Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fred Waring and the Cartoonists

It's Christmas, and Christmas means Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians! There are Fred Waring Christmas songs at the Check the Cool Wax blog here. And read on to see the Waring/cartoonist connection, OK? OK!

"Fred Waring," Lone Ranger cartoonist Tom Gill once told me, "would hire these buses and we would get onboard in Times Square and they would take us through the Holland Tunnel, along Route 80, to his house in Pennsylvania. We spent the whole weekend there. Ping pong, golf, tennis, swimming -- he had it all."

Really, it wasn't a house. It was an estate, which Fred called The Shawnee Inn. It had many rooms and rolling grounds, located 75 miles west of the city. For many years, Mr. Waring, a successful band leader and cartoon-fan, opened his place up gratis for an annual Spring outing for the NYC cartoonists. And they reciprocated by drawing him lots of cartoons.

A link to the Fred Waring cartoon collection here. And some of Waring's original cartoon art collection for auction here.

Below from Ed Cunard's writing in The Low Road blog. His grandmother managed The Shawnee Inn:

"You see, my grandmother was always a career woman. She started out working with Fred Waring at the height of his popularity (so, yes, this is going back quite a way). When she decided to settle down and marry, she left his music enterprise and went to manage the resort he owned in the Poconos. This much, I knew. I knew that she had met all sorts of celebrities and quasi-celebrities through these jobs, but there was one section that stood out to me:

"It's the only autograph I have of all the celebrities I have met, except for autographed sketches by a couple of cartoonists. They came to Shawnee for an annual outing which Mr. Waring hosted every June to celebrate his birthday.

"When the National Cartoonists came to Shawnee, it was a time they all came together for a busman's holiday - golf and tennis during the day. After the evening entertainment provided by Mr. Waring, they charmed all of us with their inimitable style of humor and talent demonstrations. All the greats in that art field were there - Mort Walker, Stan Drake, Milt Caniff, Charles Schulz and many others. I can still visualize Hal Foster, on one of their trips, standing before a large easel in the lobby of the Inn drawing his famous "Prince Valiant." In fact, I treasure a copy of that drawing which is truly more art than cartoon. We were so fortunate to witness such talent."

The Shawnee Inn is still around. Link here.

No comments: