 54th and 6th Ave. You go in and there’s a restaurant, I haven’t been there in 30 years, but it’s still there, it used to be called the Raleigh room. Sir Walter Raleigh depicted by Cornwell. CornwelI, and I don’t know if it exists anymore, designed the floor, theatrical, and I think they preserved the murals. But he was for me in a class by himself.

My point of all of this was that, how sad I felt when she said to me, “Well, they do the same thing you do, 50 bucks a cover” Oh boy, this was like seeing all your heroes die, but they couldn’t get work. Cornwell.

I think it’s even worse today.

For that type I not sure there’s even a market.

Last night someone asked me what I thought about the White House portraits of the Obamas. And I said look, I’m subjective, I can’t help it but, I tried to be objective. And then I am also very, very careful who I say things to. One of the questions I do get is what was it like to paint Donald Trump, which I did, and I’m very careful, for obvious reasons. My considered judgment, no not judgment, my considered opinion was that, the Obamas being the first black couple, the president and first lady, I would have advised Barack Obama if you could find a black artist, I think it was appropriate and time they represent you. What was my opinion of the portraits? Very simple: The one of her was childish. It was a bad fashion magazine, it looked like it was done by some kid from Atlanta who was majoring in art in high school. The one of him bothered me in a different way. The likeness of him sitting on the chair was a rendering, it was not a painting. It’s OK, that’s not what I have problem with. You see it this way, I see it that way. That’s OK, that’s not what I have problem with. But what I was getting at, was that he could have been sitting on a potty. And the idea of all those leaves around, tell me why they weren’t flying bullets, or condoms? What it did was, and this was my point, or is my point, that when the artist becomes more important than the subject, it suddenly becomes a disservice, and it becomes an ego trip. If my feeling about this artist is that’s his gimmick, the background and border dominating the figure.

One of the artists I most admired in life was Flagg. His early charcoal heads of people were as good as Sargent’s drawings, they were so sensitive, and so perceptive and controlled. And as he got older, his signature became more important, almost more important than the heads, the heads became mannerisms. He had gotten a flair, a caricature method of putting it down so quickly and he had the caricaturist’s ability, but Flagg became more important than the person he was painting.

I remember years ago, and it’s a story not many people know and you might find interesting, and I think you sense me a little bit, and so you will know this is meant in a very honest way and a respectful way. The Cowboy Hall of Fame has got a very interesting collection of portraits, of Western performers, and among them was a portrait of Walter Brennan, and you could smell the whiskey. He was a character actor. And I had heard that John Wayne had been painted, we are in the ’70s now, and I heard that John Wayne had been painted for the Cowboy Hall by Norman Rockwell, and no one ever saw it

I was starting to get involved out West, where a lot of the illustrators like Tom Lovell, John Clymer, Donald Teague, who was brilliant, first guy to really use for watercolor as an illustrative media in my opinion, I think the first, John Gannon was in a class by himself but Teague was great, he was great friend of Cornwell's, he studied with DuMond in 1920. Clark Hulings, I got to know all these people very well. And I had a friend who used to do covers for Avon, he was barely making a living, he had this small apartment on 34th Street. And then he started to do better, he bought a house somewhere in Connecticut, near Westport. A lot of them were from that area, that’s where the Famous Artists School was, with Al Dorne. And I was always here. And Clark told me, I remember, it was once in the evening. And he said, “Ray, we are out here and we are making a lot of money. And I can’t keep up with the demand.” I said, “Well, here we’re all struggling to meet the rent,” and they were pulling almost 6 figures for a picture. I couldn’t believe it. I mean 6 figures! But it wasn’t unusual to see 40 or 50 thousand dollars a picture.

What he was calling about was, I’m editorializing, but this is the truth, we’re out here, we’re making money but no one is really recognizing us, they think we are just cowboy artists. Lovell had moved out there, Lovell was a great illustrator, great painter, and they were all out there, but I got the feeling clearly from Clark, who basically said it, we are not getting any appreciation for the artists out from the east, who became cowboy artists, so we’re trying to get juries, and bring in painters from the east who will give us more prestige. Well. I had just been elected a member of the Academy, and the NA in those days used to mean a lot more.  And so they were trying to bring out artists, there was a wonderful illustrator, William A. Smith, who was wonderful, he was a wunderkind, at the age of 30 he was in the Saturday Evening Post, he lived in Pennsylvania, near Bucks County, and Bill was really a free spirit as a painter, really a painter, worked in gouache a lot. But he also painted a lot of personal pictures, and he did a lot of social themes. Way ahead of his time in a way. And became one of the members of the Academy, he was one of the few illustrators, along with Harvey Dunn and Cornwell.

So anyway, we started going out there to judge their shows. So that introduced me to a lot to the west. And I started participating. I don’t know about you but the toughest thing for me was to make a sample. I couldn’t do, I couldn’t do. If he said to me I want you to paint a picture of a guy who is 6 foot four and with a baseball bat, I was ready. But tell me to do a sample. I didn’t know where to begin. And lost all confidence. So I was trying to paint Western scenes and it wasn’t in my soul. I had made it very well as a pulp artist with the Westerns, they were 15 bucks a piece, I did two a day, you know, I was loose. It was like fisherman’s luck, but I was illustrating, I enjoyed it, I love it, and some of the paintings hold up pretty well. I think so. But at any rate I was not comfortable, doing these Western scenes trying to compete with … But it introduced me to the west, and I was starting to get even a couple of portraits of people there. And there was one man, again I think it is an interesting story, named Bob Norris. How tall are you?


