Mort Drucker and Me, NYC 2000
No “Sunday Mailbag” this week, as these birthday wishes are much more important.
Today is supposedly MAD Magazine legend Mort Drucker‘s 80th birthday. I say “supposedly” because although Mort’s Wikipedia entry and other sources list March 29th, 1929 as his birth date, the book “Familiar Faces: The Art of Mort Drucker” claims it is March 22nd, 1929. I don’t know which to believe, but considering the relative ease at which an error in the date could be corrected in an on-line biography and that one in a book printed in 1988 is incorrectable, I have to conclude the internet sources to be accurate, as inconceivable as it is they would get the date wrong in a book he co-authored. It never occurred to me to ask Mort about it.
So, Happy Birthday, Mort!
It is no exaggeration to say that Mort Drucker is the reason I do work for MAD today. Not just his influence artistically (in fact, Mort’s influences on my art prevented me from working for MAD for a while), but very directly by sponsoring me for membership in the National Cartoonists Society. That is another story well worth reading if you haven’t already done so. Through the NCS I met and showed my work to MAD Editor Nick Meglin and MAD book editor Charlie Kochman. Eventually newly appointed MAD Art Director Sam Viviano entered the mix. In was at the NCS Reuben weekend in May of 2000, held that year in New York City, that Sam and Nick finally broke and told me they’d like to use me as an artist. Mort was at the Reubens that year, and I finally got to meet him (picture above is from that event). That was quite a weekend for me.
I did a caricature of Mort when I got home, and before I could mail it to him I got that first call from MAD with a job. I send him the caricature along with the news about my MAD job, a copy of the job’s art and my sincere gratitude. I received this note back:
Mort Drucker might be one of the most influential and best loved cartoonists of the last half century. It would be difficult to calculate how many cartoonists and illustrators his work has inspired in over 50 years as a professional.
What sums it up best for me was a brief conversation I had at my very first Reuben Awards in 1999 in San Antonio, Texas. Mort had sponsored me as a member, as I said, and I was to meet him in San Antonio for that event. I got a call from him a few days before the awards telling me his mother had fallen gravely ill, and he would not be attending the Ruebens. He was very apologetic, although that was hardly necessary as I understood completely, and he gave me the names of several people he wanted me to introduce myself to. One was then NCS president, George Breisacher, who is now sadly passed on. I went up to George during a rare moment when he was alone and introduced myself. I explained Mort had sponsored me and told me to do this.
“Mort is a hero of mine”, I said to George.
He grinned as he shook my hand and he said:
“Mort is everybody’s hero”.
Happy Birthday, Mort. The Lovely Anna and I wish you many more in health and happinesss.
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