Monday, October 31, 2016

The Camera-Shy Charles Addams

Editor Tina Brown brought photographer Richard Avedon into the pages of the New Yorker with great fanfare in 1992 as the magazine's first staff photographer. When Avedon turned seventy in 1993, she and her husband Sir Harold Evans presented Mr. Avedon with an original drawing by Charles Addams that had appeared in the magazine's pages in 1952. Richard Avedon passed away in 2004 and his estate sale was held at Sotheby's New York a year later. The  piece's sale price seems inexpensive by today's standards, but with the buyer's premium it sold for twice the high estimate in 2005.

Charles Addams, Original art
The New Yorker, June 21, 1952, page 19

Charles Addams, The New Yorker, June 21, 1952, page 19

Charles Addams, The New Yorker, June 21, 1952, page 19

Charles Addams, The New Yorker, June 21, 1952, page 19

Note:  Careful readers of Attempted Bloggery may remember a certain Peter Arno original that also was given to Richard Avedon by Tina Brown. Even if you aren't on Tina Brown's gift list, you may have original New Yorker art that you'd like to share here on the blog. Help me show more awesome art on this blog and together we can make a better world! See, I don't ask for much.

By the way, do you need some wicked Halloween reading?  Try these links—if you dare:

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Charles Addams Among the Flowers and Shrubs

A thank-you note from cartoonist Charles Addams is not the sort of thing one throws away, especially if it is in the form of a watercolor drawing. Ambassador Pamela Harriman kept hers some thirty years, and it was sold with her estate at Sotheby's in 1997. She was married to Leland Hayward from 1960 until his death early in 1971, which would date this drawing to sometime between 1960 and 1970.

The Estate of Ambassador Pamela Harriman
May 19-21, 1997, Lot 756

Inscribed "Dear Pamela— I so enjoyed being among the flowers and shrubs again — and again thank you and Leland for a beautiful week end —Charles"

Note:  Readers are invited to share their own thank-you notes from Charles Addams right here on the old blog. I'm curious whether he signed his name Charles or Chas.

No weekend getaway to this blog is complete without clicking a few links:

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ambassador Pamela Harriman's Copy of Favorite Haunts by Charles Addams

I must have been aware of it when the estate of Ambassador Pamela Harriman was sold off at Sotheby's in 1997—I still have the catalogue, after all—but I can't say I was paying close attention. I did notice though when the Harrimans' personalized copy of Favorite Haunts was listed on eBay a decade later. It sold for $52 on May 2, 2007, less than one would expect for a signed copy of the book even without the Harriman association.  Favorite Haunts, of course, is the 1976 cartoon collection by Charles Addams. I imagine that at the auction it was a part of a large lot of books, some or all of which subsequently were resold individually. This copy is inscribed to Pamela and W. Averell Harriman and today enjoys a home in my library.

Averell and Pamela Harriman's copy of Favorite Haunts by Charles Addams

Sotheby's proof of provenance

Inscribed "For Pam and Ave/all the best/Chas Addams/1976"

The Estate of Ambassador Pamela Harriman
May 19-21, 1997

Note:  Attempted Bloggery prefers to travel in the best social circles. If you have a cartoon book signed by or to someone in high society, please consider sharing it here. Remember, even people listed in the Social Register need to get their laughs!

Despite my rather deft Google skills, I wasn't able to discover any photographs of Charles Addams with the Harrimans. I'd love to hear from anyone who can help me with this.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

My Entries in the Moment Cartoon Caption Contest for September/October 2016

You can just imagine some of the entries submitted to the Moment Cartoon Caption Contest for September/October 2016. The captions were funny all right, but the humor tended to be about infirmities of the elderly. The couple can't hear the starting gun. They can't seem to make out the track. The race is just to see who can stand up first. Or they just have to cross the starting line. That sort of thing. I laughed, but I was determined to try a different approach, one that didn't mock impairments in seniors. Then I wrote that first caption...

