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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hoest Toasties: A visit to a cartoon Castle

I have just returned from a trip to LonGuyland for a meeting of the "Berndt Toast Society". This is a subset of the National Cartoonists Society that meets at the home of (Bill and) Bunny Hoest.
Bill died in 1988, six years after designing and building his dream house out of cobbles taken from two New York Streets. The archaeological details, capstones and other decorative bits came from wrecked Brooklyn buildings. Bill was into building recycling years before it became popular.

Bill drew THE LOCKHORNS and AGATHA CRUMM and HOWARD HUGE. Bunny continues to write the strip with artist John Reiner drawing LOCKHORNS and HOWARD HUGE and LAUGH PARADE. Sadly, Agatha has gone to stock market heaven (I thought this one of the most original strips I'd ever seen.)

Bunny's probably the most successful cartoonist wife carrying on her husband's strip. Usually it is a son or daughter who continues the comic ( Dik Browne's son Chris drawing HAGAR THE HORRIBLE) or lends their name to the comic after the creator dies, (Dean Young for Chic Young's BLONDIE) or other artists are hired to keep it going (BRENDA STARR continues with a female team after creator Dale (Delia) Messick died recently). Bunny was writing the strips with Bill anyway, and John keeps the style consistent, so the more popular comics continue successfully 'under new management'.
There are relatively few women drawing comic strips although their situation is still better than that of female animators.

Bunny let me stay at the house overnight because of my transportation difficulties. She actually owns two houses; Bill's mansion is now mainly used as a studio. It runs '24/7' with Bunny doing the writing in the mornings and John doing the artwork at night. Bill built a marvellous studio on the top floor, complete with a crenelated tower containing the drawing board. Large as it was, all the important art materials were within arms' reach.
Bill Hoest was a remarkable man and I am proud to have known him. I think Bunny has done an incredible job keeping the comics going though I am still sad to lose Agatha Crumm.

Ten years ago Bunny married "Doccie" Carpenter, her physician. It turned out to be their tenth anniversary so I had a nice housewarming/anniversary bottle with me. Dr. Carpenter is a world famous pediatrician. He owns an early 19th century mansion of his own complete with horse boarding facilities and a herd of sheep. (The sheep are there to train border collies. I tell no lie.)

About 150 other cartoonists were invited. Bunny has this party every June and insisted that I come. I figured, why not? since I had no plans for the Fourth, I'd celebrate a little early.
I flew from Rochester to La Guardia airport and she sent a limo to pick me up and get me back there.

The mansion is on Lloyd Neck in LonGuyland. This is a place, not a person. Mr. Lloyd's 18th century mansion is now an historic museum that is not far from the Hoest's house. The scenery is lovely along the Sound, with sheltered coves and lots of sailboats. It is not a poor or even middle class community, to be sure. Oddly enough there were some very modest houses, definitely not selling for modest prices, scattered along the area. (One house was listed by Sotheby's auction house so I got the idea that this was definitely a silk stocking district.) The newer houses are of the McMansion variety. The Hoest castle is on land formerly owned by the Colgate family; the Hoests own one of the smaller parcels. The people there must have a minimum of 2 acres of land to build there but the nextdoor neighbor is, Bunny said, building a McMansion that almost fills the plot.
Lots of old NCS friends were there. It had been a while since I attended a function.

Bunny asked me to 'bring along what I was working on' so I printed out a few illustrations.

I was supremely chuffed to find that they made a big hit. Mort Drucker of MAD magazine really liked my caricatures of Humphrey Bogart and Laurel and Hardy (not together; though I did have Bogart with Woody Allen.)

So I won't worry so much about how well the book will be received. It's almost done. Really. I have about fifteen more illustrations to do and I wish to rework a few more. A few young cartoonists at the party agreed to let me use one or two examples of their work. I

There were even a few globetrotters present from the Australian Cartoonists Association there (nice work too).
Australians always travel big; they figure that since they have already travelled several thousand miles before they get anywhere, they might as well keep going. This couple was from Perth. It is the most isolated city in the world so ANYWHERE else is thousands of miles away!

Bunny's husband is 95 years old but did not look it. I brought along a fine bottle of whisky that Bunny said he was sure to enjoy. (it's one way to get old, I guess.)

Dean Yeagle was there; his wife Barbara is still packing so did not come. They leave for L.A. for good on the 7th (only coming back when the sale of their house is final, hopefully soon.) He's doing some interesting work, one of which is a comic that was formerly drawn by Walt Kelly! on the Gremlins (remember the Gremlin in the Bugs Bunny cartoon?) Of course he was delighted to be so honored and get paid too.

I stayed in a guest bedroom, helped Bunny pick up the stuff the next day (she is having another party on the Fourth but I was not able to attend). I shall have to send her a bunny picture. The house has stone, tile, and ceramic bunnies (in the best of taste) in many rooms. Bunny got her nickname as a baby since apparently she was said to resemble one.

I've got a children's book to illustrate. I took it on since the concept was very nice (it is for charity). I figured I am going to be done early with my own book. This referral came through a Disney source and I need to keep my professional chops up. Taking on the second assignment oddly enough broke through several illustrator's 'blocks' for me on my own book and I turned out some of my best illustrations. It's kind of like taking sorbet to clear the palate after the meat course.
The freelance assignment will be done before the end of the summer and Bunny invited me to Doccie's horse farm to draw the animals if I wanted to come for a few days. If I can get the upstairs neighbor to look after Gizmo I will take her up on it.

I'm still catsitting for the Three Beach Balls (the very overweight kitties.) The owners are in Africa studying bonobo chimps. Eric comes back a week before Monique since he's not the scientist; he arrives tomorrow. I have been the main support for these cats. The couple had an elaborate life support system set up with daily assignments for some people but it had one weakness: it relied too heavily on one person who never showed, so without me the cats would have certainly lost weight and possibly trashed the house. I tried calling people to tell them I was away on Thursday and Friday and no one showed up. Fortunately the cats have enough padding and enough food to get by for one day, unlike Gizmo who ate all her food and was very hungry when I got home.

The biggest, fattest one (a 26 pound turkey named Jacques) constantly mews in falsetto for his daddy. He'd make three of Gizmo. I think he wants to be picked up and petted but after one disastrous try I said no way, Jacques.
A cat that size sounds like a human being when it runs around upstairs, so several times I thought there was someone there but when I went up it was obvious that no one else came to take care of the creatures.
Considering their owners have been away for three weeks the cats are remarkably well behaved; there was only one accident on a rug and no claw marks where they should not be, unless you count Jacques' nose. (one of the smaller, fatter girls got him.) If I owned that cat I'd call him Fatty Arbuckle.

The flight home was horrendous. The plane probably walked from Manchester since it was two hours late. When it got there we were taxiied out and about to take off when A Politician allegedly was passing through and the entire airport was ordered shut down. I think the entire plane was sending waves of concentrated hate by then. after twenty minutes they let us go and I had a bumpy ride home. propeller planes are not my dish of tea though I know they are actually safer than jets.

so that was my holiday party. I have no plans for the Fourth though since Eric is back from Uganda I hope he is over his jet lag by then and can tell me how it was. Monique arrives in another week. She celebrated her thirtieth birthday in the outback and it was probably joyous for her--she has pictures of chimps framed on the apartment wall the way other people would have movie stars. (she has worked with some of the famous chimps and speaks of them by name with reverence. It is so cute.)

She also has a bumper sticker that says MY MONKEY IS SMARTER THAN YOUR HONOR STUDENT.

A picture of the Hoest Mansion is attached.

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