Page 1

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

1


2

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Issue 104,Vol. 40, Summer 2014 Copyright © 2014 by Eastwind Studios - All Rights Reserved. All images copyright 2014 by respective artists, writers and photographers to cover the entire issue. Burr Jerger 1917 - 1982

Stu Weiner 1915 - 1985

Uncle Jam Quarterly is published whenever we get enough people in one room to do it, usually once every quarter by Eastwind Studios.

Quarterly, Volume 40, #104, Summer 2014

Any similarity to any other publication, living or dead, is purely the fault of the other publication. Single issues are available by mail for $10 postage paid in the USA. Subscriptions are $20 for 4 issues in the USA. Order through our website wingedtiger.com or send a check to Eastwind Studios, P. O. Box 750, San Bernardino, California 92402, USA. For ad inquiries please contact LindaAdams35@yahoo.com or call (909) 867-5605. philyeh@mac.com Please support our advertisers who made this publication possible. Phil Yeh~Publisher Linda Adams Yeh~Co-Publisher & Editor Linda Amick Puetz~Art Director Beth Winokur~Features Editor Tom Luth & Lieve Jerger~Assistant Art Directors Patti McIntosh, Peggy Corum~Copy Editors Edmond Gauthier~Archivist Henry Chamberlain~Seattle Bureau Chief Lim Cheng Tju~Asian Bureau Chief Michael Carvaines~Film Editor Sarah Carvaines, MPH, RD~ Health Editor PJ Grimes~Music & Health Editor CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS & WRITERS Rod Underhill, Theresa VanOrnum, Moonlily Winokur, Bernie Mases, Jennifer Daydreamer, Lim Cheng Tju, Ken L. Jones, Terri Elders, John Weeks, Rory Murray, Roberta Gregory, Miel, Jon J. Murakami, MB Roberts, Batton Lash, Al Davison, Tom Luth, Donna P. Crilly CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Lim Cheng Tju, Lieve Jerger, Tom Luth, Linda Adams, Bruce Guthrie, David Folkman, Greg Preston, Allen Freeman

Gene Yang & Phil Yeh at the ALA Convention in Las Vegas 2014 It was 1970 and my father was driving me and my youngest sister, Kathy, to the first San Diego Comic Convention in the U.S. Grant Hotel. I was a 15-year old teenager about to experience a world that I didn’t know existed. There were about 300 fans in the dealer’s room and a few guests. Ray Bradbury and Jack Kirby were the two guests that I remember meeting. They made a big impression on me and forever changed my life. I started my own publishing company a few months later in October, after I turned 16. A few years later while I was a second-year college student at Cal State Long Beach in 1973, I started publishing this alternative free paper inspired by The National Lampoon. We have a continued on page 46

available online at wingedtiger.com

COVER ART by Alex Nino Copyright 2014

Richard Kyle, Phil, and Tony Raiola, legendary bookseller Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

3


Alex Nino The Uncle Jam Interview

Alex Nino is one of the most original artists on this planet. He was born in the Philippines in 1940 and is self-taught. Alex started with the publications in his native country but was soon published by the American comic book companies in the 70s which led him to animation studios. Most notably Alex’s work was seen on Disney’s film Mulan. I had known Alex for decades but didn’t sit down to do this interview until we had a panel at the second San Diego Comic Fest in October, 2013. For more information see The Art of Alex Nino available from www.auadpublishing.com Phil Yeh: For those of you who do not know who Alex is, he is one of the reasons I became an artist. When I was young I saw the work of Alex Nino as a high school student; I said “This makes me want to draw. It makes me really want to draw.” I told this to Alex many times. A few years after high school, I met him in 1975, I believe. It was a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco; we hit it off. Tonight, I’m really happy to do this interview because I think that Alex’s work is some of the most original comic work, or any kind of artwork. Most artists look at somebody else and they make a drawing. They get inspired by somebody else. Some guys

4

just outright copy - I won’t name names. When you look at Alex’s work you think “Wow, where did this come from?” So now we’re gonna find out. Alex, what happened? How did you start doing this art?” Alex Nino: At the time, it was really very hard to do comic books in the Philippines, especially if you’re a newcomer, because there were lots of obstacles. You have to be close to the styles that the people like best, like Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, and Coching. If you want to get in, you have to copy each one of them, your favorite, or something. Hopefully then you could get a script; not a graphic novel, but a 4-page script and that’s more of a pass for you to get in. I had experience copying Nestor and it’s not even close. Alfredo was hard too, because Alfredo has got really thin lines. I didn’t have the luxury of buying a brush that could put real straight fine lines, so I thought “I have to just copy Coching,” and it was even worse; so what I did is just decide “why don’t I just do my own thing?” But again, it’s very difficult because I didn’t have any experience to do such things. Yeh: Who gave you your first break in comics? Nino: Bulaklak, which at that time was the second best publication in the Philippines. At

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

the time it was fortunate that I copied a little bit of Nestor and he said “Oh, yeah, you can do it now. You can come in and do a 4-page story. Yeh: What year was this? Nino: I think it was 1963...way back. Yeh: In the Philippines at that time they were producing so many comic books, but how much was the page rate? Nino: At that time in the Philippines they published four titles a week. That’s only one publication and there were dozens of publications with a few titles. All you have to do is get one of these publications and the rate per page is something like 5 pesos. You’re talking something like 25 cents; and it’s even worse, because if you have corrections on your illustrations they have to deduct some of that rate that you had. You don’t really care, because you want to get in and get some more work. Yeh: When did you start working for the rest of the world? When did you first get published in America or Europe? Nino: At that time there was a guy who came into the Philippines and his name was Orvy Jundis. He was a comic book archivist; he was


a collector. He said “I could help you get all of these things published in some of these fan magazines in the U.S.” He did and I was really excited. Yeh: So Orvy was bringing the work to the US at that time? Nino: At that time, he was sending samplings of lots of people in the Philippines. Before that also, and at the same time, a Filipino artist called Tony de Zuniga was acting as an agent from DC to recruit some Filipino artists. Yeh: He wasn’t giving you all of the money though? Nino: Uh… yeah (Alex and the audience laughs)

Yeh: This is what happened. He was representing these guys and they were still in the Philippines. They were being paid what? Nino: My rate at the time is 60 pesos. Finally 60 pesos a page, which at that time, I think it is $7 a page.

rate is. They said (although I had heard it from some sources already) that it was $75 a page! He said just between the two of us and you’ll be getting all the scripts like Tarzan and Turoc and everything.” I said “I’m gonna think about it, but I think I need the whole thing, $75.”

Yeh: Tony de Zuniga acted as a middle man, but Tony was being paid by DC and Marvel and getting a little more than $7 a page. So when some of these guys found out, they said “We’re going to go to America.” Right? Nino: At that time I was invited by the science fiction convention in D.C. and I had an intention of talking to these people at DC, especially Sol Harrison the vice president and Joe Kubert, also, he was there. I asked them how much my

Audience member: I remember you had a panel at SDCC and I remember Alex was sitting on one end and Tony was sitting on the other end. I had heard there was some history, but the panel never dealt with that. Yeh: These guys really don’t like to speak badly about anybody and I don’t want to speak badly about anybody either; but what I’m saying is, artists often are taken advantage of and they continued on pg 34

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

5


6

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


A Conversation with Vivek Tiwary Phil Yeh met Vivek Tiwary a few years ago in New York City at Book Expo America….and caught up with him again as Vivek’s new graphic novel was released. Uncle Jam: I have believed in the graphic novel art form for many years, but most of the companies seem to deal in super heroes, so I was really amazed when I read your book, The Fifth Beatle. It was beautiful; really well done. I read in the background that you had researched Brian Epstein for many years. What motivated you? Vivek Tiwary: In some ways it all goes back to my parents. Both were born in Guyana, South America; their parents were born in India. Later, my dad went to study medicine in India. My mother spent her formative years studying law in London. They both moved back to Guyana, where they met; then they moved to New York where I was born. Since my mother spent so much time in the United Kingdom, growing up we went to England often. It was a place that I was very familiar with and was a lover of all things English. Both my parents loved the Beatles and they both also loved comics. I went to business school at the Wharton School of Business, where I dreamed of being in the arts and entertainment industry and also dreamt of working for myself. Tending to be a little nerdy and academic, and also being a huge Beatles fan, I thought that the Beatles and Brian Epstein were the team that had rewritten the rules on the pop music business and I should learn that business story as a case study for my own business inspiration. It was believing if I was going to be an entertainment entrepreneur, I should study the lives of the great entertainment visionaries; it was wanting to know “How did Brian get them a record deal when no one wanted to sign them? How did he get Ed Sullivan to book them when no British bands had ever made an impact in the United States? How was he similar and different from Colonel Parker, who managed Elvis?” These were the stories that I was interested in. As you know, they are in the book and I think they are fascinating stories and continued on page 10 Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

7


“Cliff Dwellers” from the “Urban Landscape” series

From the “Hot Rods” series

The Yankee Painter by Rod Underhill

General Baxter’s Mansion Rod Underhill is a collector of fine art and a painter in his own right; a collection of his paintings have been featured in a “one artist” show at the prestigious Fine Art Institute, Balboa Park, San Diego. Painter Robert Waldo Brunelle, Jr. and I have a great deal in common. Like me, he descends from ancient Pre-Revolutionary War stock. His mother is a direct descendant of Elder William Brewster, who came to America on the Mayflower. My own ancestor, Captain

8

From the “Walking Home” series

John Underhill, arrived in America while the Mayflower was making repeat trips to our shores; but unlike Brunelle’s Puritan ancestors, Captain Underhill found himself running afoul of the rigid religious regulations of that historically important sect. Brunelle lives in Rutland, Vermont, near the small towns of Underhill and Underhill Center, both named after my ancestor. Much more importantly, perhaps, Robert Waldo Brunelle, Jr. is a fine artist who has been greatly influenced by American realist painter Edward Hopper;

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

while I, the former owner of San Diego’s Underhill Gallery, have also long admired and studied Hopper. Brunelle lists other additional artists as being among his sources of inspiration, but in his work, one can easily see the influence of Hopper. Brunelle has managed to adroitly move the realist movement forward through the addition of his own unique and novel elements to this delightful form of painterly Americana. History has fascinated Brunnelle since he was but a young man. He freely admits that he


spent his “rock and roll” years haunting antique shops and making purchases of bits of physical elements of history, rather than joining his peers and purchasing the latest rock records of the day. As a young man, he gleefully helped to restore battered pre-World War II automobiles and often proudly wore an ancient, antique morning coat. Brunelle has essentially bathed in history his entire life. When he was a young man, and he enjoyed listening to a “record;” he was listening to an old New Orleans jazz genre 78 that was spinning on a hand cranked Victrola, rather than listening to a modern pop record being played on an electric “stereo.” Hopper once said, when asked about the nature of his own art, that “The whole answer is there on the canvas.” The same thing could be said about Brunelle’s work. His paintings, often produced in a series of related work, concentrate on local buildings, small homes, brightly painted “hot rod” automobiles on display in a modern day small town park, and lately, in his “Walking Home” series, viewers are treated to various small town scenes of the same boy walking home past the sundry landmarks of his gentle, Vermont town. We see, in Brunelle’s paintings, bits of America that change reassuringly slowly. If there is any mystery to Brunelle’s work, it is the mystery of the past and present being melded into one whole. Brunelle is Hopper reborn, and updated.

Through the eyes of Robert Brunelle, Jr., viewers encounter not simply images of the locations of his small town in Vermont, but also we learn about the effect of the four seasons on small town America. We see the iconic structures of Rutland bathed in the delightful, warm light of a summer sun, cloaked in the gray mists of a heavy snow storm, or drenched in a dreary rain. We see, in his paintings, people at play, or glimpse them at work through a shop window, or performing a simple task such as taking a long walk home...and in that particular and wonderful “Walking Home” series, the starring character, a young, small town boy, is seen moving through each of the related paintings in such a manner that each painting becomes almost like the individual frame of a motion picture. Viewers see the same boy peering into the window of a closed store, then moving past an interesting, ancient brick building, then past a graveyard, as he makes his way home across his small town in Vermont. Rutland, Vermont may be the third largest “city” in Vermont; but with a population of about 16 thousand people, it affords the old buildings, neighborhoods, people, and other small town delights that seem similar in nature to those lovingly described by the late Ray Bradbury when he wrote about his own “Greentown” in Dandelion Wine. Brunelle notes these visual delights with the eyes of

a painter, preserving what he sees for future generations. Brunelle both acknowledges and preserves American history in his work. Often, we are seeing “history” through the eyes of this modern day American painter. The scenes are cast in the present, but the images speak of an earlier America and in some cases, such as in his “Beaches and Swimming Pool” series, we see America taking part in traditional, but old school, summer fun. The buildings that appear in his paintings are often old, and one might be initially unsure as to whether the scene one is viewing is set in 1950, or 1910, or today. We are surrounded by “American history,” and Brunelle understands and respects that. Echos of history are usually present in his work, even when we are taking in a modern day scene adroitly rendered in the relatively modern medium of acrylics, such as when the viewer is gazing at a Brunelle painting of a brightly colored 1950’s automobile on display today, at a local park on a summer’s day in Vermont. Five collected editions of his work are available from Lulu.com in a full color, affordable format, along with various other books he has written outside the scope of his fine art. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/brunellestudios



Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

9


Tiwary continued from page 7 inspiring stories and many of them are untold stories. If you are a Beatles fan, I think they’re a particular treat. What really struck a deep chord for me was the human side of his story, which wasn’t what I was after when I began my research, as I studied the business side. You know the highlights: he was gay, and Jewish, and from Liverpool at a time when it was a felony to be gay; anti-Semitism was rampant in the country; and Liverpool was a town in 1960-1961 that didn’t have any cultural influence whatsoever. So you have this gay, Jewish guy running around Liverpool saying “I have a local band who’s going to be bigger than Elvis. They’re going to elevate pop music into an art form.” These were crazy things to claim and people thought he was out of his mind. “People like you don’t do things like that,” which might be a little hard for us to imagine in 2014 terms, but Jewish people didn’t work in the music industry in the UK in the 1960’s. The music industry was run by people like Sir Lew Grade and Sir Joseph Lockwood; old white, Catholic, Knights of the British Empire. They weren’t run by young people with last names like Epstein. I want to be very clear. I have never faced the degree of obstacles that Brian faced, but I can relate emotionally to what he went through and you can maybe relate to this too. You know, “I’m a young first generation American family of Indian origin.” People of my ethnicity were not steered to careers in graphic novels, theater, television and film. We were steered to engineering. UJ: My father is a Chinese engineer. I totally understand. He still says you can’t make a living as an artist, and I have made a living as an artist my whole life. VT: To me, that is the heart of the Brian Epstein story. It’s showing people who grew up with that mindset, that it isn’t the case. If you have a crazy dream, no matter how crazy it is, and no matter how much people say “People like you don’t do those sorts of things,” or “That’s not a smart career move” that is rubbish. If you chase your dream with passion and persistence, you can achieve your dream spectacularly and change the world and make money in the process. And yes, of course the Brian Epstein story is tragic as well, but the tragedy, to me, just makes it more real and human. I find it an incredibly inspiring story. It made me feel like it was ok to follow these crazy artistic dreams of mine. UJ: Howard Cruse, who wrote the afterward to the book, is a good friend of ours. I think the afterward is what also makes your book so special. This is perfect, especially now with Russia and certain countries in Africa passing anti-homosexual laws. The consequences can

10

be damaging. This book, besides telling the Beatles’ story, (which it does beautifully); really hits on something much deeper and much more important. I hope this will be translated into all the major languages. VT: The book is in Germany and Brazil and also has French, Spanish, and Italian translations. We actually launched the book in Italy. Rolling Stone was celebrating their 10-year anniversary in Italy, so they bundled their anniversary issue with copies of The Fifth Beatle before it had come out in the United States. Italy is a serious comics culture. The next market we are looking at is Asia. They are big Beatles fans. My mission is to spread the story of Brian Epstein. I feel like if you’ve heard of the Beatles, you should have heard of Brian. There is a graphic novel component, there is a film component coming, and maybe one day there will be a stage component. It’s all in service of the same goal, which is to tell this great story. I hope when people put down the book that they will walk away feeling inspired to do something and follow their own dreams. That’s why I wanted Howard to write something. I don’t think of it as an activist book per se, but I hope that people finish it wanting to make a difference in the world. I thought that highlighting freedom to marry and hearing a few words from Howard would give our readers one suggestion of something you can do. UJ: It humanizes the issue. A lot of people who are bigoted don’t know anybody who represents what they are against. Then they meet somebody and say “Oh I didn’t realize this person is gay” (or whatever they are against). That’s where I think your book can make a difference. It can sneak up on somebody. Maybe they are against gays. They are reading the story and they are huge Beatles fans. Then they say, “Hey, wait a minute.” It humanizes the issue. I love this artwork that Andrew Robinson did; he’s really a good artist. This is much better than 90% of the graphic novels I see. This book is so beautifully laid out that I think a lot of people who don’t read graphic novels can really get into this book. VT: Thank you for saying that. I hope so; that is our goal. I chose this medium because I think it is fun. I know this is a heavy story in parts, but I wanted the experience of reading it to be fun and Andrew’s artwork is so beautiful. I spent 21 years of research on this book. I certainly could have written a 200 or 300-page prose biography, but who would have read it? Geeks like me, and there are certainly are a number of other Beatles geeks out there. I say that fondly because I’m one of them, but my goal is for the average reader to pick it up. They see an interesting title, flip through it and it has gorgeous artwork; it’s only 128 pages. It’s not a

