Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Today is Levi Straus Day

Enoch's daughter told me she thought this cover was inspired by the growing popularity of denim, though you have to wonder if it was more a play on prohibition. Bolles spiked quite a few illustrations but he himself wasn't much of an imbiber, in contrast with some (ok, a lot) of his artistic peers. Since my last post I've been going over old newspaper sources and found out more about the late night ways of the Golden Age gang of New York Illustrators. Along with their other watering holes they founded their own, the Kit Kat Club. But for the annual Illustrator Society balls (they sometimes called them "skelters", whatever that means) they had to relocate to bigger digs. These were raucous affairs with shows and skits that often got out of hand, not in small part because they invariably included models. One year there was a drawing contest where the model's backs served as canvases. A couple years later during a skit the models showed even more skin, so much so that the cops hanging out in the back of the crowd couldn't ignore it. Five of the barest models got thrown in the slammer, including one of Enoch's (though he was not in attendance). The illustrators, including such attendees as Rube Goldberg, John LaGatta and McClelland Barklay got off unscathed, though the latter had a share of jail time later.

Barclay's high class art and cleanly rendered sculptures belied a messy love life involving a marriage to his first cousin (whose maiden name was McClelland!). He later left her for--what else--a model but then divorced her too. In no time at all he was in court for failing to pay alimony, but it was owed to his first wife. Barclay had earned $45,000 the previous year yet he claimed he had nothing to give, though he had a one way boat ticket to France in his pocket. His story was that had planned the trip as a way to recharge his career because his art had gone "stale." The court didn't buy it and tossed him in jail, where he passed the time (only five days) drawing portraits of his cell mates and reading condolence cards from his fans. After he got out he married yet another one of his models, this one half his age.
But then he made up for it all by enlisting in the Navy where he rose to the rank of Lt. Commander. He created recruiting posters, redesigned camouflage for combat aircraft, and painted portraits of high ranking officers, including General MacAuthur. In 1942 during a tour in the Pacific, his ship was hit by a torpedo. Barclay perished along with the entire crew. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, and in 1995 was inducted into the Society of Illustrators hall of fame.


ProofPack said...

I have a question about this Film Fun Issue. Apparently there is another cover attributed to this same year and month. "OH, What a Gyp!" I have volume and numbers for the issues surrounding it and it leaves no holes for another issue. Any insight?

Jack R said...

Perhaps you have a Canadian version of the issue, which was printed a month later.