|MAD publisher William M. Gaines|
I somehow got the day off from school and was pretty nervous when I arrived at the MAD offices at 485 Madison on 52nd St, but was welcomed by a friendly female receptionist who ushered me right into Bill Gaines office.
Gaines, 52 at the time, was a large bearded man with long, gray hippie-like hair, (legend has it that the newly divorced Gaines, who sported a crew cut up until the late sixties, woke up one morning and decided he no longer wanted to shave or have his hair cut. The rest is history), hugely fat with loose-fitting, sloppy clothing-- quite the jolting sight and intimidating at first, but he instantly put me at ease by enthusiastically shaking my hand and enquiring about my artistic goals.
|Bill Gaines receiving a Japanese bath, art by Jack Davis|
|Gaines office window|
|the Vault Keeper by Johnny Craig|
|Bill Gaines at his desk|
|Alfred E. Neuman morphing into Bill Gaines by Jack Rickard|
I had my hopes high that I'd get to meet some of the MAD artists on my visit, especially some of my heros who I knew lived in New York, including Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Sergio Aragones and Al Jaffee, all cartooning Gods to me.
Based on so many of the contributing artists and writers posing in MAD's parody ads over the years, my assumption had always been that the "the Usual Gang of Idiots" basically hung out at the MAD offices, it being their "official clubhouse", creating their work there, an ongoing cartoonist community, not taking into account that the artists actually created their work at their homes, mainly in the suburbs, then dropped it off at the MAD office.
|A back cover parody ad featuring the MAD staff (the young blonde actress on the lower left was the late Annie Rachel who co-starred, (mostly nude), with Tony Perkins in my father's play "Steambath" in 1970)|
Departing Bill Gaines office, the next office door along the hallway belonged to longtime MAD editor Al Feldstein...
|MAD editor Albert B. Feldstein|
|Al Feldstein art from "Tales From the Crypt" #26|
"Oh well" I thought, onward...
|Associate editor Nick Meglin|
|Art production head Leonard ("The Beard") Brenner|
|Lenny Brenner, "The Beard"|
He was in the middle of laying out some pages, but took the time to engage me while he was working and explain to me what he was doing. Also wandering around in the art dept was associate editor Jerry De Fuccio, whose handsome, distinctive Italian face I also recognized from many MAD ad parodies.
De Fuccio was charming and conversed with me a bit and it soon became clear to me that he had been briefed by Bill Gaines about my visit. He went on about how much he admired my dad's writing.
|Art director John Putnam|
Rather than simply appeasing a 15 year old wannabe cartoonist, he was blunt, strongly suggesting that I needed to "slow down", stop incessantly drawing "funny faces", and especially concentrate on anatomy by taking figure drawing classes, again advice I would faithfully follow through on.
|the gregarious Sergio Aragones|
He even sat down and drew this cartoon for me on the handy MAD stationary , managing to squeeze in an Alfred E. Neuman, a reference to "PLOP!, (a DC humor comic book he was contributing to at the time), and the three EC-like horror mascots he was then currently drawing for "House of Mystery" comics...
|art by Sergio Aragones|
|My personal cheap, crummy souvenir (click to enlarge)|
Among my many contributions to MAD was this parody of the then popular Joan Osborne song "What If God Was One Of Us?". The MAD editors decided that the perfect stand-in for GOD would be... the late William M. Gaines himself, who had died several months earlier.
A perfect stand-in for GOD:
Read all about THE MAD SHOW:
Read all about Alfred E. Neuman's (brief) girlfriend Moxie Cownofski:
Learn all about MAN BOOBS:
Office photos by Dan Nelken for SCOPE magazine