Monday, January 23, 2012

Bill Utterback in Playboy & VIP magazine

Flip Wilson by Bill Utterback

Bill Utterback (1931-2010)  worked in the design department at Playboy, and beginning in the mid- sixties,  became their unofficial resident in-house caricaturist. He was also considered by many to be the most popular caricaturist living in Chicago. In fact, he was often cited as "The Hirschfeld of the Windy City".

 In the seventies, his caricatures of "Second City" comedian/improv cast members graced the lobby bar of the legendary Second City Comedy theatre in Chicago, where many famous comedians first got their start.

Beginning in the mid-sixties and lasting into the seventies, Utterback contributed black and white silhouette caricatures, somtimes up to eight per issue,  that  appeared in Playboy's offshoot magazine "VIP, The Playboy Club Magazine":

 Playboy published VIP, (Very Important Playboys), as a way of keeping members of the Playboy club informed about all things PLAYBOY In particular, the magazine let members know which entertainers were due to perform at their various Playboy clubs. Many of the portraits would then hang in the clubs. 

I've long enjoyed these elegant, (and in some cases, very sexy), lush, funny, B&W watercolor caricature portraits of various "hip" comedians and singers (some still famous, some totally forgotten).

Click this link for more Utterback comedians created for VIP:

Bill Utterback also created, (full color), caricatures for the popular annual Playboy features "That Was The Year That Was" and for their "Playboy Jazz/Pop Poll"
Henry Mancini for Playboy

Bill Utterback (1931-2010) was an American illustrator most widely known for his contributions to Playboy and The Second City‘s theatre in Chicago.
Utterback was born on January 5, 1931 in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Utterback attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in the 1940s, and then The Art Center in Pasadena where he was influenced by teacher Joseph Henninger.[1]
At the invitation of a friend, Utterback joined the design department of Playboy in the mid-sixties.[1] Utterback was asked to illustrate some caricatures for publication after an art director saw a birthday card Utterback had created for a fellow employee. This led to Bill’s regular feature in “That Was the Year That Was” [2] each April issue. After leaving Playboy, Utterback worked as a freelance illustrator from his home studio in Lisle, Illinois, servicing clients including The Second City until his death in 2010, and painted official portraits of Illinois Senator Pate Phillips which hung in the Illinois State Capitol building.
In later life, Utterback taught workshops at the DuPage Art League in Wheaton, Illinois, and sculpted a portrait likeness of Pate Phillips which was cast in bronze and unveiled in the DuPage County. Utterback died on February 8, 210 , at 79 years of age.

The caricatures he created for VIP magazine have rarely been seen, outside of subscribers to VIP,(which no longer exists), and to member's of the Playboy clubs. So, if these fabulous drawings are new to you, enjoy!

a 1966 album cover by Utterback

Some samples of Utterback's annual All-Star Bands from Playboy:
The 1967 Playboy All-Star Jazz band

1973, (the "Jazz" was dropped from the title at this point)


Utterback also illustrated Playboy's annual "That was the year that was" by Judith Wax.
Here's a few samples:

Carol Burnett
for Playboy, 1970

a Playboy spread from 1991 (thanks to John Wendler)

Payboy photo/1991

1960's Utterback cover

mid-seventies album cover art

a 1987 Utterback self-portrait (via Jim Engel)

The VIP drawings...
Joan Rivers
Jackie Mason
Beverly Saunders
Shelley Berman
Florence Henderson
Donna Theadore
Bobby Sargent

Tony Bennett
Michael Dees
Diahann Carroll
Misty Walker
Vic Damone
Lonnie Shorr
Teri Thornton

Chubby Checker
The Everly Brothers
Mort Sahl
Liza Minnelli
Flip Wilson
Flip Wilson II
Jackie Curtiss
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sonny & Cher

Tiny Tim
Gabriel Kaplan

Bill Utterback


  1. wow. i could look at his stuff for hours.
    GREAT !

  2. These are wonderful! I've never seen them before. That's what I get for not being a Very Important Playboy.

  3. Jackie Curtiss was the primary booker, ontop of being a comedian hismelf, for the Playboy Club(s) for several years.

  4. I like this blog because it's funny, it salutes great artists of the past, and it even occasionally introduces me to someone I didn't know (or fully appreciate) before. What's a Bill Utterback? I couldn't have told you, but I remember the Playboy jazz poll caricatures, not that you mention 'em.

    Jeez, these are beautiful. Even the ones I don't know here have a specificity about them that tells you it looks just like that person - whoever he or she is. (I first saw Peter Lorre, Edward G. Robinson and Charles Laughton in Bugs Bunny cartoons when I was five. Those caricatures were SO vivid and specific that I knew them instantly later, when I started watching classic films.)

    Utterback's style reminds me a little of Al Kilgore. Also, I have a theory: You're not officially a caricaturist until you've done at least one Sammy Davis Jr.

  5. Um, I meant "now that you mention 'em."
    Rackin' frackin' typos...

  6. Mike, all good points but I did mention his Playboy jazz/pop caricatures in the text.