He was maybe an inch taller. I said to someone once, “I understand Bob Norris owns a property line near Colorado.” “Hell, he don’t own property, he owns mines!” He was in the cattle business with John Wayne. And Marlboro cigarettes was looking for a guy to be their first Marlboro cigarette man, and they went out to see Bob Norris, who was a big cattle rancher. And they thought he might give them entrée to looking at the ranch hands and they saw this guy, 6’3”, looked like Randolph Scott, but thinner. So he became the first Marlboro Man, which to this day, at the age of 90 still, he has a toupee and is bent over a little bit, but I got to paint him, and we got to be very good friends, he was on the board of the Cowboy Hall of Fame. And it was about 1976 or ’77, and I got a plum of a commission to a paint the White House portrait of Gerald Ford. And Bob and I got to be friends, and I painted him with what he wore, a white Stetson, quite a craggy face, he was only about 40, and he had the lariat, and I discovered with the lariat, you may know this, they are like wire. I did not think they were soft rope. And he came here with the lariat, I painted him with a leather jacket, vest, hat, cast a shadow under here. And I was out somewhere out west, I was judging an art show, and Bob was out there, he said Ray, “Would you be interested in painting John Wayne?” I said you’ve got to be kidding. Well, you can imagine, I am sure, there were a lot of artists out there, I think a couple of them even liked my work a lot, but suddenly, you were in their territory, they didn’t like it at all, “Ray’s a good artist, but he’s a New York artist.” There was a lot of jealousy. Who was the biggest one to get, god, John Wayne. His son told me, Michael told me one day, my father gets a painting a week from someone, some artist. “Mr. Wayne, I’ve done this painting, it’s a gift to you, your friend Steve Brower.” What they wanted him to do was to give him it, and say “John Wayne owns my painting.” So what he would do, his son told me this, “My dad would always look at it, he would write a little personal note, ‘Dear Steve, thanks so much for showing this fine example of your artwork,’” and send it back. [Laughter.]

So Bob said to me, “Would you be interested?” Well, I will tell you this, and I’m competitive but I’m not egotistic, I felt this was for me. On a steady diet, I remember Barry Nelson, the golfer, who was from Texas, said to me one day, he said, “You’re good!” I said, “Thank you, Barry.” He said, “But how come you didn’t do more Westerns?” And I said without even thinking, I said, “I don’t know Barry, I didn’t love it.” And the key is you will do something well you love doing. True?


But I could really taste the job, because I was a movie kid. And when I was doing all the pulps I would use John Wayne and Gary Cooper as models. So I had the experience to paint John Wayne. And the nice thing that comes to my mind is, why in the world am I telling you this story? Oh yes, it was about Norman Rockwell. So, here was a story told to me and I think you will find it interesting, and it is said most respectfully toward Mr. Rockwell. Bob said to me, an artist, he said Ray, I am paying for this portrait. He said Duke was painted by, he was in the cattle business with John Wayne, and he said, “Norman Rockwell painted Duke, and Duke will never say this, he’s got too much respect for Rockwell, but he didn’t like it, and the boys don’t like it.” I said, “Where’s the portrait?” “Well it’s out there, and Rockwell painted it,” I said. “How’s Mr. Wayne feel about somebody else?” He said, “Well, he was never happy with the portrait, although he will never say it. I don’t know if we get you out there, let’s just see how it goes.” So I went out there and I remember in the New Quarter Inn. In fact, time had gone by and I got a call one day, say Wednesday morning, “Hey Ray, this is Rich.” You know he was the curator at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. “We were hoping you’d come out here and do a portrait for us.” And I said, “Rich, I can’t make any trips.” I said, “I am starting to get very busy, I don’t want to travel, I don’t want to go up to New Jersey. Aw heck,” I said. “No, I really can’t.” He said, “We were hoping you would come out on a Friday.” I said, “What Friday?” “This Friday.” “You got to be out of your mind.” [Laughter.] I was booking now six months ahead, I was really getting busy, I was getting commissions months ahead. And you know what he said to me? He said, “Oh heck, we had Duke all lined up for Friday morning.” Now you’re a reasonably bright guy. Where do you think I was Friday morning? [Laughter.] So we are sitting at the New Quarter Inn, Dell Webb’s New Quarter Inn, for breakfast, Friday morning, they had these two banquettes, plastic cushions, seats that were … and at one side was Dean Craigle, Bob Norris’s wife, and Dean Craigle, who was directing his son, who was 12 years old, and I was sitting here, and they had a space for Duke. Bob Norris is also there, and I said, “Where is Duke?” “We don’t know. Don’t worry he will be here. At 9:30, 10 o’clock. He may not show up.” I said, “Jeez Bob, I have come all this way and he’s not even going to be here?” He said, “Well he said he will try.” Well, my heart, and a few minutes later, in the door came Duke. You may be 6’3”. He was 6’4”. You look like him. He was built this way. Very large, small, narrow waistline, not very big feet but very big this way. Not sculptural. He was meaty rather than sculptural. And he came in, and not many people know he wore a toupee. He said to me one day, he said, “Well, when I take this rug off nobody is going to want a picture of this 70-year-old man.” And his Buick car was built up up front, with a higher hood, he called it the stagecoach. “Let’s go in my stagecoach.” Because he was so big from here up. And he came in wearing a brown polo shirt, sun tans like this, rolled up to here, with no socks, and beach sneakers. And I sat next to him, his shoulder was up against me like this, and I took a look at his hair piece, best job you ever saw, it looked like it was growing out of his head, and he had broken teeth and his eyes are small and meaty like, his nose had gotten sort of bulbous, and I’m sitting next to him. The conversation wasn’t going anywhere much, we were joking. I had brought along a copy of a book I had, called Painted Portraits. I wanted to call it How to Paint Portraits Real Good, but they didn’t. [Laughter.] And when I put it in front of him, a little pen and ink, my pulp magazine illustration, with the rider on a pony, turning around with a Winchester, and some Indians, pen and ink, not that big. So as we got up I said to Bob, “Where we going?” Oh, when he came in, he sat down in this cushioned chair, I heard the [makes shhh sound] like the displacement of the air went out of like a boat sinking in the water. [Laughter.] So we went outside and I said to Bob, this was around noon, this has got to do with the Norman Rockwell, “What are we going to do now?” He said, “I don’tknow, it’s up to Duke, I don’t know.” We didn’t even talk about a portrait. I was introduced to him. And I said I’ve got great regards for you, John Connelly was the Secretary of the Treasury, and I had painted John Connelly, and I said John, I didn’t know where to begin. What do I say, I love movies, or talk about the portraits, not my place, so I remember saying, “John Connelly sends his regards,” and at one point he said, do you want to paint the two of us together? It didn’t go anywhere. We went out on the street and I remember two people, a man and woman, a couple came, looked like they came from Scranton, and said can we have your autograph? “Well, sure.” It was sort of off season and it was not the place you would see movie stars, and I said, “By the way, Bob, I’ve got this book for Mr. Wayne.” And I inscribed the front of it “To John Wayne, an admiring fan,” and I think he said, “I’ll give it to Duke.” He said, “He loves it. He loves that pen and ink and he’s now invited us over to his house,” which was in Newport Beach. A couple things I remember about it, it was a gated community, it was on the water, like a little bay. There was nothing pretentious about the house, it was a California live-in flat, and he had one big room, as big as this, wainscoting, with Kachina Dolls all around it, but nothing about himself, nothing, a lot of Western paintings by Harold von Schmidt, if you remember his work, but he was the very best, and apparently John Ford had commissioned von Schmidt to do the paintings for the ads. Fort Apache. They are wonderful. Not Stagecoach, there’s another one, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. And he had a lot of these originals there. And we were talking, it was all very amiable. And you know sometime things kind of fit into place, and work in your favor. I hope I am not boring you with this.

