Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Cool Art Pencils"

NERDS art by Drew Friedman
In 1992, Pentech Pencils hired a group of artists to create some "trendy/cool" Pencils for a new series called "Cool Art Pencils".  The one and only Lou Brooks coordinated the project, inviting myself and many of his illustrator friends to create the package design and the art for the pencils themselves. Lou also drew 3 of the pencil packs. Humor writers David Burd and Marty Pekar wrote all the fun, funny copy for the package fronts and "blister cards" which came attached to the back of each pack. I believe there were 18 total and they're pretty hard to track down these days. Well, maybe not so hard on eBay.

I've included some of my favorites here.

NUTZ! art by Lou Brooks

GRUNGE art by Peter Bagge
MAD DOG art by Gary Baseman
STAGE DIVE art by Gary Panter
FREAKS art by Mitch O'Connell
ZOMBOT art by Steve Wacksman
GROUCHY art by Elwood Smith
Tattoo art by Mike Quon
GET A HEAD! art by Jim Heimann

My NERDS pencils
The 3 pencil packs created by series coordinator Lou Brooks

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Afternoon with Joe Franklin

Joe Franklin posed at Sardi's
Hello, my friends...

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, I,  along with some of my chums, had the pleasure of visiting my beloved old friend, the one & only legendary broadcaster Joe Franklin at his Times Square office in NYC, before heading over to have lunch at the legendary Sardi's restaurant on W. 44th St.

 This truly memorable "Super-Spectacular" visit with Joe was captured via my legendary iphone for posterity, and is presented here for your delight... my friends.

(And, from the NY Daily News from 11/28)...

Thanksgiving miracles!
Craig Bierko tells us he believes there is “order in the universe” after his reverence for nostalgia king Joe Franklin led to the return of his lost wallet. Bierko, who’s starring in “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays,” grew up watching Franklin on WOR-TV/Ch. 9 and when his friend, artist Drew Friedman offered to set up a lunch meeting with the 85-year-old showbiz legend a few months ago, the actor jumped at the chance. At their meeting, Bierko says Franklin gave him two gifts: his business card and diamond earrings for his girlfriend. (Franklin’s son is in the jewelry trade.) The actor was grateful for the gems, but, he says, the card meant so much to him that “if I could reduce it to powder and snort it into my brain I would.” Instead, he carried it proudly in his wallet — until he lost the billfold about a week and a half ago. Because the ID inside gave Bierko’s California address, he says he’d just about given up on its return when, last week, a friend of Franklin’s called to say the the wallet had been returned to the address on Joe’s business card. Bierko tells us he’s meeting with Franklin Monday to get his wallet back. That’s one for the Thanksgiving time capsule.

Read more:

                                       Joe welcoming us to his office.

                                       Joe pauses to do some paperwork

Joe posing with my pal, long time Joe Franklin admirer, actor Craig Bierko
Joe, Craig & yours truly

Joe takes us on a tour of his office

Joe takes a phone call

A corner of Joe's office

Another angle

Joe's old friend, Gospel radio hostess "The Empress" stopped by to say hello

Me, actor/comedian Michael Townsend Wright (who's known Joe since he was 11), Joe, Craig. Photo by the Empress

Minutes before leaving for lunch, Joe treats us to a VHS viewing of "The Joe Franklin 40th anniversary TV special"

Joe arrives at Sardi's

Joe poses in front of his Sardi's caricature

Happy times! L to R; Me, Michael Townsend Wright, Joe Franklin, comedy writer Tom Leopold, Craig Bierko. A truly wonderful time was had by all!

Monday, July 11, 2011


MAD #44, a lovelorn
Alfred front cover
In late 1958, the editors of MAD Magazine decided that their idiot "What, Me worry?" mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, needed a girlfriend. Even grinning idiots can get lonely, the probable reasoning. So their then cover artist, the great Kelly Freas, created one "Moxie Cowznofski", an adorable companion for Alfred,  who looked suspiciously like Alfred, but minus a gap in her teeth. The name "Cowznofski" had popped up sporadically in MAD (and in Ernie Kovacs sketches) throughout the fifties, as did references to "Moxie" and images of it's logo, a little known, bitter soft drink that was reputedly invented by a doctor.

Moxie Cowznofski's memorable first MAD appearance was on the back cover of the Jan '59 Holiday issue, staring back at her beloved Alfred on the front cover, an idiot finds his idiot beauty...

Sweet, lovely Moxie's MAD debut 
MAD #45 The grinning Valentine idiot love-birds
Moxie would appear on the cover of MAD only two more times, both in 1959 before she was officially retired. Perhaps the fact that she resembled Alfred's sister rather than his girlfriend proved slightly troubling to the editors.