All told, I submitted five entries. The fourth, involving a dispute going back to the beginning of the relationship, is my favorite. A schlep, not that you need to ask, is a Yiddish word for a tedious or burdensome journey. That's perfectly kosher to use here because Moment Magazine calls itself "North America’s premier Jewish magazine." The drawing is by Benjamin Schwartz.

"Okay, let's see how you roll!"
"You may begin the 20 yard schlep!"
"With this race we launch the Turner Classic Sports channel!"
"And now, to finally settle who was the better catch in 1954..."
"And the winner gets permanent control of the remote!"

November 8, 2016 Update:  The Finalists

December 21, 2016 Update:  I voted for the third caption.

January 25, 2017:  Winning Caption

Note:  In a hypothetical race to draw the greatest number of caption contest cartoons on this blog, Benjamin Schwartz must have the gold medal.

If for some reason you want to relive every caption contest I ever entered, you just need to click that aqua link. Or perhaps you'd like to see just the Moment Magazine contests. Either way, you really have no idea what you're in for.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #542

Here is my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #542 for October 24, 2016. The drawing is by Benjamin Schwartz.

"Methinks she has issues with intimacy."
By the way, it isn't a good idea to go and use period language in caption contests. I do it, but I'm a professional. So don't try this at home. Don't try captions like these either:
"Fine, but what else can you grab her by?"
"And she used to seem so unruffled!"

Fortunately, New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff has gone public with his choice of the top eleven caption submissions as informed by the crowdsourced rankings. A number of these are quite good:

October 31, 2016 Update:  The Finalists

November 7, 2016 Update:  I voted for the third caption even though the second was closer to my own.

November 14, 2016 Update:  Winning Caption

Note:  Last week cartoonist David Borchart must have buzzed the Grim Reaper into the building. Like Death, my caption-writing skills took a holiday. Throw open the door to Contest #541.

Benjamin Schwartz hardly ever draws any caption contest cartoons. Just kidding.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Columbia Magazine Caption Contest Fall 2016

It's always good to see a new caption contest in town! The Fall 2016 issue of Columbia Magazine, a publication of Columbia University, presented a cartoon by Benjamin Schwartz that cried out—roared actually—for a caption. I submitted three, because that's what I do.

"You haven't been flossing."
"You're not getting enough gazelle."
"Tell me, why does the ringmaster want to see your toothprints?"

December 17, 2016 Update:  Winning Caption

Note:  It's a good thing I'm not compulsive about these things.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #541

Look, I'm very wary of answering the door for anybody, but I'm happy to share my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #541 for October 17, 2016 with all comers. The drawing is by David Borchart.

"Well, I don't fear the sneakers either."

New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff has revealed his top fourteen captions as informed by the crowd-sourced rankings. I somehow doubt he's a fan of Blue Öyster Cult.

The Finalists:

This should explain where my head was this week:
"(Don't Fear) the Reaper" (1976)
Blue Öyster Cult

October 31, 2016 Update:  I voted for the third caption.

November 7, 2016 Update:  Winning Caption

Note:  Last week, cartoonist Will McPhail's doctor played it safe. My caption missed the diagnosis entirely. Break into Contest #540.

See what else David Borchart has reaped in the blog archives.

There's simply no way you're going to find any other posts on this blog about Death, so don't even ask.

What do you suppose are the odds that New Yorker cartoonist Joe Dator's classic rock podcast Songs You're Sick Of' had a recent episode about Blue Öyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" that included a shout-out at the end to yours truly? Actually, they're better than you might think.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Blog Post No. 2000: Charles Addams and the Birth of a Rare Book Collector

A collector may be thought of as someone who discovers something he never needed—perhaps never knew  even existed—and then realizes he cannot live without it. I have always treasured books, but I can point to the very first instance when I just had to have a particular copy of a book, one that today would be classified as a rare book. That book was Favorite Haunts, the 1976 cartoon collection by that master of the macabre Charles Addams. I was excited to learn that the artist was soon to appear at a book signing from an announcement that appeared in the New Yorker of October 18, 1976.