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

long read. It’s much more likely that we’ll get readers like that than if we had written a 300page prose biography; the power of comics. UJ: The power of comics, when it’s done right, has the potential to reach everyone. I really think that this one has the potential to reach the whole world. VT: I’m on a mission to tell this story and I really hope that’s the case. I feel like comics in general, if they’re done properly, are “crossage.” My five-year-old can’t read the words, but I’ve read it to him and he enjoys the experience of The Fifth Beatle. I see people who have never read a graphic novel before, but they are interested in the subject. They grew up in the 60’s and they remember hearing about Brian Epstein, and because this is the only book in print about Brian, they are picking it up and they’re enjoying it and are getting it. UJ: I believe comics really are the greatest form for increasing literacy around the world because we are in a visual age. A lot of people like to watch TV and movies, but they don’t like to read; so this is a way to combine the two formats. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s a really beautiful book and I was really knocked out. I have to say, I’m a Beatles fan and have read just about every book on the subject. I knew the Brian Epstein story, but this is told so wonderfully. The part about John and Brian in Spain was handled beautifully. The other great part was when you mentioned Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis Presley’s manager). The comparison between Brian and the Colonel was wonderful. It shows there are a lot of slimy people in all businesses, but especially in the entertainment business. It also shows integrity and what a good person can do. It comes out in the story. You said there is going to be a film. How is that coming along? VT: Yeah, thank you for asking; it’s coming along great. I’ve written the screenplay myself. Payton Reed is directing. He directed Yes Man, The Break Up, and Bring It On. One film he is less known for is Down with Love, which is worth mentioning because it’s a 60’s period piece; probably the closest in DNA to The Fifth Beatle. He is a huge Beatle fan, but also gets that the Beatles are the intro to the story; it is Brian’s story. It was important for me to work with somebody who understood that. At heart, it really is a story about an outsider, a misfit going the distance in his chosen field. Yes, technically it is a music bio-pic, but really in my mind it is an inspiring human story and should be handled more like Rocky or Billy Elliot, about an underdog going the distance. In the same way you don’t need to be a fan of boxing to like Rocky and you certainly don’t need to be a fan of ballet to appreciate Billy


Elliot, you don’t need to be a Beatles fan to appreciate the story of Brian Epstein. It is a huge bonus if you are a Beatles fan, but we are very conscious to not make a film just for Beatles fans. Payton really gets that and I am so excited to be working with him. My co-producer is Bruce Cohen who won the Academy Award for producing American Beauty. He also produced Milk and Silver Linings Playbook, so was nominated two other times. He also produced Big Fish for Tim Burton. You’ve read the book, so you know the DNA of it is also in those movies. It’s got the whimsy and fantasy of Big Fish. It’s got the preoccupation with homosexual issues from Milk. Although it’s not activist movie, that’s a key part of the story. And it has concepts of dysfunctional families and the human conditions and the struggles that you see in American Beauty and Silver Linings Playbook. In a lot of ways Bruce is the perfect partner for this. We were on a panel together at New York Comic Con and somebody asked him “What makes this story interesting to you?” In his words, not mine: “I’m not from Liverpool, but I am gay and I am Jewish.” So, the story is very personal for him as well. Maybe the most exciting piece of news about the film is that we have the approval from the Beatles: meaning Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison all signed off on my screenplay, which allowed me to deal with Sony for the music. So, we have access to Beatles music for our film. We are literally the first and only film about the band in history to have gotten that kind of access. If you look at other movies about them, none of them have Beatle music, because the band has never approved a script before. We will be casting Brian soon and will be shooting later this year or early next year. I will say this, because you’re a fan of comics, we call it an adaptation of the graphic novel so people can wrap their head around it, but it really isn’t. I’ve been developing this graphic novel for about eight years and have been developing the film just as long. It’s just that the book got done faster, because there were fewer people involved. It really was just three people: me, and Andrew Robinson, and Kyle Baker, who did a sequence in The Philippines. With a film, you have a large group of people working on it. I view the film as an extension of the graphic novel. There are a number of sequences in the film that aren’t in the book and sequences in the book that you won’t see in the film. The point of that is that if this is a subject you care about, you should read the book and see the film. They are two different experiences. You will get a better-rounded picture of who Brian was. The film still does have the tone of the book. We did not make a graphic novel to make a film. I think too many people do that nowadays. It is not as if we made a comic book so that we could really make a film. UJ: Do you have anybody in mind for Brian? VT: We’ve talked internally, but we have to keep that close to the chest. We are enjoying a bunch of early interest from Hollywood and from the British film industry. I hope and suspect that whoever we cast will be an actor whose name we recognize, but who knows. I’m not gonna rule out any actor. Brian died when he was 32 and there are a number of extremely good actors who could play Brian. UJ: It is very exciting. The book is beautiful, but to have a film come out so soon after the book is rare. VT: Compliment me when we’re shooting. We are certainly working hard and are definitely on track. UJ: What about your career on Broadway? VT: I grew up in New York. My parents were huge lovers of the arts. As early as I can remember they were taking me uptown to see Broadway shows, ballet, and opera. Then when I was let out of the house on my own, I was going downtown, so I was getting exposed to Punk Rock and avant-garde music. I grew up loving it all; loving the fine arts and the experimental avant-garde arts that were happening downtown. It was a tremendous time to be growing up in New York. My grandfather had always told me to work for yourself and do what you love; and what I loved was the arts. I loved all of them, so I knew I wanted to work in the theater, film, television, etc. I’ve worked for myself for 15 years, but before that, I was working for record Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

11


labels. While I was at Wharton, I worked parttime for Sony Records and after I graduated I worked for Mercury Records. When I left Mercury, I set up shop for myself and I called it Tiwary Entertainment Group. I gave it that big name because I wanted to be involved in more than just the traditional music industry. I live in New York, and Broadway is my backyard, so I figured that was a good place to start. I knew I wanted to expand into television and film, but I thought I should start with Broadway. I started working with some guys to do a Broadway Hall of Fame. That project ended up not happening, but through that project I met the lead producers of The Producers, the Mel Brooks musical. They invited me to join that show in its very early stages. I did raise some money, so I earned my place at the table; but I will be the first to tell you that I mostly kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open: I learned how to produce. That was a wonderful show to learn from. If you follow Broadway, you’ll know the show did extremely well. After that I helped with some of the financing for Hairspray, which also did tremendously well. All of a sudden I had a track record in theater. I took my first outing as lead producer for A Raisin in the Sun, where we cast Sean Combs (better known as P. Diddy) as our male lead. It did amazingly well, so that was a

12

good choice for me. Everyone told me African American’s don’t come to Broadway and kids don’t come to Broadway. “You’re crazy to be doing this show, first of all, and secondly you’re crazy to be doing it with Sean Combs.” I just thought, “That’s crazy; if African Americans and kids aren’t coming to Broadway it’s because you are not giving them anything they want to see.” You give them something they want to see and make sure they know about it; which is what we did. We realized they aren’t reading traditional Broadway press, so we took ads in urban magazines, radio promotions, and had street teams. Sure enough, they came in droves. The show did very well and it was critically acclaimed. So, I was now a lead producer. I had a small piece of Young Frankenstein. I worked on A Little Night Music. And then most recently my last two productions have been The Addams Family and Green Day’s American Idiot, which you can probably guess has a very special place in my heart. In a lot of ways American Idiot was the perfect merger between all the arts interests I grew up with. American Idiot and The Addams Family are touring very successfully right now. My next theater thing is I’m working with Alanis Morissette to adapt Jagged Little Pill for the stage. We are literally just starting to meet with writers now, so it will be awhile before

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

you’ll be able to buy a ticket. It takes a number of years to get a new musical off the ground. American Idiot probably took four years, and that’s fast. The only reason it was so fast, is because the music was done. Obviously it needed to be re-orchestrated and arranged for the stage. Jagged Little Pill could move quickly, but would still be a number of years. UJ: How much does it cost to develop a musical on average? VT: There isn’t really a development cost the way there is with film. If you’re talking Broadway and talking a musical, and you’re talking about something with significant sets and costumes, you’re looking at anywhere between $10 million and $16 to $18 million. American Idiot was somewhere around 12 million and that’s on the less expensive side. An investor would be right to ask me “How are you able to do a Broadway musical for $12 million?” If you see the show, you’ll see it’s very stripped down. There are stage sets, but it relies a lot on video projections and there aren’t fancy costumes. It’s more about the music and the performances. The stage set is wonderful (it won a Tony), but it is a very bare bones stage set. The Addams Family was $16.5 million, which is very expensive. If continued on page 20


The Art of Andrew Robinson The Fifth Beatle is an incredible piece of work written by Vivek Tiwary and illustrated by Andrew Robinson. Linda and Phil Yeh caught up with Robinson in his studio outside Los Angeles after the 2014 Rueben Awards, which are sponsored by The National Cartoonists Society. Uncle Jam: You recently won a Rueben award for The Fifth Beatle. I’m a huge Beatles fan, so for me, this book is the most important graphic novel that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I had a hand in creating graphic novels in 1977 and I envisioned at that time a book like this; a book that would transcend comic books and just be a book. That is what my friend Richard Kyle, who

coined the term “graphic novel” in Long Beach had in mind; a book that would be just like a novel. Unfortunately, the history of graphic novels has been uneven. There’s been a lot of super hero comic books published as graphic novels that are just 6 issues of a comic book, without a beginning, middle, and end. A person off the street would not be able to understand what’s going on. When I talk about graphic novels, I would want to tell people about a book like The Fifth Beatle. That, to me, is the perfect book; because it introduces not only Brian Epstein to a large segment of society, but also the concept of where the Beatles started from. So, congratulations on winning the Rueben Award for Graphic Novels. Andrew Robinson: Thank you.

Uncle Jam: I think of the Rueben as our (cartoonists) Academy Award. Do you have any stories you want to tell about winning the Reuben? Robinson: It’s not really that flattering of a story. The event was down in San Diego. I wanted to go and I wanted to take my girlfriend also. I was making arrangements to go. I figured we would drive down for the ceremony and spend the night. I called to see if they had special rates for the hotel. They invited me in March and between March and May, nobody told me that to go to the event it costs $350. If you’re nominated you have to spend $350, because you have to go to the whole weekend’s event. That means you have to get there on Friday and stay through Sunday, so you need a hotel for more

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

13


than one night. The ‘special rate’ was $200 a night, $40 parking, a black tie affair; that’s well over $1000. I ended up having to just do a video acceptance to send in case I won. I’m not mad about it, but it’s just a little disheartening. Uncle Jam: The National Cartoonists Society was started by wealthy, syndicated cartoonists back in the time when people still read newspapers. I understand the NCS position, but if you’re really going to make the organization open to comic book guys, greeting card artists, etc., you have to consider that most of these people are not millionaires. In the old days comic strips were the big thing, Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon. Today you can’t even find a young person who knows who Milton Caniff is, let alone Noel Sickles. One of the reasons that I’m still dipping my finger into the pot, so to speak, is because I believe that our art form, comic book art and cartoons, deserves as much esteem as fine art. Why is there a break between illustration and painting? Why is someone paying 100 million for a Van Gogh, who I love, and then pay $1000, if that, for comic book art? It doesn’t make sense. Robinson: It is changing. The price has gone way up in value for comic book art. But back to the NCS thing…I understand. If I had known sooner, I wouldn’t mind being in the club and wearing a tux. It would be fun to do once in a while and take your significant other to that kind of weekend. For me, I was telling the event coordinator, it’s just not my budget. I would like to have gone, but this is just a lot more than I planned on. Because I was nominated, the rules are that I have to pay for the whole weekend and I wanted to bring my girlfriend. She’s not an artist. She could also pay $350; but then she would have to go to seminars for cartooning. Otherwise she could pay $150 and hang out by herself while I went to the seminars and then just go to the awards ceremony. I was certainly honored to be in there with the other artists who have won. Uncle Jam: I hope by the time this magazine comes out, you will have also won an Eisner for this book. (The Eisner’s are named for Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit, and presented at the San Diego Comic-Con International each summer.) Robinson: It’s gonna be tough. I’m up against Fiona Staples, who is really popular right now for Saga. She’s got a lot of fans, so you never know. We’ll see. As far as the Eisner’s for the book itself, we’re up against stiff competition with March, and also Hip Hop Family Tree, which I think is a great book. Uncle Jam: In my opinion The Fifth Beatle is something that should be able to break out into

14

of my buddies. When you’re not in the water goofing around or surfing, maybe just sitting there working on your tan, it’s time to relax and shoot the shit with your friends and point out girls; but in this case it’s nice that John had a bond with Brian and in a roundabout way just tells him “it’s ok” but when he kind of tricked him into exposing his inner feelings by saying “What about that guy? What about him?” and then finally saying “Hey, we’re friends and maybe if I was gay things would be different, but I’m not.

the mainstream. Are the sales indicating that? Robinson: I think they are building. It’s also in Germany, Spain, England, and France. Uncle Jam: Do you get royalties for the international books? Robinson: Yes. I took a huge pay cut to do this book. The book was labor intensive and it took a lot of research. Uncle Jam: Were you a fan of the Beatles before? Robinson: Definitely. I think more so after this. I still love their music. You’re dealing with rock and roll icons. It was a little bit nerve wracking for me, portraying these very special important people. Each one of them was an icon in their own right. I was just trying to get it right while doing my own artistic language and style. Uncle Jam: I knew that Colonel Parker was evil, but your sequence in this book was brilliant. Robinson: We really wanted to push the theatrics of it, because it’s not an action comic. When you have a lot of scenes that are just people talking, I thought you can still make the scenes interesting with the camera angles and again play up the theatrics when we’re also dealing with Brian who had been taking a lot of speed and there are sometimes slight hallucinations from lack of sleep and too much work. I really wanted to play up the whole good vs. evil; Brian being in the light and the plants by the colonel withering and the fire. Uncle Jam: The sequence where Brian invited John Lennon to Spain was very good. Robinson: That’s one of my favorite scenes. I treated it like when I went to the beach with one

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

Uncle Jam: What kind of instructions did you have from Vivek when you got the script? Robinson: For me, the fun part was that it was really more like working from a screen play where I’m hearing the dialog. I know the setting, but I don’t know how many panels there are and what makes a page, so I had the freedom to go in there and decide on double page spreads and whether it needed panels or whether I could combine things. To me, just push it to the best of my abilities as a story teller. Going by what they’re saying, I was trying to interpret what they were saying into their facial expressions and how they were feeling when they say certain lines. This book was painted and heavily researched. The levels of difficulty were hitting the high end on so many areas. To do it right, you have to do the research. There is so much build up for every scene as far as what people are wearing and the hair styles, and the locations and the cars and the technologies like what kind of phones they were using. I was hoping that when you looked at it, you go there. It takes you there and you believe in the people that are there and you believe in the technology of that time. Uncle Jam: I think you really did a good job. I want to say as a lifelong Beatles fan that I was really impressed. Tell me about how Kyle Baker came to do his chapter in the book. Robinson: Vivek just wanted somebody to do art that would look totally different for that scene. It’s almost a comical break within the story. It’s so insane when they go to the Philippines. I think Kyle was a good choice for that part. Uncle Jam: It seemed more like a dream sequence. I was really impressed with the whole thing; the packaging, everything about the story. I think this book, better than other books I have read, really captured what it was like for Brian: the discrimination he faced. You handled it really well. Robinson: It’s a big story about the Beatles, on one hand, but it’s also a little personal story about one man and one person’s struggle. Maybe outwardly you have success, but inwardly our secret lives are maybe just as interesting and


important. I could certainly relate in my own troubles with loneliness at times, and love not working out, and dabbling in drugs here and there; trying to handle your vices. Uncle Jam: I think anyone from any background can relate to the story because you summed it up; all the things that anybody does…where do I go from here? How do I do this? And the fact that he was managing the family business and then really took a left turn and said “I’m gonna back this band.” I think the book captured all those feelings. Robinson: They were kind of like setting the standard for boy bands, even though they were much more than a boy band. In the beginning just the marketing was really Brian. He wrote the bible that these managers now study. Guys who are managing bands like Nsync and Backstreet Boys. Brian obviously wanted to make money, and did. He made them money too, but it seemed like, from everything I’ve read, that he really cared. It wasn’t “I’m getting the lion’s share and I might give you guys a little bit to keep going.” Uncle Jam: How did it come about that you were asked to do The Fifth Beatle? Robinson: My agent, Mark Irwin, his partner is in New York and knew somebody who knew Vivek, so it came around. Mark had connections to go out and look for somebody. At first they wanted Bill Sienkiewicz. He’d done Voodoo Child, which is an awesome book. I don’t think Bill was available, so Mark said he might know somebody else. When I was asked to do a Beatle’s graphic novel it was really exciting and I thought it would be kind of fun and artsy; a little bit out of the norm, but still big enough that you could be successful. I signed on and read the script and found the script pretty exciting and interesting. I worked on it for the last 4 years. Uncle Jam: Were you doing other jobs in between? Robinson: I did a few just to keep everything going. The budget for this wasn’t very large, but they also wanted it done within a year. To do the book in a year, it would have looked like shit. Once we started going and getting into it …from the get go I think the book looked pretty good and I tried to keep on upping the ante as we went along. I tried to make the scenes grander and try new things. I wanted to keep experimenting and still keep the level of drawing and painting good. It took time, and everyone was wondering “When is the book going to come out?” They really wanted the book to come out before the film, which luckily it has. There’s no film yet. In the end it all worked out and I think everybody is glad

now that we took our time and had the patience to do this right and to show Brian’s family, and the Beatles. That we’re not cashing in on the Beatles name and this is a project with care and love and you’re doing something worthwhile and justified. Uncle Jam: In America and England at that time, was very backwards in their treatment of homosexuality. Then their treatment of homosexuality is no different than a lot of countries in Africa or the Middle East today. I think we have to reach a point where the whole world recognizes that we’re all the same, we’re all human beings. Forget about religion, forget about race and just say “look, we’re human beings. Every human deserves a fair shot and I think in America we’re still fighting this battle.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

