Friday, June 3, 2011

Autobiography Pt. 19

TV Guide
       About the same time things were cookin’ at DC, I aquired my first art agents. Mirriam and Ted Kimer. Ted was the kind of guy you’d always remember as he guy with the worst toupe you’ve ever seen. Still, they got me lots of work, and it was a happy working situation. Once the deal was sealed, the Kimer’s were strictly hands-off. I delivered my jobs by hand, and did corrections without the aid of my aids. That was okay with me. Any time Ted tried to convey corrections to me it was a disaster. He knew how to sell my stuff, but after that it all became very muddy.
       Still, he landed me a job at McCaffry and McCall, the Lexington Avenue ad-agency designated to produce artwork for TV GUIDE, every day, seven nights a week.
       Seems that illustrated ads in TV GUIDE somehow elevated the show, and the networks dove in head first, with disregard for the sharks.
       Still, I was in a fine little nest.
       To understand how I made so much money during 1985-86, you have to understand how the place functioned.
       Monday afternoon I’d hit the place. One of four art directors would fork-over some rough layout for next week’s TV GUIDE. Monday night I’d come up with a more fully realized sketch. That approved, Monday evening was photo-shoot time. With any luck I could book a shoot for 6:00, and get the negatives by eight. Then photo-printing for an hour, then right to the board. There is a very tight deadline here.
       So, I paint hard for three days and nights. Ten to sixteen hour days. And by 3:00 on Friday, the mother was done.
       I’d drag it in with my paint-box, and noodle until I was next in line. They’d send a fax of the art to Los Angeles for approval while top illustrators cooled their heels.
       I remember a view of my cubicle into the office of the boss. It was L.A. on the line to N.Y.C..
       I tried  to look like I was working, rather than eves-dropping, and Jeff said that he’d just received a call from L.A. from Brian Keith who told him that I was the only person who could do his ads because I made him look like he really did rather than an old man.
       The whole deal netted me about $20,000.
       The place was partitioned off in a way you never want to work.
       Gray cubicles, devoid of joy, trying to work out personal issues while doing your job.
       Anyway, amongst the top illustrators in the city, I heard them weep in the nearby cubicle.
       Really, quietly sobbing for failed.
       The guy who had failed his Friday night finals.
       The head S.D. would kindly tell them not to worry about it and sent them home. Next thing I know A.D. is shoving his unfinished piece inder my nose, and telling me “I’ll give you $500 to fix this.”
       Good Lord.
       That’s whore money.
       That’s what I like about commercial art.
       If I wasn’t so fast.
That would be $1,000 an hour instead of $500.00, flat rate.
       I couldn’t complain.
       Between the Kimers and Reagan’s Voodoo economics, I made a pretty good buck for a couple of years.
And, it was the last gasp of illustration.
After that, out of work.
       “The fruit has dried up. GO HOME!”
       I saw it happen in front of my very own eyes.
       I’m up at Berkley Books, about to drop off my latest assignment, but clearly, Frank is involved with another artist, and I was curious.
Frank introduces me to Mort Kunsler, a master of illustration. I mean really. Looked at his latest, because he was proud of it, dashing back into Frank’s office to retrieve and show it off in the same breath.
Sometimes magnificent and pathetic dwell at Louie’s place.
One of my heroes flashing his latest at me in hopes of some adulation as I do every time I flash a new painting on somebody.
       Nice work, Greg. Spectacular work Mort.
       Common ground with one of my heroes.
Navy scenes. Ships and waves.
Sea about to swallow you in gray-green, waves hardly seen in this light.
Slightly simple me knew that I was meeting one of the top guns.
The guy had been on my radar.
“Jim Bama?!”
              Same thing.
       Anyway, I saw Mort shake Frank’s hand, and say “Got anything else?” in his most casual delivery backed by a hint of desperation.
       And one terrible sting from one guy who had gray hair to another…
       “Nothing right now.”
       Not the way I wanted to end my career.
       “Sorry, Greg.”
       We call that the “demarcation point.”
       I cut ties with the illustration business then and there.

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