999 Bookshop Advertisement
The New Yorker, October 18, 1976, page 187
I had never attended a book signing, but the logistics of getting to this one were somewhat daunting. In order for me to meet Mr. Addams and get my book signed, I would need to get my parents' permission to take a train into the city, then make my way to the bookstore on the Upper East Side, attend the signing, and head back home fairly late. It would take at least six hours of my time, and all on a school night. Fortunately the announcement offered me a simple alternative: having a signed copy of the book sent to me for $9.50 postpaid. After reviewing my options, I chose this course, putting my education before entertainment, as I usually did. Thus I obtained my first autographed copy of a book. In retrospect, though, this was the only opportunity I ever was offered to meet the formidable Charles Addams and I didn't take advantage of it.

Charles Addams
Favorite Haunts, 1976
My copy

Signed by Charles Addams

Had I attended the signing and offered my shy hello to Mr. Addams, I imagine the book would have been personally inscribed to me. Some copies of this book have original drawings, but I don't know if any of these come from the signing at the 999 Bookshop.

When I first looked on eBay almost twenty years ago, autographed copies of Favorite Haunts just like mine were selling for $85. Today there are no signed copies on eBay, but one similar to mine is on AbeBooks currently offered at $195. The bookseller's photo shows the dust jacket in truer colors than my own photo, which is bathed in yellow incandescent light.
Charles Addams
Favorite Haunts, 1976
Bookseller Image

Charles Addams
AbeBooks Listing as of October 23, 2016
Jeryl Metz, Books

There is also an example of a personalized copy on AbeBooks, and this could well have come from the same signing:
Charles Addams
Favorite Haunts, 1976
Bookseller Image

Charles Addams, Favorite Haunts, 1976, Back Cover
Bookseller Image

Inscribed "For Sophie Kahn/Chas Addams"

Letter from Sandy Frank to Sophie Kahn
AbeBooks Listing as of October 23, 2016
Atlantic Bookshop

Today, I go out of my way to collect rare books, by which I usually mean signed or personalized copies, and I avoid most other books until they are discounted. I am still on occasion plagued by book signings scheduled at hours inconvenient to the overworked and overcommitted. In fact, just recently I ordered a couple of signed books by mail because of this issue. Book discounting is more widespread than it used to be and today I generally don't pay full price for any new book unless it is signed.

Note:  In 1976 while I was doing my homework, I'm sure many others did attend the Addams book signing at 999 Bookshop, or perhaps at another venue, and I'd love to see any materially different examples of the book, perhaps with unusual inscriptions or original drawings. I would be so pleased if any reader would care to send me an image or two of a distinctly unique copy of Favorite Haunts and relate the story that goes with it.

For that matter, any original artwork by Charles Addams is welcome on this blog. Come on, don't let it fester.

Attempted Bloggery's quick links:

Attempted Bloggery's Haunting Index

The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts
Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ralph Steadman's Author Etchings

Ralph Steadman is no mean printmaker. Some of his prints, of course, are simply reproductions of his well-known and exceedingly popular black-and-white illustrations in signed limited editions in the hundreds marketed to his legions of fans. Those are well and good, but even more impressive are those small editions of lithographs and etchings especially created for their respective mediums. Steadman has etched a number of spectacular images—there must be several dozen—depicting great writers. His penchant for detail and bold graphics make him especially well-suited to the medium. The edition size is usually 20, although William Shakespeare naturally merits 30. Four such etchings from this series are currently offered on eBay, and many others may be seen and purchased on the artist's website.

T. S. Eliot 1

William Shakespeare

Ernest Hemingway

Samuel Beckett 3

eBay Listing as of October 18, 2016

eBay Item Description

eBay Listing as of October 18, 2016

eBay Item Description
Note:  Browse Ralph Steadman's etchings.

There's a Ralph Steadman retrospective in town—popularly known as "A Retrospective:  Ralph Steadman"—and it's coming to a close on October 22. Catch it if you can at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan.

I don't ask for much. For those in possession of a particular book, let's say, with an original sketch by Ralph Steadman, or perhaps some original published art or something equally rare or unique, I do request an image or two suitable for blogging. Let the artist's fans all over the world see what's in your collection.

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