15


Robinson: Yeah it’s a social issue and America is a big place. You can go from state to state and different areas have different rules. I like in the book that it points out that America wasn’t the most homophobic place on the planet. Even in the 60’s things were changing here and there. It takes change in big cities then it trickles down to smaller cities. But now it seems like most of the civilized world is accepting that “hey, if someone is gay, they’re just gay. They didn’t choose to be gay to piss off their parents. They didn’t choose gay to be different. They’re just doing what god or the universe or whatever has designed them to do, to feel, to be. In our story, the sacrifices that Brian is making for the band that he knew reputation and doing the right thing according to the standards of the time is what you have to do to be successful. John gets Cynthia pregnant. Brian tells John, you’re going to marry her, get an apartment and live together; you’re going to do the right thing. He, of course, is keeping his true feelings secret and doesn’t want to be exposed because it would hurt him and hurt the band. Sacrifices he is making for his success, their success; sacrificing for his family. It’s kind of sad in the end that the one thing that he wanted more than anything else is love. Success is great, and having a career is awesome. You can make a million dollars, you can make trillion dollars, but that doesn’t, like the song, it doesn’t buy you love. Uncle Jam: The Beatles said it best. All you need is love. We’re a different generation. I would imagine when you came up, the Punk movement was happening. Robinson: My first awareness of Punk Rock was when my older brother, who is 6 years older than me, was staying with us. We have different mothers with the same dad. I also have an older sister; his sister from the same mother. He said “I gotta tell you what your sister is doing.” He was 16 and I was 10. I said “What?” He said “She listens to Punk Rock music.” And I started crying. This was about 1980. I’m hearing this and I don’t understand what Punk Rock means, but it sounds like something awful. A few years later I started skateboarding. Most of my friends were Punk; most of them liked Punk music. I was a product of the 80’s, when alternative really was alternative. Alternative wasn’t played on the radio. Uncle Jam: How did you get into the Beatles? Robinson: My older brother also, when he would stay with us. He had an 8 track and brought a Sergeant Pepper’s album and I listened to it over and over again. I may not have understood everything that they meant in the song, but the music just ignites your imagination. So many songs; Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, or Octopus’s Garden…it’s like you’re dreaming.

16

The visuals, it’s very interesting as a kid to draw and use your imagination. Uncle Jam: Have you always drawn? Robinson: Yeah, since I was a little kid. My older brother drew when he was a teenager. He stopped, but he had an influence on me. There’s always somebody you want to be as good as. You want to be like this person, like that person. You go with your influences, and then hopefully one day you finally become your own person. Uncle Jam: How did you start professionally? Robinson: I actually started with Dark Horse. I was in college at Savannah College of Art and Design. A good friend of mine was already working in his junior year. We were actually in comic book one and two classes. There wasn’t a major in sequential at that time. He said I should go to Atlanta with him to Gaijin Studios. We met Adam Hughes, Jay Johnson, and the guy who gave me my first job, Cully Hamner. This was 1993. Cully Hamner was going to do a story for Dark Horse, but he got a monthly job for DC, so he just couldn’t do it. I had left some samples of my work there. He showed Randy Stradley and I got the job. I did the job on time and got my next short story for Dark Horse and then just kept going from there. Uncle Jam: How old were you? Robinson: I was 22 or 23. Uncle Jam: How did you end up at Savanah School of Art And Design? Robinson: My art teacher at my high school became like my guidance counselor and gave me advice like “you can do this for a living if you want. You have the talent. You can paint or be an illustrator or whatever.” She pushed me to try for scholarships and I ended up getting a 50% scholarship to SCAD. I joined the army to pay for the other half. I did some service, was in the first Desert Storm, had some adventures, did some living, got to see a different part of the world, and then began my college career. I took a couple sequential art classes and really liked it. I got a chance to do a lot of things with superheroes and then branched out and have been doing that, along with gaming art and fine art for about 20 years now. Uncle Jam: Where do you see your career going from here? Robinson: I’m about to start doing creator owned stuff now. More adventure things, not necessarily superhero. Alternative mainstream things. I just did a black and white Batman story that came out earlier this year; doing covers for Winter Soldier at Marvel and a cover for Vertigo.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

Uncle Jam: Will you be writing the creator owned stuff? Robinson: Not all of it. I’ll work with Bob Burden on something that he’s gonna write and I’m going to work with another friend of mine and then doing stuff that I’m writing. I’m a little bit older and I’ve worked with great editors and art directors but now I want to do what I want and how I want. If I want advice I’ll ask for it but if I don’t want it and the fans like it, then I’m much happier that way. I have total confidence that when I start something I’m not wasting my time. I hate to have a great idea and then have to go through the chain of changes. I just want to do my thing and go by my rules. Uncle Jam: Can you tell us about your project with Bob Burden? Robinson: It’s called Hitman for the Dead. It’s about somebody who can talk to ghosts of murder victims and then avenge their death. There’s a broader story than that; there’s a back story. It’s kind of pulpy and detective, and paranormal. Uncle Jam: Will the paintings from The Fifth Beatle be for sale? Robinson: Yes, I’m going through them doing a few touch-ups and will try to have them ready for San Diego Comic-Con. I will be at my manager’s booth, Essential Sequential, with some other artists. http://nextexitcomics.com/ 


From Art Director to Producer The Career of Michael C. Gross Michael C. Gross is an art director, editor, illustrator, photographer, film producer, director, museum curator, and painter. He is best known for his work as the art director for National Lampoon magazine. Phil & Linda Yeh recently visited him at his North San Diego County bungalow on the beach. Uncle Jam: Let’s start with National Lampoon. It really influenced my life. I started Uncle Jam in 1973 when I was a sophomore in college; but I started reading Lampoon in 1970 and obviously that’s when you started. Michael Gross: Yeah, there were 5 issues before me. There were some people called Cloud Studios and they were an Underground studio. These terms don’t mean much anymore. What happened was, Doug Kenney, Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman came out of Harvard, and Matty Simmons was publishing a special edition runoff; a one-time magazine. It made a lot of money, so they said “Why don’t you do a humor magazine? There isn’t one in America right now, except for Mad.” They took a risk: they didn’t know anything about making a magazine. Matty Simmons was publishing Weight Watchers. He knew you had to have a certain amount of staff; but the editorial staff, Doug and whoever else was contributing, had never worked on a magazine for real. They had done one-shot books; but magazines you have to do every 30 days, figuring out themes and who would be the contributors. They didn’t even know what an art director did. They thought if they were gonna be a new humor magazine, they would get someone like Cloud Studios. They were kind of thinking Mad Magazine, but with a contemporary 1970’s underground, representing ‘them versus us.’ They tried that and it was a mess, frankly. It had underground art, but they didn’t know how to do a magazine either. There were fewer advertisers that were trying to get

Gross at San Diego Comic Fest, October 2013 in the magazine. They were balking, because it looked like an Underground comic magazine and they didn’t want to advertise in that. That’s all based on look, not so much content. So Matty Simmons said “I’m gonna get a professional art director in here.” I had already been in Mexico City as an art director for the Olympics. In 1968 I came back and I art directed my first national magazine called EYE in its dying days. I got the last 5 issues before it went out of business. I foundered for a bit; I had a wife and child to feed. At least I was art directing a national magazine. When you’re art directing in New York, you go on staff and you want that point where you’re art directing a national magazine and you don’t have to answer to anyone except the editor or publisher. I had reached that status, but not in any meaningful magazine yet. EYE could have been, but didn’t, for whatever reason. But I was recognized by the industry and at that time the Vietnam War was still on. A lot of talent my age was still

teaching, or had left the country or went to Vietnam. There was a shortage of talent that I was able to take advantage of because I had a wife and child, so I couldn’t get drafted. My career was plugging along. I had loved the issues that I had read of National Lampoon and I loved the Time Magazine parody. The job came up and I went home to my wife and said “I’m ready to go after this. I can do it.” She looked at me and said “Why do you want to do this? It’s a rag. I don’t get it at all.” She had a great sympathy for comic art and those things I liked. I said “I think I know what to do with this,” so I made an appointment. First of all I sat down with Doug Kenney and then I went to Henry Beard and said “Here’s what I think you’re doing wrong. You did a series of postage stamps with embarrassing American events. You do these stamps with these funny Underground illustrations on the stamps, which is what Mad would do. With parody, they shouldn’t look like cartoon stamps; they should look like real stamps and then the power of the parody is doubled. I know how to do that.” Henry liked that, but Doug didn’t want to hire me. Matty was really into it. He didn’t care about philosophy or anything; he wanted a slick-looking magazine by a real art director, so then the advertisers would feel comfortable there. I was there only three weeks and Doug Kenney came to me and apologized and said “What you are doing is amazing.” The first issue I did was the nostalgia issue. We weren’t living in the era of nostalgia then. We had a little bit of throwback to Art Nouveau, but we weren’t looking to the 50’s yet; it was only the 70’s. In later years when Doug and I were in Hollywood, he introduced me: “This is Michael Gross; we invented nostalgia.” I had such freedom; we were so small and we knew so quickly what we were doing. For the first time I was art directing a magazine that I didn’t even have to show layouts to the editors.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

17


I would show them the art when it came in and the next time they saw the pages they were signing off on them. Not once in the history of the magazine did anybody in editorial ever say “You might consider doing this differently.” I had carte blanche.

some artists for a quarter page. It was a great of them. We gave them pretty much free rein. joy. I got very little credit for it, frankly. It was Everyone was having a pretty damn good time. really a baby of mine. I’m kind of proud of it. I’m not a bad editor; I’m good at comic editing. UJ: I think the Lampoon was incredible. In 11th grade, I started my own magazine, inspired by I was just very proud of that little section. Somewhere along the line, we started to what you guys did. pick up speed. Here’s what happened in the MG: I did my first magazine with Don Shay UJ: So you were responsible for the funny entire magazine and it’s reflected in the comic called Kaleidoscope. It was a little fanzine. pages, with Jeff Jones, etc? section as well. There were these humorists who We interviewed Buster Crabbe. My parents MG: When I was at EYE magazine, they were were only being published once in a while; for put in like $50 each; we stapled them together considering themselves a youth magazine, example, Michael O’Donoghue in Evergreen ourselves. Don went on to publish Cinefex whatever that may be; even though they didn’t Review and Screw. They were literally starving, Magazine and I went on to make Ghostbusters. want any long hair or mention of drugs. We had staying on peoples’ couches and living in cold It was perfect. We went to high school together and are still best friends. Don and I were doing water flats. As soon a fanzine and making 16 mm movies in high as they got school. Leap forward a number of years and in Lampoon he’s got Cinefex with a cover article about and started Ghostbusters. How’s that for full circle? He g e t t i n g has a photo of Arthur C. Clarke reading Cinefex more work, with the Ghostbusters cover. we became known as a UJ: From Lampoon, you went into producing source for Ghostbusters? people to MG: It was pretty amazing how much work come to get we did in 4 or 5 years, but I was getting tired p u b l i s h e d . of Lampoon. In a very short period of time it Also at that became too big for its own good and too big point we for the egos. Then there were factions fighting were doing a with each other. It moved up to a radio program lot of comic and records, and then suddenly there was a parody, so I stage show. This whole thing was building into had to learn something bigger and bigger, and with that Art directing National Lampoon who people you lose a lot of the fun. For me, the fun was a pretty good time there. I said “You ought to like Neal Adams were. Marvel was right upstairs starting to go away and I wanted to move on. have a funny pages section in the back of the from us; they used to do our lettering. We used David Cassel was a friend from college at Pratt. magazine. I was a big fan of Playboy. I didn’t their colorist. Stan Lee loved the magazine. We always said we would have a design firm like Underground art, except for Robert Crumb. Each of these stages introduced me to more and one day. If you’re a print designer, you either go Probably wrongly so; a lot of good stuff was more comic artists and they all talked to each into advertising, publishing, or you have your being done, but for me it was not my genre. I other. So sooner or later the Vaughn Bodes and own design firm. I wasn’t going to go to another said the Bobby Londons walked in the door and said magazine at that point and I certainly wouldn’t “You know there are people like Gahan Wilson, “Can I show you my stuff?” I fell in love with work in advertising, so we had a design firm and I know comic artists who are brilliant and Bobby’s Dirty Duck. He was married to Shary and that allowed us to have other kinds of work, funny writers and this could be a hip, new, but Flenniken at the time and said, “You should like the Muppets and other things. We had other good looking, comic section. They thought it look at my wife’s over and said “No, I don’t see it, I don’t get stuff.” That’s how it, and I don’t think it’s this magazine.” So it happened. I then I was at Lampoon: now I was entrenched knew Kliban. He with some of these artists. Gahan Wilson was was married to already illustrating for National Lampoon, so M.K. Brown and I proposed the idea again. As far as the editors said, “You should were concerned, they were happy to get eight look at my wife’s pages off their back, because I edited the whole stuff.” They got thing. It was less for them to worry about. Also divorced soon they liked it, but sometimes they didn’t quite get after, but M.K. what I was doing. We had a simple thing…if I had her own thought it was funny, it went in, even if I was the presence. It was only one who thought it was funny. So I had this just like any great ride of freedom editing that section and I magazine, except based it on “If I can get Gahan to do it, we’ll we were good know this will work. So I went to Gahan and editors, I was a he said “I would love to do a strip.” He went on good art director, to do a great strip. I told him he could have the and we didn’t Michael and Glenis in the early days first page of whatever we do. I made a deal with edit the hell out

18

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


connections we built like Sesame Street. Peter Kleinman replaced me at Lampoon and he was a great art director. They wanted to do a special book, and a bicentennial calendar, but the work load there was so huge, the new art department couldn’t take it on. They freelanced those out to me, because obviously the editors all knew me, so our design firm continued to contribute to the magazine in a number of ways through 1975. That faded away as Lampoon got more on its feet. They changed editors and everyone was fleeing to the west coast to make movies. Somewhere in there was something called the National Lampoon Show. It was a very small cabaret show. It starred Bill Murray, Brian DoyleMurray, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner. It was directed by Martin Charnin, who had done Annie on Broadway; but it was produced by Ivan Reitman. Ivan had done Canadian film and had also produced a magic show. Ivan loved Lampoon, so he produced that show. I was still doing the magazine, and I got to know Ivan a little. I helped him with some graphics he was doing in Canada. As time moved on a little further, Animal House gets produced, because Matty Simmons wants to do a movie. So he contacts Ivan Reitman who is a film maker and has credibility in Canada and who is capable of doing it and understands. John Landis was the director. There was this movement that you go to California and make movies. I was still sort of in touch with them all. I was kind of freelancing at that point. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I got out of my design firm. There was not enough design and too much worrying about Xerox machines and paying the staff. I wasn’t that kind of person. So I just took a little office in the back of Lampoon. I did books for them for Heavy Metal. It was the sister publication of National Lampoon under the editorship of Len Mogel. Len made the deal to put out Heavy Metal because, in France there was something called Métal Hurlant with Moebius. They had just sold the reproduction rights in America. All that had to be done was translate the speech bubbles and they had a little original material. They wanted a bunch of books started, so I got a little office in return for doing books. Right around then Len Mogel said “I want a movie too.” Matty Simmons is now the producer of Animal House. It cost $5 million to make and grossed $125 million, so Len decided to do an animated

Cover of the National Lampoon “Death” issue, January 1973 feature on the material from Heavy Metal. I said, “That’s a great idea, but you are going to have a problem. Half of what you look at in print here can’t be translated to animation. If it can be, it’s gonna be hacked to pieces because they won’t be able to do the line work. The animators around here are doing bunny rabbits or TV commercials. They don’t know about doing this. If you’re going to do (Richard) Corben on screen; this is not easy. Somebody has to know how to piece these two bits together to make the translation. I can do that, I know about animation. (I lied--I knew enough--a friend did some once) I can art direct this thing.” He said, “I’ll make you associate producer.” It reached a point where we got