You are not. It is the opposite of boring.

There was a piece a sculpture and it was about this big, of an actor named Harry Carry. And he’s standing there like this. I was walking around, ’cause there were about 8 of us, 6 of us, having cocktails. No, we stopped somewhere for lunch, that was it. Duke wants us to have lunch. And one thing I noticed about lunch, the waiter would put something in front of him, and he’d say, “Thank You.” He really had good manners. It was instinct, he certainly didn’t do it for me, it was just, “Oh, thank you.” So we went back to his place and I was standing in front of this statue, which was under life size, it was bronze, and it was Harry Carry, in a Western outfit, standing like this. He came up behind me. He said, “You know there’s a story with this.” He was just the way he was in the movies. And I, because I was off balance, I said, “Yeah, I know.” What do you think you know?” I said, “Mr. Wayne, it’s very curious but about six months ago I saw a documentary on John Ford.” Then he stated to smile and I knew I had him. And I said, “In the documentary, sir, forgive me, but I think I am right in remembering this …” What was that movie, the best Western he made, with Natalie Wood? The Searchers, and he was just smiling all the way through, and I said, “If I remember correctly, at the end of the movie, with Natalie Wood, you want to kill her because she married an Indian, and you give her back to her aunt, and the camera pans through the door, back to the comic book days, and the camera pans to the door and you are standing out in the sun, and that’s end of the movie.” He said “You got it. I was standing out there and I thought, I look like a goddamn fool standing out here and the movie ends, in the sun, and I remembered old Harry Carry, in the silents when John Ford used to hire him, and he would have this mannerism.” And he said, “I was standing out there with my hands flopping, and I thought, the cameras going to finish me off out here, I’ve given up and I just thought of Old Harry Carry and I just went …” So I was in then. So suddenly things happened. One was, someone said to him, you know Duke, we were talking about World War II or something, you should have made a movie with Clarke Gable. “Well, hell, I wanted to.” He said, “When Clark came back, I said to him, you know Clark, as far as I am concerned you are the king, you’re number one. Numero uno. Right now I am top box office.” I said, “Well what happened?” He said, it’s a great story, “We got around to the subject of billing and I said, ‘Hell Clark, let’s just flip a coin. Heads I got it, tails you got it.’ He said he wouldn’t risk it.” That’s being a star. It was not going to be Wayne and Gable. No flip of a coin. If Wayne had said you can have it, he would’ve taken it, but Wayne saying, you can have it? No way, that was the basic difference between them. And they never made it. Remember High Noon with Gary Cooper? He said, “I told Coop, I wouldn’t play that part.” I said, “Mr. Wayne, that is what he won the Academy Award for.” “I don’t care what he won for, I wouldn’t have played it, he was weak.” That was John Wayne. This was good stuff.

