Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bill Kresse 1933-2014 "Arrived with a pencil in my hand …."

Cartoonist Bill Kresse died on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. No cause of death was given. He is survived by his wife, Lorraine M. Kresse. There are visiting hours today (Sunday) and tomorrow (Monday, January 27th, 2014) at the Conway Funeral Home, in Jackson Hts., NY.  A funeral mass will be held Tuesday morning at 10:30.

Bill Kresse was a friend, and a fellow member of the Berndt Toast Gang.

I don't think that when Bill was born that the phrase "multi-tasker"had yet been coined. So, let's call Bill a renaissance man.

He admits that he's had at least five careers. "Maybe six."

"I arrived with a pencil in my hand and scribbled my way through the High School for Art and Design," he recounts in his NCS bio.

Just out of school, he found a job a bit north of the city, in a suburb, New Rochelle.

"I was awarded the princely sum of $25 and a job with Terrytoons."

The teenaged Bill Kresse got hired by none other than Mr. Paul Terry himself. Terrytoons was in high production mode after the war, churning out its cartoons for television consumption, especially Mighty Mouse and Deputy Dawg. This was, he notes, Career No. 1.

While the days he spent at Terrytoons were "great fun," he didn't find the mindless inking of animation cells to be in any way challenging.

So, he embarked on Career No. 2, "a brief stint in the world of design/drafting."

Bob Buethe writes in his Hogan's Alley magazine article Bill Kresse and "Super" Duper that Bill took an NYU cartooning class taught by veteran syndicated and gag cartoonist Dave Breger. They became friends, and Dave took Bill to some National Cartoonists Society get togethers. Dave stood for Bill, sponsoring the young man for membership to the prestigious professional organization.

During this time, Bill was selling gag cartoons at what is now referred to as "Vintage Sleaze" types of magazines, specifically one called Humorama.

He also met and married Lorraine, his wife of now over fifty years, during this time. In his NCS bio, he calls her his "fantastically talented bride," as well as a "super artist … and my severest critic." With her, and later with his beloved schnauzer Willie, they had a loving home life, settling in Jackson Heights, NY.

While Terrytoons did not in any way help him prepare for the drafting job (Career No. 2), he said it did prepare him for Career No. 3: a series of newspaper art department jobs.

It was at the NCS events that Bill, thru networking, had found jobs with the New York Herald Tribune, the Suffolk Sun, and, finally, with the art department at the Daily News.

At the News, Bill met Rolf Ahlsen. Together, they pitched a comic strip about a goofy building superintendent to Sunday editor Worth Gatewood. The News bit, and the comic strip "Super" Duper debuted in 1968. It would run for over five years, exclusively in the News.

By the early 1970s, Bill was appearing occasionally on The Joe Franklin Show, as well as presenting a weekly cartoon lesson on a live-action kids' show hosted by a young Irene Cara, titled "The Everything Show." This was his 4th career, he says.

He also found time to draw the playbills and posters for the local St. Joan of Arc Theater Group in Jackson Heights.

Mary Jane Blaney remembers. She was a young person in the 1960s and, like Bill, active in the St. Joan of Arc Theater Group. Here's her post at about this time:

Was so sorry to hear today that Mr. Bill Kresse has passed away. Mr. Kresse was a most talented man and wonderful person. Mr. Kresse was so supportive of the St. Joan of Arc Theater Group ( 1970's and 1980's) under the direction of Mr. Daniel Tomasselli and the St. Joan of Arc Children's Choir and Folk Group directed by Mr. Tomasselli and then Mr. Dennes Striny . I will never forget while in the folk group; playing the guitar and singing at the 10 30 am Folk Group Mass ..always looking up and seeing him sitting right in front of us and always with a smile on his face every Sunday.  
Each and every St. Joan of Arc Theater Group Production Playbill as well as, Poster for the purpose of marketing the production was designed by Bill Kresse. Thank you Mr. Kresse! You had such a positive effect on myself and all the children, teenagers and young adults you came in touch with at St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights through those years. My thoughts and prayers are with your wife and your family. 
May you rest in peace.  
- Mary Jane Blaney, Bayside, NY

During these years, Bill served on the board on the National Cartoonists Society and became Vice President. In 1974, he won the NCS Advertising and Illustration Division Award. During these years, he was nominated for other awards as well. Bill was awarded the prestigious NCS Silver T-Square in 1977.

Above: "The House I Live In" a coloring book by Bill Kresse.

Career No. 5: The next decade would see more freelance projects, like coloring books and comics, and AN INTRODUCTION TO CARTOONING, a how-to trade paperback cartoon book, published in 1984. In it, photos of Bill cavort with his drawings. 

In the '90s, he became a designer for Zippo lighters, as well as souvenir pins and fobs. He was VP graphic design director for a lapel pin company, specializing in designs for the Olympics, the Paralympics and their associated sponsors.

He created a series of pins for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (including a collection of 12 “I Survived the Blast” pins that were conceived, drawn and rushed to the manufacturer in under four hours).

That was Career No. 6 at the very least!

Above: Bill plays the harmonica at a 2006 Berndt Toast Gang luncheon.

Bill Kresse and Rowdie the schnauzer from a 2009 Queens Courier article. (Willie the schnauzer had passed away, and Rowdie was their new pup.)

Bill was a fellow member of the Berndt Toast Gang, the legendary chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. He always brought his harmonica to the meetings. Sometimes he would play a melody, other times accompany any birthday announcements with the birthday song. Most often, Lorraine would be sitting next her husband, smiling.

The last time I had lunch with Bill, it was a few blocks from the old Daily News building. It was just the two of us. He had come in from Queens and I had taken the subway from Brooklyn. We were at the old watering hole The Overlook Lounge, which used to be called Costello's. It was the place to hang out if you were a cartoonist (along with The Pen and Pencil and The Palm).  We arrived at 2 o'clock. Late for lunch, but your get 2-for-one drink specials! And they really do have great food.

Bill had a stack of new gag cartoons that he had drawn and he hauled them out. He spread them on the table and talked about them. He was drawing some editorial cartoons for the Queens Courier at that time. Bill always spoke to me like an equal, despite me having only been in the cartooning business for a fraction of the time he had been. He was a generous soul.

Enthusiastic, and knowledgable, Bill never stopped drawing and thinking cartoons -- and getting them out to markets. Or, for that fact, loving Lorraine and schnauzers. Like so many of us, cartooning had infused itself in his soul. The scribbling that had begun in high school had never stopped. For a man like that, there is no retirement.

Above: one of the cartoon walls at the Overlook Lounge. Bill's Super Duper drawing is there to the right of Sy Barry's Phantom.

Vintage Sleaze Bill Kresse Master Cartoonist
Scott Edelman Remembers Bill Kresse
Daily News Annnouncement
Hogan's Alley: Bill Kresse and "Super" Duper
Italian site (translated) AFNews
Bill Kresse, Longtime O'Dwyer's Illustrator, Dies


Daryll Collins said...

A great, amazing talent.

Grapevine said...

Wow. I used to love Super Duper as a kid. Haven't thought of that strip for years.