New Year’s Eve, 1974. Rick Horton was still in New York and we went downtown to Chinatown for dinner after which Beth Rudin had invited a small gathering of friends to her father Lew’s Fifth Avenue apartment. It was quiet with some dancing but mostly just family. At midnight we had some champagne but that was pretty much it!
Rick was now staying in my other “guest” apartment across the hall from my living/working space. That was the presentable apartment as a contrast to the chaos of the studio area which housed all my work stuff, art and reference books along with my large collection of vintage magazines, some going back to the mid-19th Century.
Only a few people were invited to that one.
The apartment across the hall had a brown leather sofa that opened into a bed. It replaced the white leather one that Gary Van Kirk, who was now working with Stéphane Boudin at Jansen, had ordered for me. The one that we had carefully measured for but had unfortunately not accounted for clearance. We could not get it past the hallway wall into the living area.
It spent the rest of its expensive life in New Jersey at the farm.
New Year’s Day, Horst invited me to a brunch party at the New York Athletic Club and having read and been impressed by the short autobiographical story Rick had written, invited him too.
Rick was very charismatic.
The next day I went to Chinatown to my favorite (because it was open all night) restaurant, Lin’s Garden.
And there was always such a great mix of people!
As has been noted, the ’70s is sometimes called “The Disco Decade” and it seemed that there was a new one every week! Beth Rudin and I took Rick to Hollywood, which had recently opened. Many of the clubs didn’t last long but there was always another to replace them and people’s memories were short!
Meanwhile, in the real world — Washington — Richard Nixon’s three top advisers, former Attorney General John Mitchell, Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman were judged guilty on all counts in the coverup of the Watergate break in. This was a big shock that such powerful people could actually be convicted but it was a great relief.
What about the President? He had resigned in disgrace in August of 1974!
David Columbia and I watched Nixon’s resignation speech on television (from our telephones). As much as we had little liking for him, his obvious emotional distress and rambling talk referring to his mother, whom he referred to as “a saint” (a seeming oblique comparison to Rose Kennedy), was so pitiful that we agreed that we had to feel sorry for him!
His government and most valued aides had been convicted and rather than being convicted himself, he had resigned! Even Robert Mardian, the attorney for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), was convicted!
Nixon’s “War On the Media” had changed circumstances for illustration and its practitioners. Us. Advertising was where we really made money because in reality, given how many illustrated pages there are in a magazine, how could a publication remain in business if it paid vast amounts for illustration or photography? Publications had in actuality worked as a kind of wholesale public (to advertising agencies) showing of a portfolio; and due to budget tightening (thanks to Nixon’s War) it was beginning to be the end of the freewheeling creative advertising campaigns that had started after the Eisenhower Era had ended!
Businesses felt that they would be more profitably served with an actual photograph of their product — in other words, a harder sell!
The Society of Illustrators had finally decided, encouraged by illustrators, to organize the formation of some kind of union situation. Not exactly a union but something to protect the illustrator!
Frankly, I was thinking that this was coming a little too late, closing the barn door after the animals had escaped as the phrase sorta goes! But there was a meeting organized to discuss and plan and try to unify this bunch of strong individuals who worked solitarily on their commissions!
It was a career unusual in that the members had mostly never met each other.
Richard Amsel was a member of the Society of Illustrators but I hadn’t bothered! I’d had work in their annual shows and even gotten some awards but that’s as far as it went for me. Ungrateful I know!
Richard and I occasionally went there for lunch and smiled as we watched older artists who probably had seldom if ever had anything published and looked at us with seeming condescension not knowing that I had work appearing almost every week in New York magazine and frequently in Esquire, Fortune, Money and been invited to be the sole illustrator in an issue of Look Magazine!
Richard, who looked like a mature teenager!, had constant work doing memorable covers for TV Guide and movie posters for most A-list movies.
So Richard and I went to the meeting at AIGA, The American Institute for Graphic Arts.
There was quite a crowd and we wondered who people were. Would they turn out to be some of the great names, the ones who’d been working since before the ’60s and to Illustrators were truly household names — if yours was an illustrator’s household?
We had previously signed a paper. A sort of Declaration of Independence or something since we were only independent because we didn’t have so-called regular jobs! Names were called out and we had to acknowledge that we were in fact there in person. As some of the well known names were read there were audible ooohs and aaahs and craning of necks to get a look at the almost legendary artists.
Richard’s name was called with much craning, ooohing and aaahing and even a clap or two; and I began wondering if I myself would get any kind of recognition!
As my name was called I was relieved to receive as many ooohs, aaahs and cranings as Richard — just not as many claps!
That was just fine with me!
People had seen my work and noted it — so all those solitary nights were worth it! I always understood why actors and musicians loved applause and now we were kind of getting it from our peers!