Michael & “the boys” on the Ghostbusters set

continued on page 38

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

19


Tiwary continued from page 12

you ask why, it’s because we had Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. We had several set changes; there is a scene where a giant squid rises from the basement and lifts one of the characters into the air and they do a duet. The most expensive musical to date, not counting Spiderman, was Shrek, which was $18.5 million. That kind of gives you a rough range. Spiderman was so crazy. For something to cost $50 or $60 million for a Broadway show is absurd. UJ: How long does it have to run in order to make you money? VT: That depends on the budget and the running cost. A show can have a running cost of a half a million to a million monthly, depending on the show. The shows I work on can’t be in that range. I try to keep running costs at half a million. With those parameters, if your show is a hit, it doesn’t need to be a Producers-type hit; it doesn’t need to be impossible to get a ticket. For a six-figure success, you’ll break even in 1 to 1½ years. You’ll start making money in year 2 and then, God willing, you’ll have a show that runs for 10 years and you’re doing great. When it works it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s a tough business. UJ: We have heard that the choreography for American Idiot is amazing. VT: The choreography is intense. Steven

Hoggett, our choreographer, did an amazing job. I don’t know how the performers do it. They do anywhere from seven to ten shows a week. They perform every night and then there are matinées. Typically at the end of the week the cast is tired and sometimes bored; they’re just thinking about getting to their weekend. The choreographer said his favorite shows are toward the end of the week when the cast is tired; because the difference with American Idiot is that the choreography is so demanding that the more tired they are, the more intensely focused they become. They know that if they screw up someone can get hurt. It is very aggressive choreography, so that means if they miss a cue somebody won’t be catching them, and they will fall on their ass. It’s an unusual show in that instance. UJ: You’re the co-founder of Musicians on Call. Can you tell us about that organization? VT: It’s an organization I co-founded with Michael Soloman, a dear friend of mine who is actually a music manager. The mission of our organization is to use music and entertainment to complement the healing process. Primarily what we do is bring musicians into health care institutions to perform for the patients. While we do some performances in recreation centers or lounges, that is hardly unusual. What makes Musicians on Call different is that we have oneon-one room visits. We bring a musician around

to go to each individual room to perform for the patients there. The vision is that, much like there is always a ‘physician on call’, we would like to see the world get to the place where we always have a ‘musician on call.’ I just believe that music is a real complement to the healing process. My mom died of cancer here in New York and she was a huge music lover. Something like that would have made a huge difference in her life. Michael Soloman, my cofounder, also lost a girlfriend when she was only 21, from a rare form of cancer. She was also a music lover, and that’s sort of where the impetus for starting it came from. We did launch the program at Sloan-Kettering; primarily because we had an unusual amount of experience with cancer, so we knew the doctors there. But it is not a cancer-related program or even a child-related program, although we did launch in cancer/ pediatrics. We are now in New York, Philly, Los Angeles, Miami, and Nashville; we are truly a national organization. I’m not at a place in my life where I can spend most of my time on non-profits, but of all the things I have done, Musicians on Call is probably the thing I am most proud of. So thank you for noticing and for asking me about that. Most people don’t ask me about that. The arts have saved my life, that’s for sure. http://www.tiwaryent.com/ www.musiciansoncall.org 

Smith Tower A short story by Henry Chamberlain

Smith Tower celebrated its 100th anniversary as a landmark in Seattle on July 4, 2014. For 50 years, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. This short story is part of a novel that Henry Chamberlain is working on. It will come out in installments in 2014. For more details, visit Henry Chamberlain at www.comicsgrinder.com No one would have thought anything about the pretty young woman at the information desk. Annie couldn’t help that. She sat at the desk and did her job. If she was working her other job, as a tour guide out there among the people and living history, she could be herself; joke around and connect with her audience. The Smith Tower job required a low-key energy. It was on one of these typically quiet days that something strange happened. Looking

20

back, Annie knew it was inevitable. Her fate was inextricably linked to Smith Tower. Her body and soul co-mingled with every fiber, all 522 feet, of that building. It was, after all, her great-great-grandfather, Jeffrey Wright, who had convinced L.C. Smith, in 1914, to erect the tallest skyscraper outside of New York City. So, it should have come as no surprise, given all she knew, when something did happen. But you’re never ready for these things, are you? Annie was exceptionally restless that day. She was thumbing through, for what must have been the millionth time, a coffee table book commemorating the 100th anniversary of Smith Tower. Her hand had landed on the page that has a full-on view of the tower with this one guy in a derby looking up at it. What a funny scene it was, when you stopped to think about it; and Annie definitely had the time to think about it. It started innocently enough. Annie took her

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

index finger and started to pick at the derby hat in the photograph. What did you expect to happen? Once she began, she couldn’t stop. Her finger would glide over the hat, come in for a landing, and then flick at it. She did this repeatedly, even setting aside her texting. And then, after all that repetitive flicking, the hat came flying off the man’s head. It came right off! But this was a book, not some game; nothing more than a photograph in a book! Annie was in full-blown panic mode. Her eyes zeroed in on the action before her, second by second. A hat from a photograph is in motion, all because of a compulsive habit. On the other side, if that’s what you can call it, there was a man in a derby, back in 1914. He was quietly reading that day’s paper, when he had raised his head to take a view of the newly erected Smith Tower. That is all he remembered, all he’d ever known; all that ever was. Until


suddenly, without warning, what may have been the hand of God, for all he knew, tapped him upon the head, perhaps baptizing him, perhaps chastising him. It sent a shock through his very core that left him beyond speechless, beyond motionless. Everything around him seemed to turn to pure white; he looked up again at the tower. Moments later, there was a blast of light. And there he still stood, but everything around him had transmogrified; everything except for the tower. And so he resolved to find his way to the top. His instincts told him he would find some answer up there, if he only dared to go. The man who lost his derby must have made a good impression on the elevator operator because he was effortlessly whisked up to the Chinese Room, on the 35th floor. Perhaps the operator was under some spell, but no matter. The man reached his destination. This is the general meeting space, tourist center, and where you access the observation deck. This is also where Annie sits at the information desk. The elevator doors open directly to that desk. The man stared at Annie, and then he looked at the desk. His derby was sitting there, as if waiting for him. What could he do but try to understand what was happening to him. He wanted to say something reassuring. Annie was trembling but bravely offered a question: “Who are you?” Fair enough question. The man shook his head a little, hesitant to add more to this already traumatic event. He took in a full breath and

resolved to say something. His answer came out as more of a question than he had intended, “A friend from the past?” He hoped, even prayed, that it went over well; but Annie kept trembling and her shock made her look all the more withdrawn and unwelcoming. This made the man most uncomfortable. He began to worry that she might scream; escalate matters; and create utter chaos. In that moment, he leaned forward and gently picked up his hat. He pressed for the elevator to take him back down. Before he knew it, before it had truly sunk in; he was right back down and back on the mean streets of a strange land. Everything looked out of sync to him, as if out of an H.G. Wells science fiction novel. Then it all started to clear up for him. “I know where I am. And I know who that young lady is. By some miracle, or perhaps not, I am here to witness the life, the world, of my descendant. She cannot know. How could she process in her mind such a thing? But where do I go now? What is the best thing for me to do? That I cannot even begin to answer!” Annie called the main office and explained that she had taken ill. She needed to take the rest of the day off. Would that be alright? Within the hour, a substitute showed up and Annie was free to leave. It was a short walk to her apartment in Pioneer Square. She never knew a moment that was not connected to the past; and now this.

Annie kept to a brisk pace. She just wanted to get inside and get into bed. Maybe sleep would help. And then she turned to look behind her and there he was, the man in the derby. “I know who you are. You don’t have to be afraid. You’re my great-great-grandfather, Jeffrey Wright, is that not true? Don’t be afraid. Answer me!” “Oh, my sweet child,” Jeffrey finally said, “I was concerned that I’d frighten you! There must be some reason for this. I sense it could be unfinished business.” Annie nodded, “It is unfinished business. This family never knows when to stop. Most likely, you’d like to achieve greater things, am I not right? This ambition has had a ripple effect through generations. And here I thought I could lead a life of contemplation; take stock of the good we’ve done; be satisfied with that. You’re here because you’re not satisfied, right?” Jeffery had a mischievous smile all of a sudden. “But it was you who knocked me over. I think you desire to take action. Come to think of it, I do too!” “I should have known I’d hunger for more. And so I kept summoning you. That’s what it was. I was calling for you!” “It’s alright dear.” Jeffery was now more comfortable in his attempt to reassure. And with that, the two began to walk together, having entered into an understanding, now ready to make peace with one past and contemplate a new future. ~

The above drawing is part of a separate work in comics, Smith Tower, part of a project with master cartoonist Frank Santoro. It is available as a web comic and a print edition.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

21


“The Rialto Theater” A Photoplay in 10 Pictures by Michael Carvaines “The

Rialto

Theater”

is

an

original

photography

story

about

a

father

and

son.

When

the

alienated

son

encounters

his father, he attempts to bridge all gaps of time and failure with the hope of finally attaining reconcilation and love. All photographs were shot on medium-format 120 film, with a 1950s era Yashica-A camera. Not a single frame was altered digitally.  Special thanks to Chris Heltai (The Son) and Elias McCabe (The Father).  Photographed in South Pasadena, California on January 11th and 25th, 2014.

22

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

23


Lacey Kendall Broadcasting Positivity

Uncle Jam’s Beth Winokur recently sat down for a talk with Lacey Kendall. Lacey has enjoyed a diverse career: 25-plus years as a rock & roll disc jockey in Southern California, Hollywood audio engineer, political talk show host, college professor at the University of LaVerne and San Bernardino Valley College and Broadcasting Consultant for California State University San Bernardino. Currently she is the host of My Awesome Empire, heading Coyote Radio along with working for Anaheim Broadcast Corporation radio stations including KCAL, and is President of the American Advertising Federation Inland Region. Uncle Jam: I’m interested about how you got started in radio. Lacey Kendall: When I was in the sixth grade, my dad worked for an oil company and he got transferred out here to California. He had a job right away, but we didn’t have a place to live yet. We lived at the Holiday Inn, where the 10 freeway and the cross-town freeways all come together in San Bernardino. We were living there for about three and a half months, and there was nothing to do, except swim in the pool and watch TV. There was a radio station next door with a window and a speaker so you could hear the DJ. I spent hours and hours on the grass watching the disk jockeys on the air, because there was nothing else to do. I thought it was fascinating. I sat there for several weeks, in front of the same two guys. One day one of the guys pushed a button and all of a sudden the radio sound from the speaker went off and he said, “Hey, would you like to come in for a tour?” I looked at him and said, “Me?” He nodded his head and so I said, “Yeah, let me go ask my mom.” He took me in there and showed me around and I got to sit in a control room with him for a while. I asked him, “Hey how come girls don’t do this?” Because this was 1973/74 and there weren’t any females on the radio. And he goes, “I don’t know sweetheart; but you know what, some day they will, maybe by the time you’re my age.” And they did. It was just a few years later that I started hearing females on the radio. I went to Valley College here in San Bernardino. I wanted to study television camera operation and they said you have to take a radio class first. I was a little less enthusiastic about

24

that, because I was really interested in this TV camera thing by then; but I took radio and found it was as fun inside the control room as it is outside looking in. I learned that operating a TV camera was not my thing, at all. By the time I got out of Valley College, I got offered a job at a station that played love songs. My friends thought I was selling out by working in a love song station and not a cool station, but I didn’t care. I just really like radio. So I did that, and I jumped all over the place. I played all kinds of things, I worked at big band stations, the love song station, KDIG country; a bunch of different stations like that and then eventually fell into the station that I loved the most, which was the local Rock Station. My boss at KCAL liked me for all the reasons that my friends said that they would never hire me. My friends kept saying, “You work at a love-song station, you’re a love song DJ, or a country DJ, no one’s ever going to hire you at a rock station.” By the time I got there he (the boss) said, “You know what? I like that you worked at a love song station, a country station, and a big band station. That says I can work with you. It says you can change your style to fit what you’re doing. And I like that.” And so that’s how I got the job at KCAL. UJ: Did you have any mentors that helped you along the way? LK: Yes. I have had three great mentors in my

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

life. One was my mom. No matter what I did, my mom always told me I was best at everything. That was not even close to true, but she made me believe in myself. I had to conclude that I was at least pretty good if she thought I was the best. I give everything to my mom. There have been a few really great people. I’ve had good teachers and everything else, but I worked at KCAA for a while and I started there when times were hard. I went back to work after being off for a long time, because my family had passed away. My family all died within the same year. Not because of a terrible bus accident or something like that, they all died just on unrelated things. It was a bizarre happenstance. So I didn’t work for a while; I was very upset. When I decided to get my butt back in the game and start trying to get my act together, I got offered a very small job at KCAA when they first went on the air. I went from just helping out doing news for four hours a day to becoming the news director, then the program director, then the operations manager, and for a short while the general manager. The man that owned that station ran it by telephone from his home in Katy, Texas. I was constantly on the phone with him and he was constantly explaining to me how to do this thing that I’d never done. By the end, I was going to important meetings and getting permits and doing banking and business negotiations and so forth for this huge growing company. That man never got frustrated with me; he never yelled at me. He was very nurturing. Still today, when I have problems I call him. That was Fred Lundgren. One of the things Fred told me was, “You got to run as fast as you can in your fifties, because that’s the one point in your life where everyone in the room will respect you. By the time you’re sixty the young people are going to talk about you and say ‘I don’t know, she’s getting a little old, she’s not really in touch with everything.” So he says, “You have to do it before it gets to the point where they talk about you behind your back, because things start falling apart at sixty.” Then he called me back and said, “I take it all back.” And I go, “Why?” And he says, “I just got the biggest break in my whole career.” I said, “Yeah what’s that?” He says “I just got hired for the Huffington Post.” And I said “No kidding, so your sixties aren’t a big wash?” and he goes “No, apparently not,


apparently if you stay smart, good things keep happening.” UJ: That’s sounds like a lot of fun. So let’s talk about My Awesome Empire. It’s such a positive show. It keeps bringing more and more positivity to our area (The Inland Empire). LK: I love that everyone loves it, but I think the neatest thing was what Mayor Pat Morris told my kids and I. He said, “Radio or TV bar none, My Awesome Empire is my absolute favorite show that is on right now.” I thought if he was to elaborate on that he would say he loves the stories on businesses. But I thought it was very sweet when he said, “I love every part of the show, but I have to tell you I cannot leave the car or house until I hear the last part.” The last part of the show is where we have a little kid talk about why they love where they live. Sometimes it’s just because they sell little pops at the corner market and that makes it a great city to live in. You know they come up with the funniest things. Things like “I live in Moreno Valley and I like riding my bike down the mountain. I thought it was so cool, that things like that brought him such joy. UJ: I agree with him; that is the best part. Those kids have a way of bringing you right back into the mindset of being a child. For those that aren’t familiar with My Awesome Empire can you explain the show? LK: We wanted to create our own show that would give students the opportunity to do something journalistic. When the students and I were talking about what kind of a show we could make, this one girl said, “I’ll just say this; I’m tired of shows or interview programs where they’re dumping on my city.” She was from San Bernardino. She said, “Why can’t we do something that tells happy stories? This area has a lot of businesses that are just now starting, and there are a lot of businesses that are figuring out how to thrive; but I haven’t heard anybody telling those stories. I know they’re out there; I have seen them. I know these people; they are my friend’s parents…” and so forth. And so somebody goes, “Yeah! It will still be true journalism but let’s tell the stories that are having unique success or maybe not unique, but who are enjoying a great moment at their business. Let’s talk to people out here who have done something heroic. And let’s talk to people who got so mad that something didn’t exist that their community needed, that they went out and started it on their own – all by themselves with no experience and it’s thriving. So that was the three things we wanted to look for, oh and then cute kids that would tell us about their home town. So we found no lack of cute kids. We thought we might run out of businesses – we have not! We have no problem finding great people who got mad and started some

wonderful program that’s helping people in our area or far beyond our area. And we found no lack of people who have unbelievable creative ideas who invented something and gave birth to it here. By that, I’ll give you an example like, A’ La Minuet in Redlands where a guy took liquid nitrogen and he mixed it with a local cream and instantly made a type of ice cream that is unlike any ice cream that you ever had before. We have run into many of the most innovative youthful-minded businesses that are blowing up immediately. We have lots of businesses in the Inland Empire where a guy had an idea and he put it into action and within two or three years it blew up and gets enormous recognition and success. We have all kinds of startups that happened in a minute. Like these junior high school kids who came up with a toffee company that is now worldwide. Leah and Brandon created Brandini Toffee to support themselves on a trip to Italy with their class. The toffee was so good that they started this online service and when they got back, money was pouring in. So the parents said “Let’s make a college fund for these kids,” and it got bigger and bigger. Then people approached them to go into mass distribution and Martha Stewart reached out to these kids and had them on her show. Then they competed in some food network competition and won. Right now, they are both starting college and they are already masters of marketing communication and business administration. Their college careers are completely paid for and they are set already for life. UJ: Wow! What a great story. LK: Yeah, what a wonderful idea coming from a girl who said, “I’m tired of people dumping on my city.” UJ: I want to go back a little, we talked about your mentors, but now you’re in a position of being a mentor. How is that for you? You talk about “your kids” and at first I’m thinking your children, but no, you mean your kids here at the college (Cal State San Bernardino) – these are your kids. LK: Yeah, I’ve had two foster kids on my own, but never had my own children. I don’t have any foster kids right now; they’ve all grown. But these are my kids and they’re also my friends and co-workers. When they are bummed, or scared, or their teacher was mean to them and they are having a hard time and about to lose their job, then they’re my kids. And when we’re working together on a project I don’t treat them like my kids. I treat them like my friends or my coworkers and so forth so. I try to do that – treat them the right way at the right moment. But what’s it like (to be a mentor)? The biggest lesson I learned since I went through that whole thing where my parents passed away and I got all depressed and then I started getting things

