Saturday, December 08, 2007

Al Scaduto 1928-2007 (Updated)

Just got word that Al Scaduto passed away yesterday. He was 79. I have no more details at this time.

Al Scaduto was one of the nicest guys ever and I am glad to say he was a friend. He brought his love of singing to every get together of the Berndt Toast Gang, giving us all a chance to hear his lovely voice sing a couple minutes of opera.

He was generous with his time and stories of cartooning. He had been with King Features for over 60 years, soon after graduating from high school. He went from being an assistant, to actively taking over Jimmy Hatlo's feature THEY'LL DO IT EVERY TIME.

Al went to high school with Joe Giella, Sy Barry and Emilio Squeglio -- fellow cartoonists and fellow Berndt Toasters -- and they shared their friendship with all of us.

I will miss him very much, and this is all damn hard to take in.

UPDATED December 9, 2007:

Photo: Al Scaduto sings at a recent Berndt Toast meeting while girlfriend Claire kvells. ("Kvells" being a Yiddish word meaning to rejoice and be prideful.)
"'What I like most about being a cartoonist is starting with a fresh piece of paper and ending up with an idea,' he said. 'You're the writer, the actor and the director. I never thought about retiring. I enjoy what I do.'"

- Al Scaduto, from a February 11, 2007 Connecticut Post interview
written by Dirk Perrefort.
A few more notes about Al Scaduto, perhaps the last, great "bigfoot" style cartoonist. A guy who knew Milt Gross, for heaven's sake!

These are all notes I made from the Berndt Toast Gang meetings. The BTG is the nickname for the National Cartoonists Society Long Island chapter. I was chapter chair for about five years.

+ + +

Back in 2005, Al told the Gang about The School of Industrial Arts reunion. SIA was founded by four young art teachers in 1936, who built desks from old orange crates and plywood. Even though it’s changed its name to the High School of Art and Design and moved from its former Civil War hospital building to a modern building on Second Avenue, it’s still referred to as SIA by those who graduated.

After the graduation ceremony from the High School of Industrial Arts in 1946, Al's father told him he would starve. That same year, Al started at King Features. By 1948, he became a full time assistant for Ben Dunn, but still found time for lots of other work. A multiple winner of the NCS Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award for the strip, he’s been soloing on They’ll Do It Every Time since 1989. Not bad for a boy from the Bronx!

+ + +

OK, we have a number of BT Gang traditions. The group has been meeting in one shape or from since 1966. For instance, every month we ask someone to bring in some samples of their work. Al Scaduto brought in dozens of originals from his years on They’ll Do It Every Time, Sick magazine, Little Iodine and so many, many illustrations. A Certain Major Syndicate surprised Al with a beautiful cake that was inscribed ”Congratulations Al from your Friends at King Features.” Al told us a little about his career. After the graduation ceremony from the High School of Industrial Arts in 1946, his dad told him he would starve. That same year, Al started at King. By 1948, he became a full time assistant for Ben Dunn, but still found time for lots of other work. A multiple winner of the NCS Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award for the strip, he’s been soloing on They’ll Do It Every Time since 1989. Not bad for a boy from the Bronx!

Photo: Children's book illustrator and current Chair Adrian Sinnott, Al Scaduto, Mike Lynch from a May 2007 get together.

And another Berndt toast tradition (actually, more of a running gag): Al Scaduto announces that he has brought a guest. This happens every time, and every time, he introduces the fellow sitting at the same table: “Jumpin'” Joe Giella. Then Al tells a disparaging joke at Joe’s expense. This is all forgivable since we all love Joe and the joke is an old joke. On those rare occasions when Al can’t make it, we all worry that there will be no one to introduce Joe.

