Monday, May 17, 2021

Lee Ames: My Berndt Toast Connection With Him and His Illustrations for CIRCUS PARADE (1954)


Lee Ames (1921- 2011) was a prolific illustrator of many books, including over two dozen of his Draw 50 book series. Lee was also a member of the Long Island National Cartoonists Society chapter, the "Berndt Toast Gang." He retired to California, and although we never met, we chatted on the phone from time to time. Lee was always very friendly and knowledgeable. He was also the guy who coined the phrase "Berndt Toast Gang."

Here is the background on the Berndt Toast Gang, which I originally wrote and is now part of a Wikipedia entry:

"The Berndt Toast Gang, named in honor of Walter Berndt, is a group of Long Island cartoonists who meet on the last Thursday of each month. As explained by cartoonist Lee Ames:

"When the Long Island group, Creig Flessel, Bill Lignante, Frank Springer, Al Micale and I got together to work for Hanna Barbera in the 1960s, we decided to have a Finnegan's Bar lunch every last Thursday of the month. During that period, Creig brought Walter Berndt to join us. We fell in love with the cigar-smoking old-timer (look who's talking!), as he did with us. After a couple of years he passed away and left us grieving. Thereafter, whenever we convened on Thursdays, we'd raise a toast to Walter's memory. On one such, my big mouth opened and uttered, 'Fellas, it's time for the Berndt toast!' I wasn't trying to be cute at the time, but I'm not displeased that it stuck and we became the Berndt Toast Gang, one of the largest branches of the National Cartoonists Society." 

Here's a peek at just one of the books he did the illustrations for.  You can see why, at the age of eighteen, he was all ready working for Walt Disney. The man had an amazing mastery of the pen. CIRCUS PARADE is a collection of short stories selected by Phyllis R. Fenner. It was published in 1954 by Knopf and is copyright that year by them.


The Comics Reporter obituary

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