Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LII

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

I was showing my illustration portfolio around and got to see Clay Felker in his office downtown at The Herald Tribune. It was just like a newspaper office from an old 1930s movie with people working at typewriters and phones ringing and I half expected someone to run in shouting "STOP THE PRESSES!"

But they didn't.

Someone had even printed and posted a sign that said "DAILY PLANET CITY ROOM"!
At that time, New York Magazine was a part of The Herald Tribune and I got a commission to do an illustration of Shelley Winters. The article dealt with her talking on the phone a lot — but I don't remember what the rest of it was.

It didn't matter — I got the job!
I had been introduced to Elaine Sorel by Bill Tobias, whom I'd known from the UCLA Art Department. He was now a successful graphic designer and thought that Elaine would be very helpful and a good person to know since she was a very respected Illustrators' Representative and had some of the best illustrators as her clients.

She'd been married to one of my favorites, Ed Sorel, so she really knew and appreciated the needs of illustrators!
Illustration by Ed Sorel.
She helped a lot and explained that she couldn't officially represent me as she had an artist whose style was similar. But while looking at my samples, she asked what interested me the most.
I told her about the collection of 1920's magazines I'd been gathering since I was twelve and said how much I admired the work in them. She advised that I should use them as an influence for new samples and only show pieces that are in the same style for my portfolio in order to make a statement and not confuse anyone by showing too much variety.

It made sense! Since an art director saw so many portfolios how could he remember one from another? So I did all new samples as if I were working for the VANITY FAIR or VOGUE of the '20s or '30s.
And it worked.

I think that seeing the new portfolio, I was thought to be an illustrator from way before WWII and that art directors thought they'd better give me something to do before I was too old to be able to do it!

A few years later I designed a logo that personified all of that and pretty much put me on the map and in the running, "DAMES AT SEA"!
The show had begun life at the Cafe Cino and then moved to the Bowery Lane Theater; it launched a very young Bernadette Peters and after its success, gave me my first chance to do an LP album cover. It was a Golden Age for LP covers!

At the time, I hadn't realized that I was not the only person interested in Art Deco but I was on an inside track at the beginning of an Art Deco Revival!

It was also a Golden Age for cabaret entertainment. Julius Monk's famous club(s), Upstairs at the Downstairs and Downstairs at the Upstairs had moved to the Plaza Hotel.
My friend Michael McWhinney had written an article about it. He had been one of the contributors to The Third World War Songbook revue downtown at The Duplex (or Upstairs at the Duplex as it was called, emulating Julius Monk's club).
Previously, Michael had collaborated with Chris Dritsas whom I'd known from my first days in New York. He was a talented illustrator/designer and as Pop Art and the Optical Art calisthenics of Brigitte Riley became popular and vied with each other for dominance, Michael wrote a satirical piece for New York Magazine called "Op Goes the Easel." It began:

"You're wily, Miss Riley ➖" and continued with clever rhymes that documented an imagined battle between Pop and Op Art. Chris illustrated it with Superman battling an Op Art image.
Chris had a girlfriend, Betty Ann ...
... and a long time before anyone knew the term, "sexually fluid," he also had a boyfriend!
Later in the year, Chris suffered a collapsed lung and was hospitalized at the Harkness Pavilion.
I hadn't been in touch with him for awhile as I started getting a lot of work, but I heard a terrible story. It seems he'd been experimenting with LSD and having disturbing flashbacks (when he sought help from a psychiatrist). One day after leaving the doctor's office, he jumped in front of a train!

I heard that soon afterwards, Betty Ann married Steven!

Post Script: Michael moved to Hollywood to write for television and bought a house high on a cliff in the Hollywood Hills.
Treva Silverman, pictured above, had already moved there. And living not too far from Michael, visited him to see his new house. She told me she walked onto the large deck hanging off the side of the hill and thought, "this house will be the death of him!"

One evening, after some drinks, Michael fell off the deck and was killed.
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