+ + +

On April 24, 2006, legendary cartoonist Creig Flessel wrote a letter to me (on real paper, since Creig's not an Internet-kinda guy) about what he's up to

I keep busy doing watercolors and cartoons for local residents and our grandchildren. Tell Al Scaduto (my mentor) that I'm concentrating on my cartooning and he is my god.
+ + +

Al had this to say in the days after Jay Kennedy's death:

"Many years ago, when I was still working at Bob Dunn's office up at King Features on the 17th floor, Jay Kennedy was assigned the job of Comic Editor. He was always very 'low key' and a true gentlemen, with a tremendous knowledge of comics. I met him several times, either at cartoon conventions or at King Features affairs, as well as at NCS meetings and, of course, at Bunny Hoest's Annual Bash. Talking to him on the phone one day, he praised me by saying, 'Al, you do a handsome feature.' I'll truly miss this gentle man."

+ + +

Photo: a display of some of Al's originals on a display table at our January 25, 2007 get together

Al was just a very sweet guy. He would call me from time to time, to let me know how much he enjoyed the monthly BT meetings. He would drive from his home in Connecticut, pick up his girlfriend in Tarrytown and then drive out to Huntington, Long Island. When new or wannabe cartoonists would drop in, he would always spend time with them and ask them more questions than they would ask him.

He was an integral part of the Berndt Toast heart, and he will be missed.

Al, we were all kvelling when you were around. We'll miss the cartoons and the music and the man so dearly.


Mark Evanier on Al

King Features bio

Comics Curmudgeon, with a comment from one of Al's daughters.


Gabriel Owens said...


Vince M said...

Always loved Al Scaduto's art. Great compositions and flowing ink lines. He was a perfect cartoonist.

Bon Giorno, Mr. Scaduto.

Unknown said...

Set off by the announcement on this blog, there's an ongoing outpouring of condolences and tributes on today's entry at Comics Curmudgeon. Mike Evanier posted the news at his blog, also. Thanks for letting his fans know. From everything I've read, he was a heck of a guy and he'll be missed.

Jerry550 said...

Rest in peace, sir. Thank you for all of the humor.

Kaitlyn said...

He looks like such a happy person.

John R. Platt said...

A lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing your memories.

Unknown said...

My Parents were life long friends with Al & Joyce in Jericho, New York. I have known Al for all of my46 years. When I was 5 or 6, I would invite Al to my birthday partys with my friends. Al would always draw me a cartoon poster in his wonderful style. My favorite being me at the wheel of a fire truck with my father Norman and Al on the back. I will remember that forever.
Rest in Peace, Al.

Steven Rothman
Jericho, N.Y.

walto said...

Al was about the sweetest guy imaginable. I learned so much about Italian opera from him (and his dynamite collection). Nice tenor voice himself.

When asked if he might be able to do something for you, Al would invariably respond:

"Shoes. Whad ya think: Otherwise?"

RIP, Pop.

Nancy Linden said...

Debbie Scaduto was my best friend growing up on Long Island. I remember being at her house so many times and hearing her father's joyful voice singing "Makin Whoopie" as well as opera. He was a special and loving man. My thoughts and sadness go out to his family.

Kathleen said...

I subscribe to many comic strips via DailyInk (in email format)and I just found out today about Al Scaduto's death and that his last daily "They'll Do It Every Time" was yesterday and his final Sunday feature will be this coming Sunday 2/10. I grew up in Boston reading the Sunday morning "funnies" as we called them and TDIET was so funny to me, even as a young kid. Now, fast forward 20 years later and I was getting TDIET delivered to my email In Box everyday and I absolutely LOVED it. What a great cartoonist! He is sorely missed! My condolences all around.

Alan Willms said...

I emailed Al one day. Just trying to do some research about my wife's grandfather. King's Features Syndicate's Fred Faber, another forgotten artist. Although we only exchanged an email or two. It was nice that he replied back to me. He replied in a manner which help me connect his past and was more than happy to give me whatever details he remembered about Fred Faber. Rest in Peace Al.
Alan Willms

Lee said...

Surfing the internet, I found this page and was sorry to hear about Al's passing. I met him back in the late 1960's at the Villa d'Este in Lake Como, Italy. I was about 11 years old on a family vacation. I remember how thrilled we were to find another New York family there, and we all spent a lot of time together. I was a very fussy eater, but with Al's encouragement, I learned to eat squid and octopus.

When we returned home, we stayed in touch with the Scaduto's. I remember talking to Debbie on the phone, and I think our families met for dinner a few times.