Then finally I was beginning to feel comfortable, and we got around to the subject of the Rockwell painting, and he always referred to him as Mr. Rockwell. The story was, and I got this on great authority from about three or four people, Rockwell was getting senile, this I knew, from people who knew him, and it’s been corroborated. He would not go out to California to paint John Wayne. “Well, if he wants to be painted, he better come here to Great Barrington.” As far as Wayne was concerned, “Sure,” he said that “he was a great man, he wanted me to come there, I’ll just go there.” So they came and apparently all Norman Rockwell kept saying, was “He’s so big.” He was totally undone by it. John Wayne appears in his Western outfit, and he’s staying at the Redline Inn. And Rockwell was totally thrown. And he said to me, this was in a defining moment as far as I am concerned with the relationship between me and Wayne, you know he was very self-conscious about it, and there was a photograph of him with Rockwell, about as big as that one on the table there, the two of them standing together, Rockwell with his pipe, and Wayne with a full Western outfit. He didn’t have a picture there with Sophia Loren, or any other movie star, but the one with Rockwell. So he said, “You know, what the hell? What are you going to do with a 70-year-old man like me, an ugly old bastard like me? He did the best he could, but, you know that boys don’t like it.” That’s the best you could get out of him. I knew what Bob said earlier, he’s really not happy with it, but, “Michael didn’t like it, Ethan didn’t like it, hell, what are we going to do? You know. He’s a great man, and how the hell is he going to paint an ugly old bastard like me?” You have to understand, in a way I was off balance and I was saying things more quickly than I would normally, and I said, you know, actually Mr. Wayne, it is none of those things, and suddenly he was back on me, “What do you mean?” I said, “If I may sir,” I think this what I said, “I dropped out of high school and my great hero was von Schmidt, but I was not a Western illustrator. I did a lot of Westerns, but to me God was represented by Norman Rockwell.” I said, “The man I think was a genius.” I said, “I saw the portrait he did at the Cowboy Hall of Fame of Water Brennan. You could smell the whiskey on his breath.” I said, “I think Mr. Rockwell, because of his age, is losing some of his facilities. And faculties.” I said, “I think if Mr. Rockwell had called around ten years ago, I think you’d have a very different painting.” The painting, the reason you haven’t seen it is because it was a photograph of cows walking out into the pasture, I said this to Wayne, “Mr. Rockwell and I operate from his heart first, he had a concept, then he would use the camera to back up his concept. I think what’s happened is the reverse. You have to understand that man is beyond reproach. A genius, he will be remembered. But I think what is happening now, he is getting the photograph and then copying it, this isn’t figuring into his thinking now.” And that kind of appealed to him, I could tell I was connecting to him. Then I said I wonder if we can go outside, and take a couple of shots. “Sure, whatever you want to do.” We went outside and I wasn’t aware it was John Wayne, still he looked like a 70-year-old man in a polo shirt, with a little pot belly, big, looked 70, 170 in the sunshine, and I remember I was standing about this far, I had my Cannon camera, I said, “Just let me take a couple of shots of you,” and he stood like this. And I said to him, “I notice, Mr. Wayne, I remember this from your movies …” I’ve been watching him all day. “You stand with your hands on your hips a lot, don’t you?” “Well, you know when we used to play football, and we had to wait for a play to be called, we had no pockets.” So I said to him, “Would you have some kind of a Western hat?” Rich Nero, who was the curator there, a youngish guy from Oklahoma, and Wayne didn’t order him or request it, it was sort of a directive. “Hey Rich, by that cabana there, reach inside the louver doors and there’s a hat hanging on a hook there, bring it over.” It was not a command, but you do it. So he came over, and he had this hat, and he said I wore this in Stagecoach and Apache, and he put it on, and he stood about this distance, and just as your visor is covering your eyes, his eyes were in shadow, and he said, “How’s that?” And I swear I said, “I’ve got to take a pee. I don’t believe this.” And he started laughing. And I said, “You’re John Wayne!” [Laughter.] That was the first moment. Suddenly he wasn’t 70, he was 40, and there it was. Fort Apache and the whole thing. Oh my God, the other thing I discovered with him, and I am digressing a little bit, I sent him a thank you note, he said, “Call me Duke,” but I couldn’t quite, but I was past the Mr. Wayne point, what I did was I wrote “Dear” and I did a little water color of his head, with the cowboy hat. And he wrote me back and he said, “You sent me that hat.” He said something, it was critical but it was funny. Oh, I know, when I saw him again, he said to me, “I loved that little sketch. I got it framed, but you know only singing cowboys wear their hat at an angle.” He said, and he went like this, “a real westerner wears his hat this way.” He went like that, a gesture. [Motions in a sharp horizontal line.] I took a ruler, a T-Square, when I was painting the portrait, which was large sized, so it was 40 x 54, and I took a ruler on top, and I ruled right across.

Anyway, I was really telling you this story because the Rockwell painting, with no discredit to Mr. Rockwell, he was an old man, and Flagg at the end, it was sort of sad. I’m convinced that Monty [Flagg], through alcohol was losing his vision. His natural arrogance, but at the end the work was getting so embarrassing. Rockwell just couldn’t do it anymore. But in Flagg’s case, I think he had the beginnings of dementia. And the work was getting kind of vulgar. You know the nipples on the nude were becoming like rubber sockets. And that was very sad to see. Flagg said to me one day, “You don’t love me anymore.” “Oh, I love you Monty, I just don’t like you.” He was so fucking rude to people, it was incredible. Remember an illustrator named Bradshaw Crandell? He did a lot of covers for Cosmo. He followed Harrison Fisher who was brilliant. And, Brad was, he painted pretty girls, he really wasn’t an artist in that sense, and you could tell it because all he could do was a head. Fisher was really pristine and Flagg-like, wonderful painter. But Bradshaw Crandell came up to Flagg’s one afternoon. There were only about five or six of us who would go to see him. And Brad said to me, “Ray, I wish you had known Jim when he was younger, he was like a roman candle.” But he said, “You know, he’s 80, he’s arrogant, and he’s nasty to people.” He said, “I’m 80, I can’t be around him anymore, it’s embarrassing.” So I came up there one afternoon, there was Bradshaw Crandell, was no longer doing covers for Cosmopolitan, they were now using photographs, Jon Whitcomb I think took over, whatever it was, they had a totally different approach, and Crandell was trying to do portraits, and they were not very good, he went with Grand Central gallery. A lot of them were pastel, very pretty but no structure, no art quality at all. He was a nice man. He came up there, remember now I’m about 30 years old, he came up there with an older blonde, maybe 40, 45, a little jaded, pretty. And lovely figure and Monty was almost blind. And so you sit there and he’d wear his black sleeveless sweater, great hair, fantastic hair, and he’d be sitting there like this, with the cigarettes, and there was Crandell and the girl, and I came up and introduced myself, we are talking. Brad had said to Flagg, “You remember Lola?” “Christ, Brad, I can’t see her,” and then he turned to me, “Is she a looker?” I said “Yes, she is quite pretty, Monty.” “Well, that’s good.”  And then he turned to her and said, “How old are ya?” And she was very embarrassed, very ill at ease. And Bradshaw said to him, “Aw come on, Jim, you remember her, she used to hang with our gang, down in Florida, Palm Beach, and she was with someone from the New Yorker.” And he finally said, “Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. I remember you now. You were that gorgeous girl, gorgeous, with great legs and not very bright.” [Laughter.] Not very bright! Oh god, I said, “You know you don’t endear yourself to people that way,” but that’s the way he was. He really was like that. It was very sad to see him because he was miserable. The only ones who came to see him were Dean, who would be there every Sunday. And he was not in such good shape. And Al Dorne couldn’t take it anymore. He said to me one time, “I love Jim but it’s embarrassing to be around him. He’s rude to waiters, he’s rude to taxi drivers, he’s rude to everybody.” And I said to his secretary once, “I guess this is because of his vision?” “Oh no, he was much worse before.” [Laughter.]

