Friday, September 28, 2012

Jack Davis and A Guide for the Married Man

Newspaper ad for A Guide for the Married Man/art by Jack Davis

"A Guide for the Married Man" was a 1967 "Sex Comedy/"Bedroom Farce", based on a popular book by Frank Tarloff,  directed by Gene Kelly and starring Walter Matthau and Robert Morse, featuring cameos by an amazing line-up of comedians (and Jayne Mansfield in her final role)



The prolific cartoonist/illustrator Jack Davis was originally commissioned to create the poster art but for some reason his artwork wasn't used on the poster but instead used for the newspaper ads

This is Jack Davis's (rare) original poster pencil sketch featuring the entire cast:
Click to enlarge
The Davis art was used
on a Spanish poster for the film

another Spanish poster

Yet another poster
And yet another poster, this time drawn by Playboy artist Dink Siegel and also used for some foreign posters for the film. Seems the producers just couldn't make up their minds.
Click to enlarge
Finally, this was the poster used for the film's initial American release

The Turtles perform the film's theme song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pf9Ua9RGPEI

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Portrait of Bernard Krigstein

                                   New portrait of comics artist Bernard Krigstein (1919-1990)
Bernard Krigstein

1955's "Master Race" from the debut issue of EC's "New direction" comic book Impact was Bernard Krigstein's memorable and groundbreaking masterpiece of sequential storytelling. The psychologically suspenseful narrative, written by Al Feldstein but expanded and graphically designed by Krigstein, took place in a New York Subway station with flashbacks to the nazi Germany death camps and was the first mainstream comic story to deal directly with the still painful memory of the (then) decade old Holocaust.

Bernard Krigstein would illustrate 47 stories for EC, including several pieces for MAD working with it's brilliant editor Harvey Kurtzman, before becoming a full time painter and teacher, and what he created was innovative and startling, especially in the 1950's world of comic books.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Krigstein
Master Race opening page
Closing page
From MAD # 12, opening page
Closing page. Krigstein was equally deft at at caricature & humor
Lifelong New Yorker Bernard Krigstein, waiting for the subway. The latest in my
series of portraits of "legends of comic books"
For more on B. Krigstein's life & work:

Thanks to John Benson & art spiegelman

Sunday, September 23, 2012

THE COMIC

Mickey Rooney
& Dick Van Dyke
"Same old Billy Bright."

-- Billy Bright, narrating "The Comic" from his funeral casket


When I posted my blog on the movie posters of Dick Van Dyke last year, I included several versions of the poster for his 1969 film The Comic... 
Now I'd like to expand on that film.

The Comic was a long planned dream project for Dick Van Dyke and writer/director/comedian/actor and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" creator, Carl Reiner (along with co-writer Aaron Ruben). It's a dark and cynical fictional account of a famous yet troubled, (self-destructive, womanizing, alcoholic), silent screen comedian named Billy Bright. Bright was loosely based on Buster Keaton, with parallels to Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel (Van Dyke's friend and idol), Harry Langdon, and Lloyd Hamilton, and possibly channeling some other "difficult" comedians both Carl Reiner & Dick Van Dyke might have at one time or another encountered.


                                     Trailers from Hell on "The Comic"

