Friday, June 02, 2006

Virgil Partch UPDATED

When Bloom County's Steve Dallas recited the "Three B's" (broads, booze & Buckley -- but, hey, you knew that), he was just letting us know about a lifestyle that was in force during the 1980s. A generation before that, Virgil Partch was chronicling the dipsomaniac lifestyle, replete with lying and lusting. And there was a healthy dose of bizarre physicalities. And Buckley? Well, he was around then, but the sorts of people in VIP's cartoons would not care. They were too busy with the seedier side of life: deception and desire and drinking.

I think the funny thing about this is that this guy looks so slimy, with his teeny caterpillar mustache and bulbous bald head. The way he raise his eyebrows you can tell he's a guy who's full of himself -- and yet, he has 2 women! Or at least he thinks he does. This one took me an extra second before I "got it."

This one is subtle. I like how the guy's face tells us all he wants do is his job; wipe the bar. His only agenda is doing his job. And the woman -- either she's in a Zen-like place or three sheets to the wind. What's your take?

Alaska-born Virgil Partch signed his cartoons "VIP." He was born in 1916, studied at the University of Arizona and then the Chouinard Art Institute. Leaving the Art Institute after 6 months, he took a job with Disney for four years, and then became unemployed after participating in that studio's 1941 strike. That's when he started drawing gag cartoons. He sold his first by 1942, and his absurd cartoons became a staple of many magazines. This page has a handful from Cartoon Fun, a True Magazine collection from 1954.

VIP was never in the The New Yorker magazine, despite many tries. He was a very popular cartoonist in his day, and appeared in just about every other magazine. I've heard that the reason he was rejected by The NYer was that he drew nostrils and the people in The NYer cartoons did not have nostrils. I've heard this a couple of times through the years. Once was from a former True magazine editor. But, hey, I can't see any nostrils here. I do see six fingers, though.

I think the reason he was not in The NYer mag was because his characters were, in the end, essentially grotesques. Not arty grotesques like George Grosz, not stylized freaks like Addams' cartoons. VIP's people were working stiffs, wrong-side-of-the-track sorts who are going to hang out in the bar and smoke too much.

There really was a place in NYC called The Circus Bar. I Googled it but I still can't figure out if it's around. I did find out there are Circle Bars all over the world, though.

He says the reason he will occasionally draw extra fingers is to atone for the 4 years of drawing three-fingered Mickey Mouses while with Disney.

VIP and his wife both died in a tragic automobile accident in 1984.

UPDATE: I'm wrong! VIP did sell a half dozen cartoons to the New Yorker magazine, beginning in November 21, 1942 issue. Hat tip to Michael Maslin!

1 comment:

Paul B said...

Hi Mike, In the bar scene, when the bar tender referred to "her things" he refers to "her things" if you know what I mean.. hehe