Wednesday, August 04, 2021

The Fire Island News Remembers Bill Seay


Bill Seay was a cartoonist and the chair of the Long Island chapter of the National Cartoonists Society when I joined in the early 2000s. When you are accepted to the NCS, you get a nice letter and an address book of its members. I found out that the Long Island chapter, also called the Berndt Toast Gang, met every month for lunch. This was unlike the then-NYC chapter and the Connecticut chapter, that met a few times a year.

I called and asked if I could come over. There were, in those days, two chairs: Bill Seay and "co-chair for life" Tom Gill. I called them alphabetically, and left a message for Tom Gill. Knowing me, I probably rambled. I knew that Tom was the longtime artist on Dell Comics' Lone Ranger title, as well as an early and busy instructor at the School of Visual Arts. Tom called back, leaving a message for me. "I couldn't quite make out what you said, but you said you were a cartoonist and, by God, that's OK with me," he said in a gravelly voice on my then-state-of-the-art Sony answering machine that used little micro-cassettes to record. (I wish I had saved that message.)

Anyway, kind words from Tom ... but no "Yes you can come to lunch" or "No, you can't."

"Of course, come to lunch," Bill Seay told me when I called him.  

Bill Seay and his wife Mimi were the only people that I knew when I arrived at the first Berndt Toast Gang lunch, then being held in a lovely catering hall in Centerport, Long Island. As the I attended, I got to meet and sit and chat with all of its members: Bunny Hoest, John Reiner, Howard Beckerman, Stan Goldberg, Al Scaduto, Joe Giella, Sandy Kossin, Steve Duquette, Tony D'Adamo, Al Baruch, Sy Barry, John Romita (and sometimes John Buscema), Mort Drucker, Joe Edwards, Emilio Squeglio, Adrian Sinnott, the one and only Tom Gill, the wonderful Valerie Costantino, and more. They welcomed me, just like Bill. Just the nicest Gang. 

Bill and Mimi Seay were from Illinois, where Bill helped Hugh Hefner in the early years of Playboy Magazine, doing everything from paste up to cartoons. They moved to Long Island in the late 1950s/early1960s, where Bill commuted to NYC as the Art Director for the JCPenney catalog. Bill was, for a long time, also the cartoonist over at Fire Island News. He would create the covers and interior illustrations. 

Twenty years after the deaths of Bill and Mimi, writer Emma Boskovski was looking over back issues and loved Bill's drawings. She decided to delve into his life and art with this new piece in the Fire Island News, "Artist's Portrait: Early Fire Island News Cartoonist Bill Seay." 

I am so glad Bill and Mimi Seay are remembered. Bill asked me to run as chair of the Gang, which I did. The Gang let Bill have a break from years of running the group and devote even more time to his art. I had no idea that my time knowing him and Mimi would be so short. My wife and I had lunch at their home several times and I got to see Bill's amazing studio. There were, here and there in their two-story house, photos of Bill and Mimi -- as well as a painting or two of Mimi by Bill -- in the nude, on the beaches of Fire Island. All of these were from an earlier time and reminded me that are all young once. I wish I had known them longer. I miss them still.


NY Times: Cartoonists Gather to Celebrate Real Life June 10, 2001.

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