back together again, is that your mood will make your life. If you walk around all pissed off and bummed out; if you count the ways that you didn’t get the break you deserved; or my mom was taken from me; or I was robbed of this friend; or whatever, if you look at it like that, then you will always see yourself at a disadvantage. I can’t sell myself; I can’t convince other people that I’m good. I can’t convince the authorities that I’d be a great foster mom if I don’t believe in myself. I can’t convince my boss that I deserve a promotion if I’m not positive about myself all the time. I can’t convince these kids to listen to any advice that I really believe in if I don’t seem like I’m really happy. I couldn’t get out of that funk, because I wouldn’t change my mood. Then there is a time when you have to say, “I have to get out of this; I have to get myself some counseling; I have to do whatever.” I did do that, and that works really well. The first thing they said was, “It doesn’t change unless you change your approach. Change your attitude and get hopeful. Start counting the positives and not the negatives. Stop the way you count.” Anyway I think that the success that I had in 2013 and recently is because I keep a positive attitude. When people have to come to me with bad news I say, “Well let’s put on a pot of coffee and figure out what we’re going to do instead. We can sit here and get all bummed, it’s not going to change anything. Besides, maybe something groovy will happen that we didn’t foresee.” That’s another thing life has taught me. If you just assume that something’s going to be a drag, it’s going to be. Really good things come out at surprising moments. My life has become incredibly, ridiculously joyful, fun, silly and meaningful. I’ve grown professionally. I’m not an artist as in the sense that you are, but when I try and do creative things when I’m on the air like at KCAL and so forth, I’ve become creative again like when I was young. All of those aspects have gotten better, because I did one thing that they taught me to do: stop the way you count. Quit counting the bad and start counting the good. Force yourself to smile more, and a weird thing will happen: you will get happier. I don’t know how it works but it works. UJ: The power of positivity. LK: Yeah, last year I just maxed out on the power of positivity. The whole year, every day something great happened. It was crazy. So I believe in it. That’s one of the things I tell the kids when I’m mentoring them. I say “Right now is the hardest part of your life. Getting out of college you’re not going to get a job right away and you’re going to go, ‘I went to college for nothing uggg.’ Everybody goes through that. It will take a year or two to get your mojo going. You just have to get in the door first, and then within a few years you’ll start getting more and more, but don’t be negative. 

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

25


Dear Mr. Jeff Kinney,

Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to interview you. My name is Moonlily Winokur. I would like to introduce myself before we get started with the interview. I am a writer of Greek mythology and I just recently won the district writing contest with my seven-page story, A Softball Story. I had to follow the theme, Believe, Dream, and Inspire. Now my story is going to compete at the state level! I am ten years old and I go to North Verdemont Elementary—the school that houses your biggest fans. I have read many of your magnificent novels and have always wanted to interview someone famous! Now I got my wish! Sincerely, Moon Winokur, Author and Interviewer Extraordinaire Jeff Kinney: Hi Moon - Congratulations! You are on your way to becoming a bestselling author!

Moon Winokur: What motivated you to write the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series? Jeff Kinney: I always wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist, but it didn’t work out for me. Diary of a Wimpy Kid was my way of sneaking comics into books.

MW: You have so many hilarious scenes in your novels; did you experience any of them when you were a child? If you did, which scenes did you experience? JK: I experienced a lot of them! Many of the stories in Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are a mashed-up version of something that really happened. MW: During the past three years, a few of your novels were made into movies. Do you feel as if they stayed true to the story? Why or why not? Do you like that they stayed true or not true to the story?

JK: I feel that they were sometimes true, sometimes not. It’s good to have a mix so fans can enjoy something that’s familiar and something that’s new. MW: When you were in college, you issued a cartoon in the school paper called Igdoof that made the entire campus laugh out loud. What was Igdoof about and what did you learn from doing that cartoon? JK:  I learned about how to write efficiently. Cartooning is difficult to master! MW: When you were a child, what was your favorite book to read? JK:  I loved Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. MW: I read that you do online game designing. What games have you worked on?  Do you play video games?   JK: I work for Poptropica.com. I don’t play video games anymore because they take so much time! MW: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? JK: I wanted to be a game developer! MW: Do you intend on writing other books besides the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series? JK: Yes! I have two ideas I’d like to explore! MW: Do you hand draw every picture in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books or do you use computers to help you? JK: Yes, I draw everything by hand, but it’s on a computer screen! MW: After the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series became popular, I noticed many similar books such as Dork Diaries or The Loser List and even Middle School, the Worst Years of my Life at the bookstores. How do you feel about this? JK: It’s cool to see that my books have inspired others to write in the same style. MW: What advice do you have for young writers such as me? JK: If you have a good idea, nurture it! Take your time and make it into something great! 

26

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


Gene Sasse Gene Sasse is a photographer who maintains a studio in Upland, California that is almost completely filled with art. However, the paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs are not his private collection. They’re the property of the Inland Empire Museum of Art (more on that later). Gene, Chloe (his friendly, toe-licking dog) and I sit in a small room on a warm Tuesday morning surrounded by dozens of original paintings. We discussed his fortyyear career, art, and his plans for the future. As a young man, Gene attended Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. It was his first introduction to photography and he took an immediate interest in it. He learned the basics; how to operate a camera, set up lighting, and develop film. But when he decided to open his own business he had to learn along the way. He described his first job to me. “I remember the first interior I did. It was a little condo down in Long Beach. It must have been like 650 square feet. It was really tiny. I took my 4x5, spent the entire day just trying to figure out how to do it. You know, 4x5s takes a lot of light and film transparencies and stuff. I learned from doing and having to solve problems. Now I don’t think about it, I just do it. There are always obstacles and things…even now. Like when I photographed Jimmy Carter for the Maloof book. I asked him to write the introduction and he did. I started thinking, he’s a woodworker too [like Maloof], and I thought it would be cool to shoot him in his shop, to have a photo to go with the introduction. So I talked with his assistant and she says, ‘we can send you photos of him.’ I go ‘well, I’m a photographer. The book’s all my photographs and I’d really like to take the picture myself.’ She kept emphasizing that it was his private residence. So I said, ‘okay then,’ thinking it wasn’t going to happen. But then she said ‘well let me see what

Visual Storyteller By Beth Winokur

I can do.’ About a week later, I got a call and she says, ‘okay, next Tuesday ten o’clock. You got ten minutes.’ I said, ‘Okay. How much time do I have to set up ahead of time?’ And she goes, ‘no, you just get ten minutes, period.’ So I flew to Plains, Georgia. I got there and had about ten minutes, which actually ended up being twelve. Photographed him in his shop and he also paints and so I took some pictures by his easel. He also makes wine. I also took some pictures of his office. And that was it.” Gene gives credit to his father – a general contractor – for his love of photographing architecture, but he also believes, as he puts it,

“everything influences my work. I’ve always been fascinated by what people do and why they do what they do. Why does somebody paint? Why does somebody else sculpt? Why does somebody take photographs? What motivates them to do what they do?” When I asked Gene, “Why do you do what you do?” He smiled and took a moment to reflect. “You know, I guess I look at myself as a visual storyteller; to tell story through my photos and to enact some sort of feeling from it. But I enjoy it. I enjoy meeting people. I enjoy photographing different things. I enjoy experiencing different environments, different people. I’ve done a couple books and I’ve enjoyed that. The creative process is what motivates me to keep doing what I do, and to keep going on.” Gene photographs people, nature, architecture and machines. He says, “I like variety in my business. I don’t like just doing one thing.” Sasse has also produced a variety of books: Garden Thoughts: Quotes and Inspiration for the Gardener, Maloof Beyond 90:An American Woodworker, The Art of Milford Zornes: From Private Collections 2009, The Art of Milford Zornes: Friendship and Inspiration 2010. I asked where he sees himself in the next five years and he said, “Still doing work for clients and myself, and having more exhibits.” Gene has an exhibit coming up in January at San Bernardino Valley College. But he also has a different kind of project that he has been working on for the past two years – the opening of the Inland Empire Museum of Art. The day before Gene and I met he learned that The Inland Empire Museum of Art (IEMA) continued on page 44

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

27


An Ermite Once Again By Terri Elders

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” –Erma Bombeck Erma and I had similar first brushes with celebrities. In 1943, age 16, for her first journalistic work, Erma interviewed Shirley Temple, who visited Dayton, Ohio, and the interview became a newspaper feature. At 15 I interviewed movie actress and soprano Kathryn Grayson, when she visited her alma mater, Manual Arts High School. Unfortunately, I did not continue with a career as a newspaper feature writer. Erma sure did. She continued writing her humor columns in various settings and venues, culminating with the popular “At Wit’s End,” which, by 1969, was featured in over 500 U.S. newspapers. By 1978, 900 U.S. newspapers were publishing Bombeck’s column. Several of her books made the New York Times bestseller list, many simultaneously. She was the grand marshal for the 97th Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1986 when the theme was “A Celebration of Laughter.” She died in 1996 at the age of 69. In recent years I’d pretty much forgotten how I’d always turn to her column first when I sat down with my evening paper back in the ‘70s. I’d been overseas from 1987 to 1998, and hadn’t even realized until fairly recently that she’d been gone. Then Dahlynn McKowen of Publishing Syndicate accepted an invitation to be a presenter at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop at the University of Dayton in April, 2014. In turn, Dahlynn reached out to the co-creators of the Not Your Mother’s Book series, which she edits

NYMB Cocreators and contributors, Dahlynn McKowen on far left, Terri Elders on far right.

28

and publishes, and asked us to help out with her sessions, “The Psychology of the Anthology.” This particular workshop is distinguished by the ongoing involvement of the Bombeck children and the dedication of the University of Dayton’s organizers. Humorists vie to be on the agenda. Previous years attendees have laughed with and learned from such luminaries as Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor, Don Novello, Leonard Pitts and best selling novelist Lisa Scottoline. Its mission is to encourage and inspire writers in the same way Erma herself found hope at the University of Dayton when Brother Tom Price, S.M., a University of Dayton English professor first told Erma, “You can write.” In 2013 my book, Not Your Mother’s Book… On Travel, came out, but even before that, I’d been an in-house editor for Dahlynn and Ken McKowen, and actually the first guest contributor to their monthly free newsletter, Wow Principles. So I woke up early the day

coffee shop the morning before the conference opening. He had been served a frittata, and Pat signaled the waitress. “Tell Mr. Donahue I’ve picked up the tab for his breakfast.” Smart Pat. Donahue stopped by her table on his way out, and posed for photos with her. I arrived on the scene a bit later, but got to see him intermittently throughout the conference. He mingled with us all. A neighbor of Erma’s back in her early Dayton days, Phil opened the workshop with a touching tribute, recounting what it had been like to live on her street. He showed a clip of an interview with Erma where she was asked,” What is Phil Donahue really like?” Erma hesitates, then leans forward and confides, “He peeks in windows.” Of course the audience erupted in laughter. Giggles and guffaws reigned for three solid days. As befitting a conference staged at a Catholic university, meals were preceded by blessings. In honor of Erma, some even had a humorous twist. When one particular lunch featured a particularly tempting cheesecake, the presiding nun concluded her prayer with a plea, “Please Lord, perform a miracle and remove the calories from the dessert.”

NYMB Cocreator Pat Nelson with keynoter Phil Donahue registration opened for the workshop. We’d been warned that space was limited to 350 participants and the conference, staged every other year since 2000, sold out quickly. Luck was with me that morning and I got registered. So did most of my NYMB colleagues. This would be the first opportunity for many of us to meet in person, after several years of email and phone conversations. Highlights and Delights A big draw for me that Phil Donahue again would be a keynote speaker. Though I rarely was home for daytime TV talk shows, when I did see Donahue, I’d always admired his warmth and intelligence. One of my NYMB co-creators, Pat Nelson, spotted him in the Dayton Marriott

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

Erma Bombeck Conference Notebook, 2014 Promising Practices It wasn’t all food, drink and merriment. Additionally, I gained some nuggets of wisdom from presenter that might prove useful for both me and for others in future writing endeavors. I’ve added the quote from my souvenir Erma Bombeck conference notebook that’s featured on the page where I jotted down each note.


Kelsey Timmerman: Be a participant/ observer, but first do no harm. Change names if needed. Build suspense. End with a cliffhanger. (“Don’t go out and give birth to three children just to have something to write about.”—EB) Dr. Nancy Berk: Write better. Write faster. Write more. (“I’m a great believer in paying your dues. You begin by writing grocery lists and bad checks, and go on to obituaries.” –EB) Lisa Scottoline: Erma was classic and true and evergreen. You have to tell the truth and it will make you cringe. (“Writer’s block is just another name for putting it off. You can train yourself to shut out the world and write.”—EB) Tracy Beckerman: Surround your brand but don’t suffocate it! People don’t like a narcissist. Own it. Take the high road. Less is more. (“I have to believe you only go around once in life, but if you play your cards right, it’s enough.”— EB) Dr. Daniel Curran, president of Dayton University: This is more than a writers’

conference. It’s a healing event for some attendees, a nurturing environment. Erma was a singer to the soulless. (“In writing humor the only thing that is important is that you get close enough to the truth to reach people and far enough away not to offend them.”—EB) Mary Ann Quinlan: My mother, when worried, would write a letter to God and put it in her God box. God was her pen pal. When she died we found 10 God boxes. (“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”—EB) Judy Carter: Go from mess to success. You can’t spell message without a mess. Make jokes about yourself—everybody else does already. No matter what happens in your day if you add the words “woo hoo” and you throw your arms into the air, you’ll shift from anger to appreciation. (“Dreams have only one owner at a time. That’s why dreamers are lonely.”—EB)

Bruce Ferber: One of the most popular sports in our house was being offended. (“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”—EB) For Fellow Writers What surprised me most was how many people I met at this conference who maintain blogs or write for small local periodicals, but who have never submitted their material elsewhere. In her workshops, Dahlynn McKowen stressed what a breakthrough it can be for a nonfiction writer to see a byline in a book. The Not Your Mother Book series gives both old timers and newcomers the opportunity to accrue such credits. For more information on how to submit to this series, see Publishing Syndicate’s website, and subscribe to the free Wow Principles newsletter: https:// www.publishingsyndicate.com/ Already people are talking about the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers Conference. For a sneak preview, see the website and subscribe to its free newsletter: http://humorwriters.org/ 

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

29


The Sculpture Art of Dan Romero by Beth Winokur

Gate Uncle Jam: Thank you, Dan, for taking the time to allow me to interview you and show me around your studio. I love your sculptures. What led you to become an artist? Dan Romero: I knew I would be an artist of some sort, even at a very young age. I would draw things, although I flunked art in high school. I understand why. In an art class, I was given a chance to draw a clock. I went home and took apart a clock, and made a long crazy sculpture out of it. And although the teacher liked it, he said, “I have got to give you an F because you didn’t do the assignment.” And even at that point I knew I hadn’t done the assignment. I knew that I liked it. I thought it was good, you know. UJ: That’s such original thinking. I’m sure you were the only kid coming in with a sculpture of a clock. When did you start working with metal? DR: I taught myself how to weld at the Metropolitan Water District.