You met him when you were a kid.

I met him when I was 17 and I was studying with Mr. DuMond.

He was rude back then, right?

I remember this, I went to the building because one of the students in the class came back and said you know James Montgomery Flagg lives in 340 West 57th Street, and I was a block away. So one afternoon, after class, I walked over, it must have been about 4 o’clock, and there was a short Irishman, rolly-polly guy, with little pink cheeks, and I said, “I’d like to see Mr. Flagg.” “Oh, he doesn’t see people. Do you have an appointment?” I said no, I didn’t know any better. I said, “I just want to show him my work.” “Well he’s not going to see you. That old bastard wouldn’t see anybody.” That is what the doorman said to me. Well, I wasn’t used to hearing words like bastard, that was like using foul language, I just was brought up differently. I sat at the table and my father said, “Don’t talk this way.” So I said, “I’ve got to see him, I am an going to be drafted one day, and I’ve got to see him.” “Well, let me put you on the phone with that old bastard. He won’t see you, he’s as mean as they come.” So I got on the phone and I heard this very rich voice. “What do you want, are you a model? “And I said, “No, Mr. Flagg, I am an art student and illustrator and I want to show you my work.” “I don’t have time to look at any crap.” And I said, “Mr. Flagg I just want to show you my work for a minute. I’d love to just say hello to you.”  And I said, “I’m being drafted.” I was, but I had a year to go. “I’m being drafted into the army and I want to see you before I am taken away.” [Laughter.] I’ll never forget what he said to me, he said, “It’s 14B as in bastard.” [Laughter.] So I got up and here was this guy, he looked big to me, he wasn’t that tall, but he was maybe 6’1” or 6’2”, a great shock of white hair, heavy brows, and I remember he was wearing a navy blue shirt, with red suspenders, and he said, “Come on, let me see your work, it probably stinks.” Made me feel great, as a 17-year-old, and he looked through the work and I remember he said to me, I have reason to remember this of course, “Well, I see so much crap these days. And Mayor LaGuardia believes they can make art in the school programs, all they do is produce mediocrity.” He started to look, he said, “Young fella, you’re doomed to be an illustrator. Or doomed to be an artist.” And then he asked me about Mr. DuMond, he kind of settled down, and then talked about Mr. DuMond and he told me he studied with him 50 years ago.

I passed him once on the street corner when I came out of the army, in a flannel coat, a bitter cold day, waiting for a taxi. I said, “Mr. Flagg, I met you.” “Oh yeah?” He didn’t remember or care. “Well, good luck, young fella.”

What happened was, in the middle ’50s, I was living in this building in ’49, a couple moved in just below this studio. Elizabeth Gordon, her husband, was named Robert Chandler, he was a vice president with Standard Oil, and she was a sculptor. And we got to be quite good friends, her husband became president of the Arts Club. And they were my neighbors. Something had come up about Flagg. And she says, “We used to have studio right next door to his on the 14th floor, at 340 W. 57th Street. And we were very close to him, in fact he did a pencil sketch of Bob, over there.” Not Flagg at his best, and he wrote a lot of these cartoon letters, with nudes. He had a great humor, great humor. “Sometime if you’d like to, we’ll have him down for dinner, generally Sunday nights are good for him. Would you like to join us for dinner?” She said, “Have you ever met him?” I said I met him and I talk about him. “Well, you are going to be shocked when you see him.” And I remember it was a Sunday night, in the winter and he came over, with his cigarette and his cane, bent over, probably then under 6 feet, because he was bent over like this. With a female secretary, who was one of his old models, he paid her to come over, and sit with him every afternoon. And there was a photograph in a book on him, that was probably the last picture every taken, you could see still that hawk-like face, and the personality was still very dangerous. [Laughter.] He taught me the difference between wit and humor. Because he had large slices of both. Wit, I discovered to be unkind. Humor is good natured. He had the humor but he also had really devastating wit. And could be brutal, and there’s no reason to say that to that women. “Oh, I remember her, she was a looker. But not very bright.” Oh Jesus, I know it sounds funny and you laugh but if you were the woman …

No, it’s not very nice.