The film premiered in 1969 to little notice and several mixed to negative reviews. It soon wound up playing on a second bill with "The Desperado's", starring Vince Edwards and Jack Palance (which is when, at age 10, I first saw and loved The Comic. In fact, I returned to see it another five times that week. And... The Desperado's wasn't bad!) but over the years it's become a cult favorite. It's flawed for sure, much of the tone and dialog between Van Dyke and his co-star Michelle Lee sounds like re-scripted Rob and Laura Pertie banter (Michelle Lee's character is even named "Mary" and she even looks like Mary Tyler Moore. I've wondered if the part was first offered to MTM?) The reviewer in the New York Times wrote that Dick Van Dyke and Michelle Lee seemed like Rob & Laura Petrie gone sour.
Dick Van Dyke & Michelle Lee
Another of the film's drawbacks (and a pet peeve of mine) is that the actors appear in what is supposed to be the twenties, yet they sport late sixties hair styles and sideburns. (I have a "sideburn theory": By the late sixties, in an effort to  remain "hip & with-it", every single adult male actor in Hollywood had sideburns. Directors simply didn't have the heart or the nerve to ask them to suddenly shave them off, even for a 20's period film).
Billy Bright tests a Chaplin mustache 
 Billy Bright's erratic, self destructive behavior is never fully explained, and the film's color can be overlit, harsh and garish. Aside from the costumes and automobiles, you never really get a sense of the film taking place back in the twenties (unlike say, "The Artist" which successfully takes you back to that same Hollywood period). Also, the lead actors in their aged makeup, especially Cornel Wilde and Michelle Lee are unconvincing (their hair is basically whitened). Only Mickey Rooney and Dick Van Dyke in his final, post- heart attack scenes seem truly old.
The film's writer & director Carl Reiner also appeared
in The Comic playing Billy Bright's nasty agent Al Schilling
Yet in spite of those drawbacks, the film is a minor classic. The Comic was Carl Reiner's second film as director after "Enter Laughing", two years before, which was based on his play. Without the restrictions of network TV, he was clearly looking for darker, edgier material, and The Comic fit that bill. In fact his next film (in his original trilogy) "Where's Poppa?" with George Segal and Ruth Gordon would be his darkest and funniest comedy yet. 

The Comic has more than a few truly memorable and even haunting sequences. The opening credits feature nothing but blaring music and a vintage Billy Bright tin toy, wound up yet constantly tumbling over, an analogy to Bright's troubled life.  Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner lovingly recreated many inspired and truly funny vintage silent screen comedy scenes (in B&W) including this one...


                                          "Dr. Jerk and Mister Hyde"

 And there's a very funny sequence with an aged Billy Bright attempting a  comeback (ala Buster Keaton) on the late sixties Steve Allen show surrounded by several clueless guests, screening an hilarious Billy Bright TV commercial for "Whitey White" laundry detergent (with a cameo by Isabel Sanford). 

TCM on The Comic: http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/353393%7C0/The-Comic.html

There is also a beautifully played and subtle performance by the legendary Mickey Rooney as Billy Bright's long suffering movie comedy co-star and (for some unexplained reason) only loyal friend "Cockeye". Then there's Dick Van Dyke himself,  Oscar worthy as Billy Bright, particularly in the sad final scenes, slowly roaming down Hollywood Blvd with Cockeye, eyes covered in a game of  attempting to identify the Hollywood walk of fame stars. Finally, Billy Bright alone, bald, unloved and forgotten sitting in his tiny Hollywood apartment,  mouth agape, blankly staring at one of his old movies ("Forget Me Nots") on the late show while eating and dribbling a soft boiled egg down his chin, wondering what went wrong. Harrowing and still funny stuff. Despite it's flaws, The Comic is Carl Reiner's finest and finally most poignant film.
Mickey Rooney as Cockeye presents Billy Bright
(recovering from a stroke) with a Billy Bright tin toy
Several film clips from The Comic:
http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/360670/Comic-The-Movie-Clip-Love-Honor-And-Oh-Boy-.html

Dick Van Dyke was in his mid-forties when he made The Comic and he looks a bit old as the young and eager Billy Bright, arriving in Hollywood after his success as a Vaudeville comedian, but his sad, drawn face works perfectly in the later scenes of Billy Bright in decline. Van Dyke, who also struggled with alcohol problems, was the perfect choice for Billy Bright. He had appeared in several turkeys leading up to The Comic ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was his only late-sixties hit), and sadly, The Comic would also flop at the box office. He'd star in just one more film (the very funny Cold Turkey) before returning to television. Yet in this film he achieved something he had never actually pulled off before. Always likable, in The Comic, he made himself almost completely unlikable. He's simply note-perfect in this tailor made role and It's by far my favorite performance of his. Take a look (although for some reason it's still not on DVD yet! #$%?@#!) TCM screens it from time to time.