30

UJ: As an employee? DR: Yes, but that doesn’t figure into it, because you couldn’t make anything but pump stands and stuff like that. I remember telling my wife Dina at some point in our marriage that by the time I turn 50 I’m going to be an artist. I didn’t even know what I meant when I told her that. But when I turned 50 the first public sculpture went up, so I think that’s the power of one’s own self. But even before that I had been making a few things and selling them. My neighbor liked what I did and called up the Daily Bulletin and they came out and did a story about me; then I won the bid for my first sculpting job. With the first down payment they gave me, I went and bought my first professional welder and a professional cutting tool and I had to learn how to use them to make the sculpture. I knew I was going to be okay; that story kind of sounds fantastic. UJ: It’s a great story. Investing in your art is the best way to move forward.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

DR: Yes. This all came about when my father passed untimely, and all of a sudden I found myself taking care of my mom who had Alzheimer’s. My dad had a wood shop behind the garage and I needed to do something; so I brought over my little one-ten welder and started making crazy stuff and enjoying it because, you know, you’ve got to do something. That gave me the time to do this and try to come up with some money too. You know, poor people don’t get to be hobby artists. You have to hit the ground running and you just have to work the first time out or you may not get another chance – that’s the working class direction into sculpture. It turns out that sculptors that do this type of work do come from industry. I think they find that they have already learned how to create things needed by the world and they use those same tools to create art. The first one that comes to mind is David Smith who pioneered this world of using industrial tools for making sculptures rather than pouring into molds and


doing reductive work by chipping away at concrete. So this type of welding usually comes from industrial working class type people, and often gets labeled outsider art. An outsider artist is someone who isn’t an academic. They didn’t come through school. They don’t have a bachelor of arts or a master of fine arts behind their name, so they’re considered to work a little more crudely than fine artists. It’s different, but not necessarily worse, just different. And at least it’s original thinking. The person who becomes an artist is going to have to study what he wants to do. I have to study for every job I do. There is always study involved. I know I have a lot of years of art school behind me. It’s self-regulated art school, but even at this point I would still

be considered an outsider artist because I don’t have big letters behind my name. I’m as well studied as anybody else in the business, in my opinion. (Dan pulls out his portfolio and shows me a picture of a gate he made) This is a job that was done in a different style; it’s an arts and craft type of house. This type of gate didn’t exist at the time that they made those houses but of course, it requires me to study what is arts and craft style and how it relates. I’m trying to recreate the style without copying anybody else’s, yet have it sincere enough that it fits in those types of houses. UJ: This gate reminds me of a quilt, the way it’s woven together with different patterns. Do you

make all this yourself or do you have helpers? DR: I do it all myself, although people do help me now and then. As a matter of fact, for this project we’re working on right now I have two students that call me a mentor. They want to learn, so rather than just tell them do this or do that, we’re going to make something. UJ: Has mentoring done anything for you or your art? DR: Yes. And they (the mentees) do stuff and they up my game; I see them do stuff and I go, “Wow.” Like when this guy showed up with these robots. We filled the whole entire shop with robots and we had an opening here for him. UJ: So how often are you doing shows? DR: This whole thing is changing. I used to do maybe eight commissioned gates a year. Now I’ll probably only be doing six, because I’ll be doing more gallery shows. For instance, that piece right there is going to Oxford, England, to the Oxford campus. I was blown away. I don’t do many of those little sales any more where you pop-up a tent on the lawn and hawk stuff. Right now, I mostly do gallery shows. I want to do one every month but now I have to really pick and choose because some customers want sculptures. It’s a nice change for me from doing little shows, to trying to find work, to now trying to figure out what I want to do next. UJ: How long did it take you to go from selling your sculptures from a pop-up tent until now? DR: About ten years. The first part of it was not very serious, but when I got a medical retirement from my work, I just rested for a while. Then I realized they weren’t going to send me my paycheck on time. I started a flying school – and I was teaching people how to fly. It was a crazy time. I have now been self-employed for more years then I’ve been employed. UJ: That is so cool. (Still looking through his portfolio) The shapes on this piece look like shapes found in nature. DR: Exactly. I did a lot of gates in that style. Once I put one up at a little restaurant and a lady was walking by and she said, “That’s the devil’s art.”

Dan Romero

UJ: Wow! It really grabbed her. DR: It was then that I realized an artist hasn’t really done anything if everybody likes his work. There are so many people out there, so many different styles, that if you made something that everybody likes you may not have made art. But if you make something that some people like and some people dislike, then you may have stirred up a controversy. It’s that theory that made me realize I can be in this business; this theory of percentages and people – of what they like and what they don’t Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

31


Guitarfish Avionetta like. Awhile back it dawned on me; when I was teaching flying, at that time there were 16 to 18 million people in Southern California. I thought well, I’m only one person and with Dina, we’re only two people teaching flying lessons. We can only teach so many people in a day. I thought well, if I had one percent of 18 million that’s an awful lot of people, and I thought I only need one-hundredth of one percent of the people to even know who I am, and that’s already more sculptures than I could ever build in my lifetime. So knowing there’s that many people out there, I’m only focusing on so many and the mathematics tells me that this is enough and I’ll be fine. And it turns out that that is the case. You know, there are less people wanting to build their own little air planes and learning how to fly, than there are people who want art. If I could survive that way (teaching flying lessons) then this (making a living as an artist) is going to be easy. So the theory travels a little farther, because if I make only the things that I want to make all the time I’ll have a very small slice of the pie. If I painted like Thomas Kinkade, while he might get a much larger slice of the pie because more people like his work, I remember it’s only one percent that I’m going for and that would be more then I can do, so I do what I like. And those pieces up there (in the loft) not everyone understands them or can afford them or wants them in their house; but if I make somebody a gate they commissioned, then

32

I get a little different slice: maybe two percent. So mathematical formulas for a dyslexic person they’re still there. Ha. Ha. UJ: Yeah. It’s still there. What a great way to look at. So you’re dyslexic? DR: Yes. I bet there are a lot dyslexic people in the arts. UJ: Yes, I do run into a lot of artists that are dyslexic. I run into a lot of people who don’t really say “I’m dyslexic,” but they’ll say, “Yeah, I had a really hard time learning how to read.” DR: Dina diagnosed me and explained to me what it was; that I wasn’t just dumb. I don’t believe I read a book in high school until the end. I actually still have the first book I ever read. In fact it’s around here someplace. UJ: What was the book? DR: It’s Max’s Wonderful Delicatessen. This young kid is about to graduate from high school and he works at his parents’ delicatessen shop; but what he wants to be is a metal sculptor. He finds himself in Oakland taking care of someone’s big building, and there is a cutting torch there. He goes around with a wagon picking up junk. He builds sculptures and finds his way into the art world. Seeing how this was the first book I ever read, it really made such a big impression on me because I wanted to read so bad, that it just seemed like yeah, that’s

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

what I want to do. I want to be a sculptor. I don’t want to be dependent on anybody. I’ll just do it myself, you know, and if I do something eight times wrong, then who knows until I have a finished project. So I don’t see dyslexia as a crippling thing if you’re on your own. I don’t know about the rest of it. UJ: Einstein was dyslexic. He thought in pictures. I recently read this book called The Gift of Dyslexia. It listed all these people with dyslexia who have impacted the world through art and music, math etc. DR: We do have to think outside the box. I heard a report on NPR a couple weeks ago and they were talking about people who doodle when they are supposed to be doing their homework; they can look at these doodles and recall the assignment. That’s exactly how I got through high school and military training. To this day, I can look at doodles from back then and I can remember that Louis and Clark traveled through Kansas and this and that. It’s weird but it works. Some of these doodles became sculptures as I got old enough to want to do that. UJ: You talked about how you do commission pieces because you realized that you couldn’t just do art just for you. DR: Right. You need to do different things, like that gate right there. I actually drew a whole ream of pictures for that gate. I was trying to


find out what the buyer really wanted and then narrow it down to what he really, really wanted. I became a better artist because, for one thing, he wanted it in stainless steel. That was my first stainless steel project. Two, he made me stretch my ability in every sense. Every customer has done that for me. They have given me something to do and I go, “Wow, how am I going to do that?” and I just logic it out. I just get better for it. I think if I did the same thing and only did what I wanted to do, I would be in a rut. UJ: You can take what you learn and apply it to another project. Sometimes having to work within confines means that you have to be more creative to be able to work with what you have. DR: Yes, we talked about how my art started. It had a lot to do with this piece right here (he points to a picture in his portfolio); The Swimmer. When 9/11 hit, all airplanes were grounded so we couldn’t teach flying with our ultra-lights. Nothing could fly, so I took my tools that we gathered from my stepmom’s antique store in Oregon and I made this long crocodile/alligator looking thing. I was convinced to put it in a gallery, and a gentleman named Sam Maloof bought it. I didn’t know who he was, but he was a big-time collector and famous woodworker. He put it in his personal area, which was a national monument to woodworking. People saw it there and they asked me for more stuff, and I got on a mailing list for people who were trying to buy art. So I owe this gentleman, Sam Maloof, a big thanks for noticing my work. UJ: That story leads us to community and specifically, artists’ communities. Your studio is in the Packing House which houses artists. It has its own gallery and is in the art district of Pomona. How has that helped you? DR: It’s been very important; I think it is very helpful to be in a community. I recall the first things I made, even before Sam Maloof bought this particular piece. I had just come back from Michigan where I was teaching flying and I had closed my flight school down, which was in Perris, California. I answered an ad the very next day after I got off the plane. I answered an ad that said, “Toy maker needed; must have own tools and ideas.” UJ: Ha. Ha. You don’t see that every day. DR: Right. I thought, what the hell is that? And I knew it was for me, so I called. These people were making props for the movie industry. They were making things for a show called the Big Spin. I started work, making things for them. I did that until they made me a proposition that I go on the road. I said “Sure, why not?” and that started two years of traveling with the Wild Science Show, where I would give live

performances as many as four times a day in every western state including Alaska. Dina and I traveled: she managed me and we traveled for two years in those great big long U-haul-trucks filled with wild science projects. I thought it was fun traveling around. Giving the show was kind of nerve racking. Dina said she would guard me from the rest of the world. That meant that before a show I would have to be all up and positive and play my music and all that; so I would sit there, I’d have a cup of coffee, hear my music, and just shut myself out from the troubles of the world. I realized why people who go on stage are nuts, because they really do have to hide away from the world so they can be who they have to be when they go on stage. And that’s what Dina would do for me; protect me. We got a big kick out of that. Such crazy things would happen during that time. Like when we were in Farmington, New Mexico and the owner of the business called and said, “If you can get your show in Alaska in 78 hours then we’ll give you a nice bonus.” Dina and I looked at each other and said, “It’s impossible,” but then Dina pulled out a map and said, “If we take this road here and we go this way and we go that way we could possibly do it. We could take turns driving the truck.” So everything was cool until we were in the Yukon Territory and the route she picked for us was a dirt road that travels along the highway before you get to the real Pan-Am highway. We didn’t see another person for 500 miles and we had a 500 mile gas tank and it was crazy. We had never seen the Aurora Borealis and we both thought we were hallucinating. We would see signs and towns and I’d say, “Dina we’re coming to a little town.” And it was my imagination--there was nothing there. She’s be driving along and she’d say, “Oh finally, a rest stop.” It wasn’t there--it was in our minds. We were just seeing this because, you know, that’s just how tired we were. Finally we made it to a little town just before you get to White Horse, Yukon. We needed gas, but our cell phones didn’t work and our credit cards didn’t work. We didn’t know what we were going to do. How we were going to travel forward? We remembered that we had this machine; it was a vortex where you put in quarters and it would circle down to the bottom. So we dug out that machine in the back of the truck and opened it up and counted out eighty dollars in coins and sticky candy and everything else in there. And we took that to the first gas station we saw and we go, “Hey we have eighty dollars in coins. We’ll count it out for you, if you want. We just need to get from here to there.” But they didn’t take American money. Ha. Ha. Then the weirdest thing in the world happened at that little gas station. We ran into somebody

from the ultra light airport where we worked. I don’t know why he was there or what put that person there, but there he was. He says, “You know what, you’re only twenty miles from White Horse.” We went to White Horse where they take our money and we got enough gas to get across the Alaska borderline where everything worked again. Ever since retirement, life has been that way. It has been crazy like that. We plan, we do our best to make it all work out right, but the stories are just getting crazier and crazier and filled with adventure, you know, it’s just been really fun since that. Oh and we made it to the show in time. I enjoy traveling. UJ: You went to Germany last year for a Symposium. How was that? DR: Art has allowed me to travel more than I thought I would, and I really enjoyed going to Germany. I just travel with an open mind. UJ: So how did you get to do the tour in Germany? Did they just call you up and say, “Hey, want to come to Germany and meet some really cool artists and make stuff?” DR: Yeah, I got a call from somebody in Cincinnati and he said they were looking for metal sculptors that have a certain blacksmith capability to their work, and would I be interested in going to Germany to work in a blacksmith shop and operate modern equipment and be involved in this process. You know, you get calls like that and you go “Are they for real?”…but sure I’m interested, why not? I always wanted to travel, but I never thought it would be Germany. I had given up on seeing Europe. I just figured I didn’t have the bank account or the style of life that was going to afford me that, but art took me there. And we get to go back next year, from what I understand. The people treated us really nice there. There were points in Germany where Dina and I were totally lost, and just that lost look on our face would draw enough people to ask, “How can we help you?” And they would help us get to where we needed to go. Somebody told me they really like to help artists. It turns out to be true. They really do like artists and they really want to be involved in it; and when they found out that my ancestry was Native American, well that’s one thing they like to study there. They were very interested in me and what I would make for them. It was a kick. I can’t wait to go back. UJ: Can you talk a little bit about why you believe art is important; what role it plays in our world; and why it’s important for the world. DR: Wow! Yes. Well, it’s everywhere. When continued on page 39

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

33


Nino continued from pg 5

advantage and I think that we have to demand some fairness. Anyway, we’re off the subject. When you started in America, is this when you started working for Heavy Metal? Nino: That was later. I went to Detroit and I wasn’t working for DC anymore so I had to go and ask Christopher Zavisa …remember Satan’s Tears? I asked him if he could sponsor me; because at that time I was in trouble about my immigration status. We had to make some proposals like doing Satan’s Tears and especially that work for Heavy Metal. We had to donate or give Heavy Metal some pages for free for promotion. Remember those paintings that I did for Heavy Metal? Those are not paid, but were contributions for me to promote myself on those pages. I never got paid from those. Yeh: I don’t know if any of you know the book Satan’s Tears, the big book they published of Alex’s work in the 1970s. He wasn’t paid for this book and this is, again, making sure for the younger artists that they understand: you have to protect your rights. It’s so important because Zavisa just ripped Alex off with Satan’s Tears. This is a beautiful book if you have not seen it. So then, from that point you have been in America. What happened next? Nino: From Heavy Metal to Warren. Bill DuBay called me up and asked me if I would be interested in doing some stuff for 1984. So I said “What’s your script? I’ll give you some options that I can do. Can I do whatever I want with your scripts, because I’m always restricted to do some of these things?” He said, “Hey, you can do whatever you want.” What I did on those pages just overwhelmed these people because they didn’t know that I could also do double tone effects like Wally Wood. I copied Wally Wood because I liked double tone papers at that time. They were amazed and they fed me almost two scripts a month and I enjoyed that. I was very happy that there were still some publications that allow you to do whatever you want. That’s what we need, especially artists and writers.

were very, very mistreated. A lot of guys said “We’ll sell the original art,” and they were selling it for nothing. The problem is that when you sell the art for very little money, then that becomes the value. It’s a mindset. The public thinks that’s the value…$100. Frank Miller just sold a Batman page through auction for $460,000 or something—for one page. So I’m just saying we need to elevate the really good artists. So, you can buy Alex’s work here for a few hundred, but after this seminar, let’s raise the price (Audience laughs) because we have to pay for really good art and I think Alex’s work is one of the best in the world…personal opinion. Audience member: It’s tragic when artists take advantage of other artists. Yeh: Yes, it is, but we have a long history in the comic book business of artists, or so called artists, ripping off a lot of creators. I won’t name names, but I will say for the record that we have to speak up. We in the creative community have to speak up, because there are so many people who just take

34

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

Yeh: Jim Warren was really a visionary in a lot of ways because he was publishing very different kinds of comic material; Erie, Creepy, you know. Do the younger people know about these magazines? They’re history. When did you start working for Disney? Nino: After years of working for Warren, I heard that Warren’s magazines were not doing good. I asked some people, especially Byron Preiss, who helped me come in and get sponsored. He said “Come on in.” I got sponsored, then got my Visa and got my green card and at the same time I had to do something different. Instead of comic books I started thinking about animation. That was 1983. From there the first animation studios


that I worked for was Marvel Productions; Stan Lee’s. We were working on Muppet Babies. That’s the first time I saw Scott Shaw and some of these people who still work for Disney. Then after that I went back to see if I could do a little bit of experimentation; like what if I do some of these video games? So I worked for Sega for months until Hanna Barbera took me in again. After that, it was Disney. I worked for Disney for almost six years.

for a skateboard movie. At the same time it was 9-11, so they just stopped. After that, I went to SD Entertainment doing all this dinosaur stuff. It was 3D. That gave me more incentive to do my own animation thing. I did some experiments and I did some stories of my own. While doing it, I did some really good character designs which you can see in my portfolio. Those are my designs for animation of my own and my own story.

Yeh: What were some of the films you did at Disney? Nino: Mulan, Treasure Planet, Emperor’s New Groove, and Atlantis. That’s quite an experience from being alone in your room to being in a big dome like Disney Studios. It’s quite different. That’s when you allow yourself to be used, because whether you like it or not, they own you. It took almost six years to get used to it and started to love it, until the work was done.

Yeh: So this has not been made yet? Nino: I said “Why should I?” This is my own and if I sell it to Disney or someone, they’ll own the whole thing and you’re not being paid that much. I was thinking, what about a graphic novel and then my mind changes every time, so I said “Why don’t you just stop and draw?”

