Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Charles Barsotti 1933-2014

(Charles Barsotti cartoon © 2014 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.)

Cartoonist Charles Barsotti died in his Kansas City home late Monday, June 16, 2014. He was surrounded by family and friends. The cause was brain cancer. He was 80 years old.

(A column header by Charles Barsotti for The New Yorker via the My Delineated Life blog. © 2014 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.)

B. Kliban describes cartoonists as "the people Rockwell missed," but this isn't true of Mr. Barsotti. He believed in helping people. After graduating Texas State University with a social sciences degree and two year stint in the army, he worked in his home town of San Marcos, TX at the Brown School, a special needs facility, with the aim to complete a master's degree in education. He was there for six years. And he was also freelance cartooning.

By the 1960s, Barsotti had moved to Kansas City, MO to take a job with Hallmark Cards. For two years, he continued submitting cartoons. Among his clients were The New Yorker and Playboy, two of the most sought after gag cartoon markets.

After two years at Hallmark, he moved further north and east, to New York City. He became the cartoon editor for The Saturday Evening Post. In 1969, the magazine folded. With a wife and four kids, he returned to the "more manageable" locale of Kansas City and Hallmark Cards.

By the early 70s saw he became a contract cartoonist at The New Yorker. This means that The New Yorker got first look at all of his cartoons and he was paid a more substantial rate. The Magazine would buy 1,400 Barsotti cartoons. 

He also made time to propose comic strips for syndication. Here's a list of six that were syndicated from his Wikipedia page:

C. Barsotti's People
My Kind of People
P.J. McFey
Sally Bananas (1969–1973)
Funny Form (1974)
Punchline: USA (1975)
Broadsides (1975–1979)

He won his district when, in 1972, he ran for congress on an anti-Vietnam War platform. His wife, Ramoth Barsotti, said, "He hated the Vietnam War."

But he did not like campaigning. From the Kansas City Star obituary by Edward M. Eveld:

"He decided to 'stand for office but not run for it,' he said at the time. 'It was a ‘You can vote for me as a protest against the war if you want to’ kind of thing.'' He recalled getting about 30 percent of the vote."

A generous man, Barsotti would help out when asked, sending cartoon originals for fundraising efforts by public TV and others.

But there was one exception.

From The Star:

"In 1986, Barsotti told the Chicago Tribune about an incident a year earlier: Patrick Buchanan, then President Reagan’s newly named communications director, asked for an autographed original of a Barsotti New Yorker cartoon that featured Buchanan. 
"Barsotti declined, even after Buchanan wrote a letter to him on White House stationery: 'It would be much appreciated and would hang in a place of honor either at my residence or in my office — for Sam Donaldson to see. If not, thanks for — as the President might put it — making my day.' 
"But Barsotti was no fan of the conservative Buchanan and declined. 
"'Politicians don’t trust you if you give them something for nothing,' Barsotti quipped. 'They respect a trade.'"

1988 saw an award from the National Cartoonists Society for Best Magazine Gag Cartoonist. 

In 1996, he was one of five cartoonists honored in a series of postage stamps in the UK.

"'It got approved by the queen, they tell me,' Barsotti told The Star. 'I would have hated to not be approved by the queen.'"

His cartoons were described as evoking 

"… both the traditional world of a Thurber and the contemporary sensibility of a Roz Chast. With his simple repertory—including a nameless but lovable pooch and a monarch whose kingdom consists of a guard and a telephone—Barsotti manages to miraculously dissipate the clouds in people's minds with his unexpected humor." 
His bold line combined with a sharp, whimsical comment cannot be duplicated. It's uniquely Barsotti.

He was going to go into the social sciences. He spent 6 years in a staff position at a special needs facility in Texas. He ran for congress in 1972. He wanted to help his fellow man and he was smart. But he was also an illustrator with the pen of a poet.


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