And I remember, Arthur William Brown, told me the classic story, because Flagg had been very close to John Barrymore all his life, in fact, in Connecticut I have the biography of John Barrymore by Gene Fowler, and I got Monty’s copy with an inscription from him, “To Monty, who knew Jack when, and then and now.” And Brownie told me Monty was having an affair with Barrymore’s first wife, and he said I was in Jim’s studio on West 67th St., 27 W. 67, must have been about 1920, he said, they were very close, he said, “Barrymore had an affection and regard for Flagg, it was almost Freudian, he loved his art, he spent time with Monty.” He said, [Barrymore] burst in one day, he was a little fella, he was about 5’7”, 5’8”, Monty was close to your height, 6’2”. There’s a picture in Flagg’s book of him with Barrymore and he comes up to about here. But anyway, he said he burst into Flagg’s studio, his hair was all tussled, was red faced, and he said, “Jim, I just found out from Katherine that you’ve been living with her,” and I swear he said Monty put his hand on him, he looked down on him and he said, “No Jack. You’ve been living with her. I’ve only been sleeping with her.” [Laughter.] You see, you laugh, but not very funny. And they didn’t talk for 20 years. Apparently Barrymore then said to Flagg, years later, “Well, you know, she was so beautiful, you couldn’t help yourself. I was drunk all the time anyway.” I have been digressing terribly, it was really about Rockwell and that story of the portrait. If it had been 10 years earlier I never would have gotten that portrait to paint. But it was not to Mr. Rockwell’s discredit.  And it really is a very poor portrait. But it is an interesting study in what happens to someone’s brain. I’ve always been very interested with artists. What happened to Sargent, there was absolutely no diminishing of his talent, till the time when he died at 70, he was painting better at 70 than he was at 50. But not everyone’s that lucky. Flagg lost his vision, and the discipline was gone, he was like Barrymore, totally burned out. Burned out. Crandell, I don’t think was burned out, but he lost the capacity. I have a friend who is going through the first stages of dementia, and he’s a richly talented person, losing his memories, and I watch him and his eyes, he’s lost … And I think of it too, as I get older, I really watch carefully, am I losing it? Am I this, am I …? The only things I am frustrated with is I don’t have the energy to do a lot of things, Steve, like stretching canvases. Or if I am painting, I suddenly will get a wave, I don’t mind telling you this, there’s enough ham in me, and sense of self. You’ll see in the studio some barstools, and I will be painting you, and I need to stand. I cannot sit when I paint, and I need to talk when I paint, and I will feel a wave come over me of extreme exhaustion. I start counting, like a fighter, stay down, when you get to ten, get up at 8, and wait for the wave to end. I have a barstool, so I will say at that point to you, “Steve, where did you go to college and what were you studying?” And I’ll slide the barstool and put my rump on it and keep cleaning the brushes and just about the time you are slowing down, I’ve got my wind back. Because I don’t want somebody to go back home and say, “You know, this guy’s getting on, I don’t know if he’s going to live to finish this portrait.”

You seem so much younger than your age.

Well, I have been so far, but I’ve had some heart issues, and I have shortness of breath, and I don’t have the energy I did. I’ve have to be really pretty careful, I think, one of those adages that AA used to have, was you must learn to accept the things you cannot change. This is the worst thing you can say to someone like me, because I didn’t always win but I left school when I wanted to, and I paid the consequences for many things and benefitted from many things but I realize there are certain things I just cannot do anymore. So I am trying to adapt to it.

Now I am talking a great deal about me and I want to go back to you. Tell me what’s your project? I am so glad to meet you, finally. What are you working on?

OK, so I’m writing a book on crime comics.

But you know I did almost none. Did I?

I have quite a few. And they have those beautiful montage splash pages. 

Oh, that was the best fun I ever had. The reason I enjoyed it, which won’t surprise you, is that I had free pen and ink, and I had no editor. Forgive me I know I asked you about yourself, but this might me pertinent. When you said narrative pages …. Do you know Jim Vadeboncoeur?

Gangers and gun molls.

I don’t know him, I know about him.

He asked me at one point, why didn’t you do more with Hawkman and the DC group?  And what came out was the following: If you tell me it’s ego, OK. If you tell me I drank too much at one point, I would say with no question, and then you said to me, “you are an alcoholic,” I would say, oh, I didn’t know I was. It’s like saying you had your appendix out. I wasn’t alcoholic, but if you said I was, OK, I was. But for reasons I cannot understand, but I do not accept ego, that’s too simple, I always like signing my name, wherever it was. When I was with DC their policy was you did not sign your name. And it bothered me. Because even for the pulps when I used Everett Raymond for the Shadow in ’45. I liked the idea, because it was my work. I would like to feel it was pride of authorship, and not ego. And with DC the policy was you did not. I had the same with Western Printing, when I was doing Zorro, and the Western Marshall and a whole series. But I was so comfortable with Matt Murphy, he really loved my work, and Saul Cohen at Avon, and he said, “You know, Ray, we like what you do. Just do it. No one’s going to edit your work out.” And that I was not used to, because when I was with DC and the other magazines everything was being edited. It was: change this, change that. I used to, when I was doing pulps, that was for one of the better publications, they did ranch romances, I think it was Better Publications, and they were on 40th Street, and I used to hang ropes from rafters, and put in little kegs and I’d come into the art director, and he’d say, “What’s that rope doing there?” What he didn’t know was, it diverted them from saying, “Turn the figure around.” [Laughter.] Thinking all the time. And I began to run off gimmicks after a while. 

When you did the comics were you working for a full script?

Yeah. But the thing I did with Western Printing, and they let me do it, I starting breaking the six panel and cutting in and putting two and three together and they let me do it, they let me sort of edit.  I didn’t have as much freedom with Western Printing, as I did with Saul Cohen. Some had actually thought I was having an affair with the guy. “What do you and Saul got going together?” He just liked me. It was that simple. He used to laugh at everything I said. I think I was a nice kid, from what they tell me, and very passionate, and very sincere about what I did. I talked to somebody very recently about, I guess it was about Wally Wood. And I didn’t know Frazetta at all, if I met him I don’t remember, but we were all working at the same time for Avon. I did know Wally a little bit and I knew Joe Kubert a little bit. I hadn’t communicated with him for 50 years, I wouldn’t have known him if he walked into the room. But we would occasionally go down for a soda or sandwich at Cinema Comics. He was working, not at Cinema, but at Avon. And one of the things with Avon, as you probably know, they had their paperback house, so that was another reason I was able to work between doing paperback covers and comic books. And Matt Murphy died about five or six years ago. One year for his birthday I painted his daughter, one of my very early portraits, and she wrote to me and signed her name D. Vincenzo and she said, “I am Matt Murphy’s daughter, and I have a portrait you did of me 50 years ago.” And I remember her father, he was very fair to me and we were friends.