Yeh: What kind of work were you doing? Were you designing characters or background? Nino: Almost all of it. It’s visual development; from characters, to props, to backgrounds, and sometimes special effects. Yeh: You have pretty good credits on Mulan, for instance. Nino: Yeah, they put everyone’s names all in the same size; it goes by the screen very fast. Yeh: Did they give you freedom? Nino: Yeah, that’s the first option that I asked them. I signed a contract and I asked them if I could go to the office early, because it’s more favorable for me to work early. They said “Yeah, do whatever you want.” I would come to the office as early as 3:00 in the morning and then leave at 11:00 in the morning, the same morning. They didn’t notice that, especially my co-workers. It was only the company and the production manager who knew about it. At pitching time, I was there, just like I was working for Disney at home, but I wasn’t. I just worked very, very early. Yeh: Did you have a good experience with Tony Bancroft? (He was one of the directors on Mulan.) Nino: Yes, he is a very nice guy. He understands, because whatever I do he’s just “Great, let’s do it.” Yeh: What happened after Disney? You started painting? Nino: I started painting and I started doing some really good experimental stuff. All of a sudden they asked me to go back to Disney. They said “Alex, you’ll be on call.” After two or three months they gave me a call and I was working

Yeh: What about Phil Phillipson? You started working with Phil on graphic novels? Nino: Yeah, God the Dyslexic Dog. Yeh: Phil Phillipson worked in animation and then he started to do these stories and Alex illustrated them. What other recent graphic novels have you done? Nino: Dead Ahead was for Image. I did a more than 100-page graphic novel. I’m still waiting for my paycheck. Yeh: Getting back to the business….(audience laughter) Nino: I just don’t learn my lesson, I guess. By the way, I just had an eight-page Batman black and white for DC. It looks good because it’s a totally different Batman. It’s out now. It has a Jim Steranko cover. Also, I got a script for Black Flame that I’m working on right now. Hopefully I won’t be overloading myself working on these pages; because I feel tired already, but I just couldn’t help it. When I see stuff like this, it’s an addiction. Yeh: What do you want to do that you haven’t done? Nino: Maybe it’s never too late, but I think it’s too late already. I did a lot of things in comic books and I did a lot of shows and animation and I want to try some live action. The thing is that in comic books you can read your characters. In animation you can see them move. In live action you can talk to your characters. I’ve never been given a chance because I’m not a member of the union and it’s tough to get in. Audience Member: I really like the Manuel Auad book of your art. Are there plans for a second volume? Nino: There will be some books. My son Jules is planning to publish our own books; five volumes of Azkan books and another book

which would be a big volume book; an artist edition. The Azkan books would be 100 pages a volume. These are my unpublished works. It includes pen and ink; wash; colored, oil, you name it and there are some different designs of characters of robots and monsters. This is more of an educational book for artists who can just copy them and get some ideas. Yeh: Oh yeah, copy Alex Nino…no problem. You know Alex’s work is one of the most unusual works of art because you can’t copy it. You can look at it, you can get inspired, but there’s no way in the world you can figure out how he does it. When I was very young, Steve Leialoha and I went to see Alex in San Francisco, because he was one of our favorites. We just stood there and were watching this guy drawing on the back of his pages. He was painting with soap. We were just standing there, two kids going “Wow, what in the world is this?” because we did not know how his mind works. We still didn’t know when we left there. I said to Steve, “I still don’t know what we’re doing.” We had no idea. Alex’s work is approached so differently that it really inspires me to this day. This is why I’m an artist, because I always think there is always something new. When you look at a blank piece of paper what do you think? Nino: It looks like there’s something there already. All I have to do is just follow it. In my mind I think there’s already a sketch in there. Often times I can do it without any sketch. I just have to follow what’s in my mind; just go straight at it, then finish it and then there’s another experiment. I don’t know how to explain it. When I was back in the Philippines they asked me to do some samples about really interesting stuff. When I did some horror and when I did some of the really strange things for publications, they didn’t like it; because it’s not what they expected and also the Philippines is a Catholic country. They really like just romance, action, and comedy and that’s about it; no horror. They don’t want to scare kids or something. What I did is just do my best to do a Nestor Redondo thing with things that are scary. They still don’t want to be afraid, so what I did is just go by the back door. I heard that there were lots of people who were publishing underground comics also back in the Philippines. We were discovered. Some of us were given some breaks in comic books and I was one of them. Yeh: Did you meet a lot of Underground artists here, when you came to the United States? Nino: The thing is that I was in Berkeley. There was an Underground convention. I saw Spain and Rick Griffin and all these guys. I said “Oh wow, these guys are really good. These are my brothers.”

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

35


Yeh: Did you get to know Rick Griffin? Nino: I just met him. I’m glad I saw these people. And I met Vaughn Bode. Audience Question: You said you copied Wally Woods’ style. Do you have any other artists, from the comics field that you find a certain similarity in your style? Or any other artists you look up to? Nino: In fact, finally I met Monkey Punch from Japan, he’s my favorite; Lupin the Third; and then Frank Frazetta. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to meet him. When I was back in Detroit, Wally Wood called me up to see if I was interested in doing some stuff on his magazine. I said “Yeah, when I come back I would be honored to do some stuff.” Unfortunately when I came back, he had died already. There are lots of people who I liked. I copied some stuff from Jack Davis. I’m an easy fan, so I just started doing and combining all of these talents. You go further. Yeh: EC Comics really influenced a lot of the guys in the Underground, especially. I think the way the comics progressed was EC Comics and then the Underground sort of kicked the door open; everything from Crumb, to S. Clay Wilson. Now, my biggest complaint is so much art looks the same. What I’m interested in is

36

how do we get the young artists to expand the field some more? Nino: I think it’s impossible to change because some of these kids nowadays are relying more on some of the new software. One night I was browsing on my computer and discovered that there were a lot of really good artists way back. If you compared my style and some of these styles, it’s way, way off and I want to ask these kids to just go back and revisit some of those people. Get some ideas of where all these things got started instead of just jumping into all the software and programs. Yeh: Arnie Wong in San Francisco has been asked to teach 2D animation. Arnie was one of the animators on Tron. He worked with my friend Jean Giroud (Moebius). Arnie has been asked by Pixar to come back and teach the young animators 2D drawing with a pencil. I’m saying let’s go backwards, not forwards. You were telling me earlier that Alfredo Alcala, Coching, and Nestor Redondo were the three big names in the 50’s and 60’s. You were saying to me that there were great artists in the Philippines before, like in the 1920’s. I think it’s the same everywhere. The artists of the 1800’s and earlier. We have to look at the past. Nino: The thing is that, because I’m used to having all these experiments and everything,

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

somebody asked me if I could just try computers for colors. We bought some iPad or tablet. I don’t think I could go further with them. I want to feel the pencil. I want to feel the brush, because when I draw I usually twist the brush and on computer I couldn’t. I was really aching to feel the spirit of it, because there’s power in the brushes. The computer, no. the computer owns you, but with the brush and everything, you control yourself. Nobody will control you but yourself, but on computer, if you make a mistake and delete the whole thing, that’s the end of it. There’s nothing left. I said I would have to go back to doing this; it’s a lot better because I want to smell the paint. I want to smell the ink. I want to have all those smudges on my palm. Yeh: And you have original art. You have real art as opposed to just having scans. When we draw, we should draw on paper. I really believe it. We should use a dip pen. Using the dip pen will teach any artist to get the line. Our art form is about the line; cartooning is about the line. That is the most important thing to remember. You get it with brush, you get it with pen. Nino: It’s like music. To me it’s like music and doing a symphony with all the brush works. You’re on cloud 9, man. If it’s done and you can see that it still asks for more; then stop, because


Audience question: In the mid 80’s I saw a floor plan of Marvel Productions and it looked like a Who’s Who of comic book artists. I know that Bill DuBay was there too. Can you talk a little bit about the working environment there? Nino: At the time, there was a little bit of friction Yeh: Alfredo was a great because Bill DuBay artist, but he would draw hired a lot of Filipinos. all night and there was a They know how to draw real tendency to overdo and they know how to it. I think what is really work, but little about nice about your work, animation; so what they Alex, is the design. do is, they usually ended When you look at your up cleaning up story work, it’s “Wow, this is boards and none of them worthy of hanging on the ended up doing their own wall.” It really looks like thing. It’s like they ended a design. I hope some of up being assistants. the younger people here At the time, we were can be inspired to look enjoying the whole thing. Phil Yeh with Alex Nino at San Diego Comic Fest, October 2013 at Alex’s work and other Animation was new to us people’s work because I and we still had to know have to believe that the future is always in the challenge to me; my father says, “I don’t know, more about the mechanics of it. Some stayed in hands of the young generation and they have to you’re hopeless.” I tried my best and I already animation and some left; but from that moment be educated. had some ideas because I had seen some people on some progressed, especially one guy, Dean Gonzalez, who died already. He was good draw and I had to follow what they did. Audience question: Alex I really like your at doing storyboards; he was one of the top. black and white art. Do you use a pen or a paint Yeh: It’s interesting to note that most of the Unfortunately he didn’t last long. We owe Bill brush? commencement speeches at colleges are done DuBay a lot because he introduced us to another Nino: I do something like acrylic paint and a by people who didn’t graduate, like Steve Jobs medium. pen, with the smallest nib; that and correction and Bill Gates. Not putting down education; fluid. It’s really tough because all you have to but sometimes in the arts, school is not always Audience question: Do you have any do is push the ink to just come out. You just important, but practice is. You have to practice; motivational tips for young artists who are go; don’t stop, just go all the way so you can you have to work really hard. trying to improve their skills and be able to do maintain the volume of ink that comes out. If Nino: And motivation is also important. animation? you stop, then the ink won’t flow. Nino: Just do some designs of your own, Yeh: I was wondering if you had a favorite because now they even go for kids’ designs. Audience question: I find a lot of comic book character that you had drawn from any movies If you watch all these shows, these are done artists will say that art school is a waste of time. or comics that you worked on? by kids. SpongeBob and all these designs; you You seem to be more inspired rather than taught. Nino: Yeah, sometimes I include the face of can do it more. If you want to go and work for Nino: When I was a kid I remember those radio Mulan on some of my characters. Mulan and animation, just assemble those designs that you shows. I think that started the whole thing, sometimes the hero on Treasure Planet. There’s have and show it to them. because you think and you imagine what’s really always a mixture with all these things to make it going on with those dramas or action shows that really interesting. I try to make it really simple Yeh: Never worry about technique so much as you heard on the radio. Not only that, I was enough for everybody to see, because sometimes ideas. When you have an idea for a character, it going to watch black and white movies and I if I go crazy on some of those illustrations, it’s doesn’t matter if you draw really well. was really fascinated about the action. I had to really very tough to follow. Nino: Whatever you have in mind, just do practice drawing in the sand and on paper. That whatever comes out in your mind. You have to really builds up ideas. It was almost every day Yeh: What’s your favorite comic from the just do it, because you don’t have to worry about and I was always being scolded by my father, comics you worked on? the cuteness or anything. Whatever you do, it’s because he didn’t see anything on my notebooks. Nino: I wish they had given me some more an original thing and if you put it in animation, It was all drawings; I wish I had those drawings. super heroes, so I could develop more of this. somebody will redesign it and make it really He was really not in a good mood whenever he I love Batman and I love Conan, but they gave cute. It’s the idea that’s gotta count most. saw my drawings. He said I was wasting those me the first and last Batman in 30 years, when www.alexnino.net papers. “So why don’t you just study and do they gave me this new 8-pager. Batman is my everything that will help you?” That was more a favorite.  that won’t add and it will just mess the whole thing up. You know when to stop; Alfredo had that tendency of doing all these things excessively and then before you know it, the figure is gone. It’s mixed with all these different lines and everything. There’s always time to stop.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

37


Gross continued from page 19

some money from 20th Century Fox. We did some sample footage in England and Fox turned it down--killed it. Now it was dead in the water, so Len picks up the phone and calls Ivan and says “Do you think you can get this produced?” Ivan says, “I can get this made in Canada and I can do it with a phone call. I would love to do it--let’s do it.” At the time the movie had first died, I said to my wife “All my friends are going to California to make movies. I’ve always wanted to make movies. I’ve been in print all these years; why don’t we sell the house, take the kids, and move to California. We’ve got John Belushi and Doug Kenney saying ‘Come on out, the weather’s fine.’ Let’s join up with them.” She said “What are you going to do?” I said “I don’t know, no one has offered me a job.” I got a job at an ad agency; they didn’t pay my way, but they held my job open while we sold the house. Almost literally while we were on the plane, Ivan called Len and said “It’s a go, I can make Heavy Metal.” Len said, “Do you remember Michael Gross?” Ivan said “Yeah, I do.” Len said, “I kind of told him he’d be associate producer, we should at least talk to him about it.” Ivan said, “What will he do for me? What role will he play?” I was unpacking the house and got a phone call. It was Ivan Reitman. “I’m over here at Universal. I’m gonna make Heavy Metal and Len Mogel suggested you should be associate producer. I don’t know what the hell it is you’re gonna do as associate producer, so why don’t you come over and tell me what you’re gonna do.” I was so new to Hollywood that I went to the Disney lot by mistake; I got lost. I lived in Burbank and still got lost. I had only been here literally a week and I’m on a movie lot. So I give my speech. I said “You’re gonna have to get this stuff translated.” He had never done animation. He said “Let’s do this. We’ll hire a director in Canada or someplace that has done animation. You can art direct it. You could pull all the art together and make it look like the magazine. OK, I’ll give you the associate director credit.” I made my first movie as a producer within three weeks of landing in Hollywood. I tell that to people who graduate from film school. Sometimes it works that way. It became a lot more than an art directing job. We had to build an animation studio in Montreal, and I commuted to Montreal. I really became in control of that film, especially because I was representing Ivan. He was also doing Stripes at that time and couldn’t deal with both pictures. It was a very difficult job. UJ: How did Heavy Metal do? MG: It did $30 million worldwide. We went $2 million over budget, which would have been our profit, so it’s never made a profit for us. I don’t

38

know what it did in video re-release. It was a moderate hit. So when the movie was over, I was in Hollywood, but didn’t have anything to do. Ivan didn’t have anything, so I did a little work for an animation studio. Ivan was doing Space Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a 3D movie. It started to get into 3D technical problems and special effects in 3D problems. The rest of the staff were all jumping ship, so Ivan said, “Would you come in and take care of some of these problems for me?” I went in and hired special effects firms to try and do 3D special effects, which is the old school of 3D. I pulled it off well enough. Ivan said “I am considering doing the sequel to Heavy Metal. If I do, you can direct it. Come on staff and I’ll give you a salary.” Right around then things started thriving in all ways. Stripes was a huge hit and he had Meatballs behind him. He was a force now, and we were developing all sorts of things. In that time period, suddenly Ghostbusters came together. Harold loved it, so Harold said “I’ll write it.” Columbia was in a bad period right then. They didn’t have anything on the books. The only things making money were little films like Stripes or Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke or Richard Pryor. We were part of that new, young, misunderstood dope-smoking group, so the studio wanted stuff out of all of us. They said, “We’ll do it (Ghostbusters), if you can get it out by the summer. This is 18 months before release date. Ivan said “I guarantee it.” They said, “Wow, you can do it in 18 months?” None of us had ever done special effects; there was no special effects house in existence that could do it; the script wasn’t really written; and we had 18 months to be in the theater. We would own the summer. It was an impossible task. We always took these things on because we were too naïve to know better. It’s like a stunt man. The first time it doesn’t hurt. The 2nd time you don’t want to do it. It’s like “Do I have to do it again?” I would never do an animated film again or a special effects again. Ivan hated this stuff. It’s not easy for a comedy director who can’t improvise because of the special effects. You have to prioritize while you’re shooting. In truth, though, it was a very enjoyable experience, and who knew? After Ghostbusters, there was enough trust in the team that Ivan kept that team together. Joe Medjuck and I were his right and left arms. As we made films that did not need effects or art direction anymore, my role spun off to anything that was visual. I did some design work if we needed it and Joe Medjuck would be doing script revisions. It was a great team and we could make any movie. UJ: What are some of the other movies you’ve worked on and have enjoyed? MG: Heavy Metal was a nightmare and I enjoyed

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

it; because there’s nothing like your first movie. It has a deep place in my heart. Ghostbusters is what it is. Twins was a joy; Kindergarten Cop was a joy. Beethoven wasn’t a joy, but it was fun. Probably the nicest all around time we had-everything was perfect-- was Dave. UJ: Did you know Jean Giroud, Moebius? MG: Yes, we have in interesting history in a way. We were already storyboarding and designing Arzak for Heavy Metal. We were in production before we found out that Len Mogel hadn’t gotten the film rights for Arzak. That’s when we found out he was an incredible idiot. He only had one job, which was to get the rights and he didn’t do it. The French backed out, so suddenly we didn’t own the rights to half the movie. We hired our own writer to write an original story to replace Arzak and we used the American material, which was no problem to get the rights from Bernie Wrightson and Richard Corben. There’s no question that when we did our designing, we had one eye to Arzak; and there’s no question that I knocked off a lot of his style. As the years went on and I got to know Moebius, I said, “I apologize; we couldn’t even approach you, because of your publishers.” He said, “No problem, I don’t care.” He was a very generous and lovely man. UJ: Did you actually work with John Lennon? MG: This is what happened: One thing about National Lampoon was, the circulation was never that great, but we were hip. We had major literary giants who were contributing to Lampoon; it was just loved. I was doing a little freelance design work and picking up some record album work here and there. I knew a guy in publishing who had started working for Allen Klein. They needed odds and ends design work. I went up there and did a little bit of work. They were still representing John Lennon a little and one day John came in and told my friend, “We need a personal designer; someone who can do all our stuff. Yoko has a book she wants to do, and Christmas cards. We have an independent album coming out. We need somebody who isn’t part of the music industry itself or part of our office. Who we really like is this guy at National Lampoon.” I got a call one day, “John Lennon and Yoko would like you to be their personal designer.” The funny thing is that I have no photos of us together, because I was so concerned with not being a fan and being a professional. I said. “That sounds good. That would be kind of fun.” He was kind of at the bottom of his career at that point. Wings had taken off with McCartney, but John was floundering. I could work at night because I got off at 4:00 in the afternoon. I could do the magazine during the day and then meet with them. I didn’t know how I was going to do all this. In the end I pretty much couldn’t, but