Read about the 2011 "The Comic" reunion with Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke and Michelle Lee: http://www.newsfromme.com/2012/11/21/the-billy-bright-film-festival/
The original one-sheet poster for The Comic. The working title for the film was Billy Bright, but the studio chose the inevitable bland, nondescript title "The Comic" and created this equally bland poster
Dick Van Dyke as Billy Bright poses as a mannequin in one of the films early silent comedy film recreations (notice the sideburns)
Carl Reiner as Billy Bright's agent discuses Billy's faltering career
with Van Dyke
Another early silent comedy bit
49 year old Mickey Rooney played Billy's best friend, Martin "Cockeye" Van Buren.
This is Rooney as the younger (bewigged) Cockeye
Filming at Paradise Cove in Malibu. Mickey Rooney, Michelle Lee and Dick Van Dyke. The girl in the bikini doesn't appear in the film.
Billy Bright, drunk and passed out, with drinking partner Ginger (Barbara Heller)
Billy Flirting with Sybil (Nina Wayne) and admiring a statue of her
An ad for the film from a Canadian newspaper
Billy Bright and Mary Gibson first meet 
                                 Various movie Lobby Cards for The Comic...

Cockeye driving the just- married couple
Billy once again attempting to make up with Mary
After their divorce, Billy brings a gift for their son who he's never met
Cornel Wilde as film director Frank Powers discovers Billy in bed with his girlfriend Mary Gibson until She explains to him that they're "just married"
Billy pushes a cream puff into his agent Al's face explaining "That's funny"
Mary, Cockeye and Billy attend a film premiere 
An older Billy Bright (with combover) appears on the Steve Allen show. Notice the sideburns
The following rare behind the scenes photos, which include Carl Reiner directing the cast and posed stills of Mickey Rooney and cast member Pert Kelton, were taken by a Columbia studio photographer on the set of The Comic...







The Comic was released on video cassette
with yet another bland cover for the VHS box
in 1993, Entertainment Weekly reviewed the videos of both The Comic, and the newly released Billy Crystal comedian bio "Mr. Saturday Night", and asked me to supply the illustration. I posed both washed-up comedians as guests together on the late-night Joe Franklin show in 1968
One of Dick Van Dyke's Billy Bright costumes recently went up for auction

Monday, September 17, 2012

Howard Stern & Me


the King of all Media

Over the last 20 years I've had the opportunity to draw one of my all time favorite broadcasters and comedians, the one and only "King of all Media", Howard Stern, many times. Howard himself hired me on several occasions to draw him for his old WOR TV show... (including an illustration of Howard diapering a geriatric Henny Youngman... sadly, I have no record of the drawing). I also illustrated his two bestselling books, Private Parts & Miss America, and created the character designs for an animated TV show about his teenage years that was in development several years ago which unfortunately never came to pass (See below).

Howard and I seem to have a mutual appreciation for one another's work, as he's enthusiastically discussed my art many times over the years on the air, beginning in 1991 by praising my and my brother Josh's book "Warts & All", and has also sited me numerous times as his "favorite artist". An honor indeed.

Howard affirms that Drew Friedman is better than Picasso: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svxtON1eEl4

Howard feels that Drew Friedman's art should be worth $300 billion:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R22WlcDk7eE

When I was (briefly) a member of the illustration online group "Drawger", fellow member and Howard Stern fan Tim O'Brien suggested that I create a post featuring my Howard Stern illustrations; which I did. My Drawger account was deactivated when I left the group, so here (again) is a far more expansive selection (but not all) of my Howard Stern illustrations covering the last 20 years, including some examples that have not been seen before.