MAD #51 Marching with Moxie!
                             Moxie's final MAD cover appearance... until...

Moxie's back, and Alfred's still got her!
TA DA!  Only 45 years later, Moxie returns!

In 2004 MAD Art Director Sam Viviano invited me to create an updated (B&W) version of Moxie for a one time return appearance for this cover of "MAD Color Classics", where I drew a sexy Moxie stimulating (her still idiot-boyfriend) Alfred E. Neuman to an orgasmic, multi-colored, champaign climax.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

TERROR (The Son of Horror)


These four "12" LP Records, all 33 RPM" were advertised in the back of monster magazines (Famous Monsters of Filmland, Mad Monsters, Horror Monsters, etc) throughout the 1960's, and fascinated me for their visual starkness, as well as their bare-boned titles ("TERROR", "HORROR", etc), although my brothers and I never actually took the step of ordering them. Good thing! Turns out that the four albums ( "*Narrated by a Richard Taylor", reading Poe stories) were a clear-cut case of false advertising. The unsuspecting kids who were duped into ordering them (from "Victor Specialties" of Conn)  received not the four advertised covers, but blank covers stamped with the titles (where the Beatles got the idea for the White album?). No matter, I still love these LP con job ads:
 FRIGHT (the house of)

Original ad featured in the back of dozens of cheap 60's monster magazines.
About The Narrator, the "Crown Prince of Terror"
You can learn more about the history of the records, and listen to the actual records via this blog: SCAR STUFF...


Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Penn Jillette, American spokesman for male virility
This is a Chinese viagra product called "Impetuous Man" featuring none other than magician/comedian Penn Jillette as the product spokesman. The artwork was drawn by yours truly. Problem was, the art, created for a short piece written by Penn a decade earlier for Men's Health magazine offering humorous advice on how to make love to a woman (The woman shrieking in horror, my little twist), was used without credit or permission.

The Impetuous product
"Impetuous Man", offered by the "American College of Sexologists", promises to "maintain and prolong male erection and help delay or prevent premature ejaculation. It is better for your sexual performance and is pure herbal chinese sex medicine" price: 1000 yen.  Penn & I discussed suing the "American college of Sexologists" for using my art and his likeness without permission, but finally decided it would probably be an almost impossible uphill battle, let alone merely attempting to track down the manufacturers in China, (no address is listed on the product). Besides, Penn was flattered to be singled out by China as the lone symbol for male virility in America.

This from Penn Radio's Wikipedia page:

  • Penn-brand Viagra: on the February 1, 2007 show, a listener alerted Penn to a strange photo of him gracing the cover of a Chinese herbal "Viagra". The Chinese box copy claims the box contains fast acting pills that will increase a man's stamina, increase the volume of his semen, and win him respect among other men. The box depicts an illustration of a man that looks disquietingly like Penn Jillette (complete with his signature one painted fingernail) choking a woman during intercourse. The product does not identify Penn by name but seems to label him as the "impetuous man". One can purchase a bottle here for 1000 yen. It was later revealed the art work was of Penn. The artwork accompanied an interview with Penn in an American magazine. It is unknown how the art made its way to Asia.

Impetuous Poster hanging in Chinatown
Posters advertising "Impetuous Man" hang or are displayed in Chinatown gift store windows across the country and in China. Penn and I decided that all we really wanted was to own either one of the posters or the actual product itself, which we now both do. I've yet to sample the product.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Different Drummer

Peter Max poster
In the late 60's, The Different Drummer was a popular hippie clothing store/boutique located at 792 Lexington Ave between 61st and 62nd St in NYC (across from the doll hospital), frequented by hippies, rock stars and hip Mets players and broadcasters. My mother would occasionally deposit my two brothers and I there (or their East Village sister-store), to outfit us in the latest in nehru shirts, hippie beads, faux military jackets and bell bottoms. More importantly (to me), they also sold underground comix to fulfill my ZAP comix/R. Crumb fix.

This "far out", "psychedelic", "cosmic 60's" poster was designed for the store in 1968 by the unavoidable artist of the moment, the "king of the dorm rooms",  Peter Max (Finkelstein).

But I vastly preferred this 1968 poster, also offered by The Different Drummer...

Shit poster
This large, delightful poster featuring Paul Sigenlaub, one of the owners of the Different Drummer,  designed by J. C. Suraes and photographed by Bill English, hung in my Great Neck boyhood bedroom for several years, upsetting, disturbing and confusing frequent adult guests, including my grandmother, our housekeeper Mrs. Sullivan, and various friends and relatives. To all of them, I sincerely apologize.

 another store poster