I was young and optimistic. So I went down to Banks street in New York. John and Yoko were staying in this little ground floor 2-room Brownstone. I went up to the door and went inside; I was in a little sitting room. There was an American flag hanging over a big doorway. Out comes this young man, who’s assisting him or something. He said, “They’ll be free in a minute. Good night,” and he leaves. I’m just sitting there and from the other side of the flag I hear John Lennon talking. Holy shit man, now it sinks in. He says, “Michael come on in.” I part the curtain; they’re in bed and they’re watching TV. Huey Newton or someone had just been freed and they were kind of cheering it on. I thought “Oh my God,” and I’m looking; because if you’ve only seen a person in the media, when you see them the first time in person, you see how detailed they look. He was talking on the phone. He motioned to the chair next to the bed and handed the phone to Yoko. He apparently had hired me and hadn’t told her. He turns and he says, “Yoko, this is Michael Gross. We got THE f---ing Michael Gross to design for us; THE art director of National Lampoon.” I’m thinking, “This is so backwards.” I’ll never forget that. I did a lot of design work for them. It got too exhausting; I couldn’t do it. Yoko liked to work at 2:00 in the morning; I couldn’t do it. I think my wife hung up on her once at 2:00 in the morning. “Is Michael there?” “No”…Click. I was right next to her in bed. It was getting

to be a pain and then they split. John moved to California and she didn’t like me much to begin with, so it was over. It lasted over a year. I remember once; my wife and I had never done hallucinogenics, and we had never been on vacation, we were young. We went on our first vacation to this little island in the Caribbean. We took some hallucinogens with us. We got back and John asked how it was. I said “It was great. Not only did we have some time off, but we did some mescaline on the beach.” He had just said something in the press about two weeks before about how he didn’t take drugs. He said, “Oh, I haven’t done mescaline in so many years. Why don’t you get some more and you and Glenis and Yoko and I will just close the doors and take mescaline and I’ll play some music…I’ve got some songs I’ve written…and we’ll just go all night and just be cool.” I couldn’t get any more. I was still trying to get some when he moved to California; talk about the evening that wasn’t. It was a good relationship, but I don’t have much to show for it. I did the Sometime in New York City album. Phil Spector produced it. UJ: Do you get residuals as an associate producer? MG: I get residuals for every movie I made with Ivan. Five movies pay residuals still, so I haven’t worked for 18 years. I paint and have other interests, and as you know, I’m terminally ill. I have a set amount of time. I’m not gonna

UJ: You have two kids? MG: My daughter is 50 and has 2 sons. My son is 45. He is a helicopter cinematographer. I got him in on Ghostbusters II at age 19. He has a beautiful 11-year old daughter that I am close to. My kids turned out well. My wife passed away. We were divorced for some time, but we were best friends; we did business together. She came down here from L.A. I rented the place in the back for her and she lived at the beach for a year, which she always loved. I’m in love again which is good. I’ve had a good life. All photos courtesy of Michael Gross http://www.michaelcgross.com/

Romero continued from page 33 we go shopping we don’t go looking for the ugliest shirt we can find. Somebody might find a pattern they like or don’t like. We look for a certain design aspect that speaks to us. It makes a statement about us, if you wear it out in public. I’ve long thought that the human ability to abstract or the inability to stop abstracting is at the base of all this. Why art is important? Dare I say people who came up with religion were abstracting. Artists do the same thing, except I don’t think the fish that I made really swims. That’s art, it’s abstracting. I think the human mind does need to abstract and come up with stuff.

must have had in mind when making the piece. Everybody has their own view of what they are seeing. I think that’s totally fun. I really like the idea that people buy stuff from me because they really want to take it home, and then they can go out and look at it whenever they want to. If someone is in a bad mood and they look at the sculpture and it puts them in a good mood, then I’ve done something worth doing. I know not all artists are like that, because as artists we all live in the real world and we see ugly things and we respond sometimes. I remember I made a sculpture about a statue of liberty and instead of holding a book in her hand, she was holding locks and keys. I did this when Arizona came up with a law that said the land was theirs and not the people who had the bloodlines of the land itself, but theirs (Arizona’s) because they had stolen it. So that may not have been as pretty of a piece as other things I’ve made, but it was telling a story, and these ones that have social implications sell pretty quick. People either want to make that statement themselves or they

can connect to it. I do like a piece to have an aesthetic to it; a beauty to it, something they want to look at. I don’t really care to make ugly art. I don’t want to make people angry. I want to make them happier. I have concluded that is because Dina’s and my default state is happy. If we’re mad, we tend to go back to happy, or try to find our way back to happy. That’s the default state. So I think that if people can derive any of that from anything I do, I’m very happy too; I’ve done a good job. UJ: What do you see for 2014? DR: 2014 is going to be an outrageous year. It’s going to be hard to surpass last year. I see me choosing my work instead of surviving my work; choosing what art projects I’ll be a part of. My little crew of artists is now four people, and we are working together on projects. We are going boldly into bigger projects and maybe bigger money. http://www.romerometal.com/ 

UJ: So, on a personal level, what does art do for you? DR: It feeds my soul when somebody walks up and they really like it and they don’t know I’m the artist, and I don’t tell them. I just stand there and look at it with them. I listen to what they say and what they see – what they believe the artist

change anything. I’m gonna travel a little bit and continue to photograph and do what one does. UJ: Have you always painted and done photography? MG: No, if you go on my website, you’ll see I was doing freelance illustration for the money, but was never great because I wasn’t dedicated enough to it. I didn’t do any painting for myself until about 10 years ago. I guess I had nothing to say as an artist. I don’t know if I have anything to say now, but at least I’m comfortable with what I do. I have three pieces in museums. What I’m taking a lot more seriously is my photography. I’m not a professional photographer, but I enjoy what I do. I’m pretty proud of all the stuff I shoot now.

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

39


The Art of Listening By Bernie Mases

My musical journey started at the tender age of ten. Our older sister owned one of those record players that had an auto changer, which meant you could load up lots of records, 33’s, and 45’s on top of each other and they would play automatically. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were on top of her play list. I would listen and think “Those sounds are real bitchin.” It wasn’t until my mid-teens that I finally got hooked. I was hanging out with a neighbor whose brother just returned from duty in Viet Nam. With his return came a posh stereo system. He forced us to sit down and listen to The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. The music coming from those grooves had a profound impact on me as a young person. I’d never heard anything like it. They were four sides of the most incredible blues played by genuine talented artists, not just jumped-up “X-Factor” fabrications. The album artwork, courtesy of Norman Rockwell, is a beautiful portrait of the two musicians with Al asking to be painted a little heavier. Rockwell was painting Nixon’s portrait at the same time. Since then, music has become a lifelong passion for me. We were those kids at school who would talk of nothing but music and pore over the 12” gatefold sleeves, imagining what clues the artwork gave to the music on the records inside. With no quick fix of YouTube, there was always the mystery behind each artist. Maybe Rolling Stone magazine would offer some clues. The only way to duplicate recordings was to get the music on a hissing-sounding Maxell tape. I suppose it was The Court of the Crimson King that really opened my eyes and ears to the possibilities of progressive music. It’s one of those albums that makes such an impact on you. I can remember sitting and listening in awe. The artwork from that album was so evocative. The cover painting is a screaming face in extreme close-up. The inside painting is a surreal, twisting, grinning face done in deep red colors. They both are spectacular choices for presenting King Crimson’s breakthrough music. If you stare at the cover long enough, you can almost become hypnotized; it seems to have something to say that is connected with the music. Part of the reason why that album has become so iconic is because of its grand concept, the lavish packing with words, and illuminations by Peter Sinfield. I’ve played the album for friends over the past forty-five years. Most of them just don’t get it. They’re simply unable to appreciate music that wasn’t like any else they had heard before. They just cannot relate to a piece of abstract, progressive music. My record collection is made up of music that took a lot of time and research. It was often an event with friends to cruise down to Tower Records and find our way to the Photos by John C. Preves latest releases. If you invest emotionally and financially in something, it has an extra resonance and durability; a tangible object you can hold in your hands and treasure. One could, of course, claim that it should just be about the music; but that’s like saying if a painting’s good, then why aren’t you satisfied with having just a little jpg of that painting on your laptop? There’s nothing like the experience of standing in front of a great painting in an art gallery, seeing the texture of the paint, seeing the colors coming off the canvas, and seeing the context of that painting with the gallery itself. It’s the same with music. Consider Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Who could think of that record without saying to oneself, “Now that’s iconic artwork!” Another progressive masterpiece, Close to the Edge by Yes, displays beautiful artwork by Roger Dean. It has been re-mastered in ear-boggling 5.1 surround sound mix. The ultimate way to experience that album is sitting in a perfectly set up room, holding a copy of the booklet, and reading the lyrics as you listen. The clarity, dynamics, and depth that weren’t present in the 1972 mix are as pure and true as you’ll ever hear it. I recommend picking up the Definitive Edition Blu-ray/CD combo edition. I realize that only a tiny minority of listeners will experience it at that level. What you see now are releases by more artistically inclined artists and a move towards special deluxe physical editions. On the other hand, for the people who don’t consider the extension of the music into the realm of physical art important, there is downloading. I’m never going to like that particularly, but I’m also going to accept that there’s a whole new generation for whom music is simply software to download into their iPods. They choose certain songs to listen to rather than enjoy the album from start to finish. Compressed music files produce a tinnier, crunchier, thinner sound. Small and more convenient, iPods take away the whole art of listening, sucking the life out of music. The sound on CD’s, and certainly vinyl, has a superior sound. A vinyl record has a groove carved into it that mirrors the original sound’s wave form. This means that no information is lost. The recording can be much more accurate, and that can be heard in the richness of sound. We used to sit and listen to albums, but the increased portability has altered the way people experience music. It was an activity in the past but is no longer treated as an event that you pay attention to. Now we’re on Facebook, returning emails, obsessed with our phones and talking the whole time. We just don’t seem to have the time to let an album sink in and to grasp everything that revolves around the songs, the concept, and the artwork. With many new bands finding recognition without being on the radar of the mainstream, the one thing that connects them all is the depth of thought behind their creations and the mastery of sound they convey. The process of discovery is exciting and rewarding. Give it some thought; it may just change your mind! 

40

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

41


Update On The Mural Project

Since 2013, we have been working on the North side of the museum that sits on the site of the original McDonald’s Restaurant in San Bernardino, located at the corner of 14th and E. Streets. This is becoming one of the most detailed murals on the planet and we plan to have it finished in time for the Veteran’s Day Parade in November 2014. Led by artist Phil Yeh, who had a vision of the entire San Bernardino County portrayed with important landmarks on Route 66, going through the county all the way to Los Angeles. Route 66 ends in Santa Monica, more than 2000 miles from its beginning in Chicago! Artists assisting on this project include: Rory Murray, Beth Winokur, Jan Windhausen and Anna Lambert. “Like” The Living Mural on Facebook and “Friend” Phil Yeh Artist.”

42

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

43


Sasse continued from page 27 received its non-profit status which has been a year-long process. When I asked him what caused him to undertake such a large project, his answer is simple, “There is a real need for art in this part of California. San Bernardino County doesn’t have a lot of art venues. There are galleries and stuff at college campuses, but there really isn’t a lot. I felt there was a need and decided to do it. Sometimes I question my sanity, but I decided to do it.” So far, the IEMA has a collection of 113 artists with over 200 pieces of art. The next step for the IEMA is to find a permanent home, which Gene is working on. His goal for the museum is to make it free to the community, have lectures, art classes, and exhibits. He wants it to be, “a place where people can come and look at art, share it with their kids and get other people interested in it.” I asked Gene why art is important. “Well, you know I’ve never thought about that. I guess it’s important to me because I like it. Artists put their souls into each piece of art. Each piece of art is a piece of that artist.” Gene has complete faith, as do I, that the museum will thrive. “Once we get the doors open, people will come. There is a need for artists to have a place to show their work and a need for people to be able to come and see it.” You can go check the museum website www.iearts.org. You can also view Gene Sasse’s work at www.genesasse.com.

44

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

45


Editorial continued from page 3 wonderful interview with Michael Gross in this issue. He was their legendary art director from 1970-74. Ray Bradbury wrote to us when we briefly changed the name from Uncle Jam to Cobblestone in 1975. He asked if he could contribute some poetry and, as they say, the rest is history. I enjoyed going through our history a bit last issue, as we celebrated 40 years. In Long Beach, California, during my earliest years of college, I met a man called Richard Kyle, who had opened a bookstore downtown. It was called Wonderworld Books. I got up on a ladder and painted the sign for Wonderworld Books. The name was changed later to Richard Kyle Books. Richard had coined the term “graphic novel” in 1964. He was forever talking about the need to create comic book material that didn’t come out monthly on cheap paper, but rather would be published as a stand-alone hardcover book with a beginning, middle, and end; just like a real novel. Richard and Denis Weary would publish George Metzger’s comic strips in a hardcover book called Space, Time, and Beyond in late 1976, calling it a graphic novel. A few months later, in May 1977, I would publish one of the first modern American graphic novels called Even Cazco Gets the Phil Yeh with his cousins Yeh Xing and Yeh Lin, China in 1985 Blues. It was 80 pages---bigger than the typical comic book---on good paper, with introductions by Sergio Aragones and Don Rico. The most controversial thing was, instead of a cover price of less than $1, I was charging $5 for this his entire family to go to college in the United finished product. I went to the American Booksellers Association convention that spring with my States. Mao took over China in 1949 and my new book. I won’t bore you with the struggles we had to make “graphic novels” acceptable to both dad was stuck. It’s hard to imagine what it was like not to be able to go home for 31 years! bookstores and later, libraries. In June 2014, I was invited to speak on a panel for Will Eisner’s Graphic Novel Grants for My grandmother had died when we finally Libraries. It took place at the American Library Association annual convention in Las Vegas. Gene got back in 1979. My grandfather was 87 and Luen Yang was among the panelists. He won a National Book Award for American Born Chinese very weak, but had a sparkle in his eye when a few years ago and has a new book called The Shadow Hero with Sonny Liew: it’s about the first he spoke to me. I had known my grandfather Asian American superhero. They actually have a section just for graphic novelists at this library on my mother’s side pretty well. He was of Welsh background and meeting my Chinese convention. Slowly, we are making progress. Also in 2014, there is a new graphic novel called The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story; and grandfather meant a lot to me when I was 25. I think that we can again move the ball down the field. This is a book for the masses telling the It was our only meeting; he passed away at 89. I wrote about all my trips back to China for little-known story of how Epstein was able to create a much bigger audience for The Fab Four. The amazing thing is that the book was written by Vivek Tiwary and illustrated by Andrew Robinson, Uncle Jam, starting with that first trip in 1979. who were born after The Beatles broke up! We have interviews with both of these men in this issue. There was talk that I could turn those articles My dad is 91 years of age as I type this editorial on July 4, 2014. I recently painted a new into a book and a film, but my destiny was watercolor of his hometown as part of my series of paintings of places that really meant something closely linked to my love of cartooning as an art to me personally. Hangzhou, China is famous for the West Lake. It’s one of the most beautiful cities form. I also wrote a second Cazco graphic novel in China. We first were able to go back to China in 1979. It had been 31 years since my father left in 1980 called Cazco in China. I still have plans of creating a new graphic novel in 2016 called Cazco: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been. I published the first chapter in 2007. It was colored by Lieve Jerger, but I see this finished graphic novel in black and white, in hardcover, with more than 300 pages. I believe in this art form and I believe that the entire world will come to see why original artwork in this field should be valued as much as we value masterpieces in violins, paintings, cars, and homes. Comic book art has long been undervalued, but there are finally signs that this is changing. An original comic book page recently sold for more than $200,000. It was done by Jack Kirby, who really created the Marvel Universe; and two of Frank Miller’s Batman pages went for more than $400,000 a piece, so we are moving in the right direction.~Phil Yeh Phil’s father, Te Fung Yeh, with his brothers & sister, Hangzhou China, 1985

46

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014


Hangzhou Hangzhou original watercolor by Phil Yeh Unframed 12� x 16� giclee print. Limited Edition of 200. Signed & numbered by the artist, $200 each, $250 International shipping. Shipped flat. Send check or money order to: Eastwind Studios P.O. Box 750 San Bernardino, CA 92402 or order online from wingedtiger.com Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

47


Forever Forever a tribute to John Lennon Original watercolor by Phil Yeh Unframed 12� x 16� giclee print. Limited Edition of 200 Signed & numbered by the artist, $200 each, $250 International. Shipped flat. Send Check or money order to: Eastwind Studios, P.O. Box 750, San Bernardino, CA 92402 or order online from wingedtiger.com

48

Uncle Jam Quarterly, Volume 40, #104 Summer 2014

Uncle Jam 104  

Magazine about health, books, the arts, and travel. Est. 1973. Publisher Phil Yeh. Current issue #104 features : Alex Nino, Dan Romero, Mich...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you