[At National/DC ] I found that is when I was wasn’t happy. There was a guy named Bob Kanigher, as I remember, at DC, and somebody named [Julius] Schwartz, I did not like working for them. They were nice enough guys, [but] it was, “Do it our way.” I guess I was not very happy with the regimentation that I felt, whereas with Avon, I would just come in.

Did you ever come across the name Patricia Highsmith? I got a call about 5, 7, 8 years ago, a woman, I think her name was Berman, and she said she was a writer, she lived down on Barrow Street and kept an apartment in Paris. She said, “I am trying to put together a biography of Patricia Highsmith, you knew he?.” I said, “Yeah, well I knew her in a limited way.” She wrote a book called Strangers on a Train, which Hitchcock made into a movie. But then later in life she wrote a series of something called Mr. Ripley which were made into movies with Matt Damon, good movies. She said to me, “Well, I understood that she did comics, wrote comics but she always denied it. She was very outspoken that she never did them.” I can tell you that she did them because I was 16 years old, and she came up and she had graduated from Barnard, and I had a crush on her. I remember she had a kind of page boy and was kind of lanky, boney figure, and I had a terrible a crush on her, I will never forget, I was working at Cinema Comics, I was on staff, I was doing inking then, for the Fighting Yank, and she used to come in once a week, and she would sit in this good-sized room, it had about six drawing boards, three on one side, and the window that looked south, the sun would come in and I would have to move my drawing board. I still remember the smell of the art gum eraser, terrible things, and one day she was sitting down, and I said, “I’m going downstairs to get a Coke.” I was annoying, I guess she knew I had a crush on her, and I said, “Let me get you one.” I’ll never forget this, I came back upstairs with a Pepsi Cola, and she said, “Raymond, I asked for a Coke.” I said, “Miss Highsmith, it is still a nickel, but you get two extra ounces.” You know what she said to me? “When you get older you’ll go for quality, not quantity.”

Apparently what she did, Steve, which I thought interesting, I still can’t quite figure it out, she denied she ever wrote comic books, she felt this was beneath her. In fact, one of the things [David] Hajdu said to me, he said, “So many of the comics strip artists, they are not comfortable [when I] mentioned that they did comic books.” He said you are the only one I know who really takes pride in it. Well, that’s where I came from.

One other story, and I hope this comes across, but it is honesty and not ego, I was honored by the comic convention, about five or six years ago. I couldn’t believe what I saw, out in San Diego. Forty-thousand people there that day, three days, one-hundred-twenty-thousand people. You look down from the hotel room and I could see like a snake, the great wall of China, people looked like caviar, down there, just little dots, and they were giving me the Ink Pot Award. I know you think it is because of my good looks and charm and talent, but nothing to do with that. I was the only one left alive. [Laughter.]  Because I saw a couple of these old guys drooling. And they were young enough to be my son. Very depressing. Anyway, I got the Ink Pot Award. But, the point of my story is that a group of the graphic artists took me and invited me for dinner. And they were all guys in their maybe 40s. Nice group of people. When I say respectful, I mean, they were not just being nice to me, I really sensed they cared about my work, and seemed to know a lot about it, and the story I want to tell you had meaning to me. One of them said, “Where did you guys learn to draw the way you did?” Because draftsmanship has always meant a lot to me, which is the reason I always loved Flagg so much. He was one fucking goddamn draftsman. A natural draftsman. And I said, Albert Dorne said to me one day, “You know kid, if you take from one, it’s plagiarism, if you take from many, it’s research. [Laughter.] And I was a very good researcher.”

And I remember years ago, I got to know Tom Lovell very well, and a book came out, published by Harcourt Brace, on the origins of The Shadow. And I was given a double page spread with some of my Shadow illustrations and on the other page, paintings, the White House portraits.  And Tom Lovell, I was out in his home in New Mexico, not long before he died, and he saw the book, and he was all throughout the book, with these great dry brush drawings and he said, “Hey, I saw … I didn’t know you did the Shadow.” He said, “I saw the book and hell those were really good.” I said, “Weren’t they?” He said, “No, they were really good.” “Yeah, well they were goddamn good.” [Laughter.] And poor Tom, he was very handsome but a very delicate man, and also very modest, and unassuming, and he didn’t know what to say, and I said, “They are good, aren’t they?” And he was really off balance. And he said, “They are really very well done.” And I said, “They should be, because I copied every one of those things from yours.” [Laughter.] And I told him, he didn’t remember them, I literally took the figures and copied them, and put them together, from Street and Smith. I said, “You are only complimenting your own work. I had the good taste to be a researcher.” And Albert Dorne had told me that story about being a good researcher. So he said to me, “I used to take from Matt Clark, and Alex Raymond and Hal Foster.”

I got to know Caniff very well in his last years. In fact, I was quoted and it was a good quote, someone had asked me — because they were doing an article on him in the Milford newspaper, I lived in another part of Connecticut — on what my influences were, and I said, “Well, Sargent, Frans Hals, Milton Caniff.” And the reporter said, “Who is Milton Caniff?” And I said Terry and the Pirates, or as Monty used to say, “Dysentery and the Pirates.” And he said, “Wasn’t he just a comic strip artist?” And I said, what Milton Caniff did for comic strips is what Orson Welles did with Citizen Kane in the movies. It was revolutionary. I said, “We copied from these different people, and I went to art school at night to study the figure.” He said, “What do you mean art school?” I said we drew from life. It’s like talking grammar. I remember I was painting Peter O’Toole, the actor, who was a great, great stage actor, my god he was good, and I said, If you were to give advice to a young actor, what would you tell them? He said, “I’d have them learn the bloody language and the magic of words.” I do get some degree of letters from younger artists and if they are very sincere I answer them, but I will basically say to them, see if you can paint out of doors. You say you want to be a portrait painter, make sure you can paint the figure, make sure you can paint landscape. Anyhow back to your project …

Regarding crime comics, I don’t think I contributed much to the genre, as my subjects were Westerns, Romance, Zorro, Hawkman, assorted one shots, and comic books connected with promoting movies. While enjoying the subject of detectives, the subject of jail and crooks never appealed to me. Felt the same way about subject in cinema, except when my friend Jim Cagney was involved.