 Ba Ba... Booey!
Future Howard Stern Movies, for SPIN magazine/1992, created after HS started speculating about making his film debut, reprinted in his book Private Parts (click to enlarge)
A lovingly disgusting and vile comic strip created for HS's book Private Parts, based on a radio bit written by Howard and Fred Norris (FYI: "NAMBLA"-- "North American Man-Boy Love Association"... Oy Vey) K. Bidus broke the radio script down into this comic strip format.
Howard Stern for Governor, Al Sharpton for Senator, kissing an unhappy baby.
 From The New Yorker/1994, concept by K. Bidus. This (with a color overlay) was originally scheduled to be a New Yorker cover, until the editor Tina Brown had last minute-second/third thoughts, and it wound up as an interior page. Also reprinted in HS's second book "Miss America" leading off his chapter about running for New York Governor
Newsweek/1996,
for an article about celebrated people with just one sibling (including Bill Clinton) 
1994: For HS's book Miss America, Howard wanted a chapter-opening illustration depicting his personal agony and torment: Here he is secluded in his basement/dungeon attempting to write his new book on the computer (and watch porn), as the demands of his family members and show staff weigh on his mind

"The Path of the Warrior"
For the book Miss America, with text provided by co-author Larry "Ratso" Sloman, I created this 4 page "game board" spread depicting HS's path to inevitable conquest and domination of the radio business.
lettering by Phil Felix



I've drawn HS several times for MAD magazine over the years, including for this 2 pg spread from 1995 (click to enlarge)

"Ladies' Man", New York magazine/1997, posed with his wife Allison, for an article about how HS was attempting to show his sensitive side in his newly released film "Private Parts"
 "Black Rock's New Look", from New York magazine/1998. Howard's Infinity radio boss Mel Karmazin was just hired to run CBS, so I posed him as King Kong (a cliched image, yes, but I'm pleased with the result), atop the CBS building known as Black Rock, clutching his "beauty" (a relaxed Howard Stern), as fellow CBS employes Don Imus and Dan Rather vie for Mel's attention
art director, Josh Mckibble
For the cover of the NY Observer/2004, at the height of the war in Iraq, and HS's unrelenting radio attacks on George W. Bush, the two of them embraced in a dance. The original word balloon read: "Eat Me" but was changed at the last moment (family newspaper)
"Shock Waves", 2004/Entertainment Weekly
for an article about HS's move to satellite radio
Howard Stern, the Teenage years
 the TV show that never was...

With the huge success of Chris Rock's TV sitcom "Everybody Hates Chris" depicting Chris's boyhood years, Spike TV signed a deal with HS in 2004 to develop an animated show about Howard's early years entitled "Howard Stern, the Teenage Years", and signed the young actor Michael Cera (Juno) on to voice the young Howard. Some character designs and animation was prepared for Howard to view but he was completely unhappy with it, so he called me and asked if I could do several character sketches, (he also told me he considered asking Robert Crumb as well, whose work he also admires), mainly of himself, his parents and his older sister Ellen. He asked me to basically try to make him look like a "big-nosed, pimple-faced, sad, demented chicken"
Young Howard in perennial "shell-shock", his father Ben and sister ("the favorite") Ellen

HS thought my sketches nailed it,  but the brilliant powers that be at Spike TV told him my designs would be too expensive for them to animate, which Howard was not pleased to hear, so he decided to scrap the whole series if he couldn't have the animation look the way he wanted. Ah well, that's show biz...
two "more cartoony" teenage Howards...
in "perennial shell-shock"
After HS pulled the plug on the show, he sent me this note
GQ magazine/2006
On the occasion of the HS show moving to Sirius satellite radio, GQ presented a "Howard Stern Show Primer" for the uninitiated
Clockwise from bottom left: Horse-toothed jackass Producer Gary Del'abate, writer & jack of all trades Fred Norris, lilting "High Pitch" Eric, hair-extended co-host Robin Quivers, "Beetlejuice", fat comedian/show sidekick Artie Lange, and center, the King of all Media. 
art director: Thomas Alberty.
In 2007, with a then current "Zombie Craze" at hand, the Topps bubblegum company released a card series called "Hollywood Zombies". I painted several of them, including this "HS among his worshiping, sycophant disciples" image. Concept by Frank Santopadre.
 Book cover from 2009 via Harper Collins, an anthology of 20 years of the New York Observer. HS, top left

Special thanks to K. Bidus, Liz Belmont and Lorrie Davis