• Being a commercial artist has its perks. Elmer Lehnhardt was hired to create the artwork used to decorate a children’s lunchbox featuring scenes from the TV series Land of the Giants, starring a crew of American astronauts who land on a planet of giants. One side of the lunchbox showed the American space crew being menaced by a giant man — the face of the giant was a self-portrait by Mr. Lehnhardt.
• Despite his profession, 19th-century cartoonist Bernhard Gillam took a serious view of life. Eugene Zimmerman, a friend and fellow cartoonist, once took him to see a comic play. While the other members of the audience laughed, Mr. Gillam scowled. After the play was over and they were leaving the theater, Mr. Gillam turned to Mr. Zimmerman and said, “If you ever dare to take me to see such rot again, I’ll kill you.”
• For a Sunday newspaper, Sam Norkin once created a caricature for the opening of a play titled All You Need is One Good Break. Unfortunately, the critics hated the play, and it closed Saturday night. Sy Peck, editor of the New York Compass, decided to run the caricature anyway, with the heading “All You Need is One Good Break got no break from the critics.”
• When children’s book illustrator Denise Fleming was a young girl, she and the neighborhood kids sometimes put on plays, charging other kids buttons for admission. Her young neighbor Charlie once tore all the buttons off his shirt so he could pay for himself and his friends to attend one of the plays.
• Fire inspectors in the world of dance can terrify art lovers. For example, fire inspectors test scenery for fireproofing by attempting to set it on fire. Ballet dancer Frank Moncion moaned when he saw the fire inspectors test the setting for the ballet Firebird — it had been designed by Marc Chagall.
• Joseph H. Meyers, at one time an English instructor at Purdue, was annoyed by bad guides when he toured Europe. He and his wife were able to get rid of the guides by being annoying. When a guide tried to tell the Meyers about Raphael’s Wedding of the Virgin, Mrs. Meyers said, “Raphael was an American.” The guide, of course, said, “No, no!” However, Mr. Meyers backed up his wife: “Raphael was born in Philadelphia.” His wife then added, “We knew him personally.” Eventually, the guide decided to leave them alone.
• Late in life, Spanish painter Francisco Goya lived for a while in France. Of course, for long periods of time — including during much of Mr. Goya’s lifetime — France and Spain have not been friendly, and the French police watched Mr. Goya for a time. Eventually, they decided that he was not a spy because he was so deaf and he was not able to cause trouble because his command of the French language was so poor.
• Toller Cranston is both a Canadian figure skater and an artist. Once, he was performing in Wichita, Kansas, where he stayed in a hotel room with okra and mustard paintings on the wall. However, before he could sleep there, he demanded that the paintings be removed from his room. Why? He told the management, “I simply couldn’t spend the weekend with them.”
• MAD publisher William M. Gaines used to take the MAD writers and artists on a trip every year or two. One year, he took everybody to Rome, and they visited the Sistine Chapel, where a tour guide informed them that Michelangelo had spent 15 years painting the ceiling. MAD writer Dick DeBartolo explained why: “Yeah, but it was two coats!”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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