Did you work in a bullpen ever other than Cinema? Or did you always freelance?

Only with Cinema Comics. I would have been just 16 years old. I worked for them let’s say the school year started. Tony Bennett, by the way was in my class at Industrial Arts. I went from Music and Art and I was very unhappy there. I was an A student. In those days you had to have academic grades, I don’t know how it is today. I was so unhappy, and I remember it was one class, which cut the ribbon. I was in one class, it was a music class, and let’s say they put Brahms on, they wanted you with color to paint your emotions. I didn’t have any emotions. [Laughter.] I didn’t know what getting laid meant. I couldn’t even spell it. And I found that all the things I liked were illustrations, and Rockwell, but the teachers I had, always said, “That’s not art,” and I was so unhappy that I went to a trade school, which was the opposite. “You didn’t want to take English, OK!” If you wanted to take a watch and render it in scratchboard … I think Tony Bennett was in the same grade. And one thing I think you will find interesting, because you went to Music and Art, Tony and I are two days apart in our age, he is two days older. He likes to tell people, “You know Everett got into Music and Art. They turned me down.” This has a truly profound effect on him. Because he lost his father, he came from a very poor family, his mother basically took in laundry, he was raised by his sister and his brother, and he wouldn’t say, he is very sensitive about certain things. And he would tell you, I tried to get into Music and Art and they turned me down. He never forgot that. And he had to go to a trade school. And he found out I had gone to Music and Art and he said, “You went there and quit!” But you see it was the freedom again, that’s what led into the fact that I said I didn’t like regimentation. That was the worst thing about the army for me. I didn’t like being regimented. And I was not a hippie or a free soul, I just had a sense of individuality. And wanting my name … So I went to Industrial Arts. And so that is the story with Tony, he was in the same class. So when I went to Cinema Comics, I worked, it must have been from September ’42 to probably the end of that year. I remember I was already doing Fighting Yank, I had my table right by the window and Ken [Battlefield] was right across from me.

Cinema was still the company name? And then it became Nedor?

I’ll tell you what it was, Better Publications was owned by Ned Pines. Ned Pines, who I never met, had a daughter, the daughter was married to the publisher, Richard Hughes, who I still see clearly, had a broad lower lip and he smoked a pipe. Sweet man, I never understood why he wasn’t drafted, he was of draft age. He had to have been in his 30s. He was always very nice to me. You could sense, “He was a 16-year-old.” He always kind of protected me, in the sense that he didn’t make it tough for me, he treated me with respect, and he liked me. And that is when I went to him and said, and it was always Mr. Hughes, “Mr. Hughes, I really want to study painting,” and he didn’t want to lose me, but I think he must of cared enough about me to think, “Let me help him along.” So he made sure I got enough work to pay my tuition. But that is when I was in the bullpen and that was the connection. That Richard Hughes was the son-in-law of Ned Pines. He was on 45th Street. 

It was Nedor because the wife was Dora.

Not a clue.

Did you the know the writer Joseph Greene?

No, the one writer I remember was named Burt Holzer, I think, and he was there and looked like Robert Young, the actor with a moustache, and why he wasn’t drafted I don’t know either. Remember, when I say they were older, they were probably 30ish. But he was not in the army. Burt Holzer I think his name was, and he was one of the writers and he was in there every day. They had a desk, I had a drawing board. And I’ll never forget, he took me out to dinner, it was nothing sexual, he took me out to dinner and the next time I saw him he was a CBS war correspondent, he had gone into writing and editing. And there was a letterer there, who was a very unhappy guy, and he was sort of jealous of me, because he didn’t want to be a letterer, he wanted to be a cartoonist. I can’t remember his name.

The Winsor McCay story I do want to tell you. I was in that bullpen. There was a very slight man, he couldn’t have been very big, I remember him being slight and frail, and his name was, I believe, Robert McCay. And he had a drinking problem. And he came up to Mr. Hughes one day with these drawings, they were 16 x 20, of Little Nemo. They were done by his father. And what he did, he signed his name Winsor McCay Jr. He was not a junior, I don’t believe. I’ve got a big book on Winsor McCay. And I may be wrong, but don’t think he was born Winsor McCay Jr. And he was selling his father’s old strips to see if he could revive them. I think he was alcoholic.        

You were talking about the bullpen, I was never in the bullpen except for that very brief period, and I remember Bob McCay. He was trying to get Cinema Comics to publish the return of Little Nemo. But I remember being so impressed. Who was the book illustrator who was so influenced by him?

Maurice Sendak.

Sendak! I had a party for Sendak in this apartment. I didn’t know him well but he was gay, and he lived on 11th Street, and a great friend of his was a photographer named Nancy Grafton, who had been to Vassar with my first wife, and she had a great friendship with him, she was photographing all the great writers, that’s how she made her living, and so she wanted to have a party for Maurice, and we were here. I don’t think he liked what I had said, which I said as a compliment, but I kept referring to Winsor McCay, and it was as if he didn’t want to hear that. That they were his creations. I remember that I said something to the effect that, these remind me so much of Winsor McCay. And he did swipe from McCay. He may have acknowledged it later and I may be totally wrong. It is just an impression.