Reuben Weekend 2006

July 3rd, 2006 | Posted in General

It’s been a month or so since the event, but I thought I’d give a belated report on this year’s Rueben Awards.

I am fortunate to be a member of the National Cartoonist Society, a 60 year old, terrific organization of professional cartoonists. Each year they have a weekend event called the Reuben Awards, named after first president Rube Goldberg, which is described as the “Oscars” of cartooning. The Reubens are usually well attended and always a great deal of fun. It’s been held on Memorial Day weekend for the last several years, in different locals from NYC to Cancun, San Francisco to Boca Raton and many places in between. The weekend includes several guest speakers and seminars, parties and social functions, a Saturday evening black tie dinner and program where the actual awards are handed out and sometimes a Sunday evening program where they roast a long time and well-known member. Cartoonists in general are solitary creatures, drawing away in our cluttered studios in isolation, so when we get together it is always very interesting. I am still star struck sometimes after 9 years of attending Reubens, when I see big name, famous cartoonists walking about.

This year’s Reubens were held May 26th-28th in Chicago, IL, right in the heart of downtown at the end of “Miracle Mile”. The 2006 NCS board, including president Rick Stromoski, put on a great show as usual. Rick and Co. had a tough act to follow, as the president of the previous four years, Steve McGarry, put on some incredible Reuben weekends. This one was right on par, IMO. The Lovely Anna and I enjoyed ourselves greatly and got to spend some quality time with some good friends as well as meet many new people. For the last four years I have done a piece of artwork for the Reuben Awards, which they use on the t-shirt, goodie bag and other places. It’s an illustration of the guest speakers/seminar presenters and the subject of the roast (if any) in a setting describing the location. This was the art for this year:

From the left: Stephen Silver, Everett Peck, Ralph Steadman, Elwood Smith,
Cathy Guisewite (the roastee), and Dick Locher.

I did not attend many of this year’s seminars, electing instead to see a bit of Chicago with Anna and some NCS friends. I did catch animator Steve Silver‘s talk, which was terrific, and the main speaker, caricature legend Ralph Steadman.

I was looking forward to seeing Steadman, who was to receive the Milton Caniff lifetime achievement award. Although his work is not my ‘cup of tea’ as they say, I can respect any illustrator and caricaturist of such obvious talent and accomplishment. Between his outspoken work and the stories of he and Hunter S. Thompson‘s escapades, I expected him to be quite the character. I was not disappointed. Steadman says what he thinks without reservation and does not care in the slightest about anyone’s opinion of him. That can either turn you off or fill you with admiration, depending on your disposition. I think he ended up doing a little more of the former than the latter with much of the NCS crowd, but I guarantee you he does not care either way. He also isn’t afraid to consume a drink or three. His karaoke performance at the Friday night opening party defies description, and not just because I still haven’t the foggiest idea what song it was he performed. His seminar was likewise very difficult to describe. He started with a lesson on the history of Irish printing, followed by his imaginary interview of two innovative (and dead, I think) film directors I’d never heard of that somehow involved a cat, a dog, a hit and run accident and possibly the meaning of life. He accepted his lifetime achievement award that Saturday night with a 30 minute diatribe about the evils of the world in general and George W. Bush in particular, and another award he won for book illustration with a profanity laced soliloquy about how he has too many awards and to stop giving them to him as he just throws them in a box. He did follow that with a sweet “thank you”, purposefully keeping you guessing as to if he was serious or not. He’s an original, and no mistake. I did get a chance to meet him briefly. I was introduced by Rick as “the guy who did your caricature for the t-shirt”. This was at the Friday night cocktail reception, and apparently Ralph was taking the ‘cocktail’ part seriously. He looked me in the eye and said “I’ve had my caricature drawn many times by many people, and yours was the first one that ever really looked like me…” He waited for a beat and continued: “I HATED IT!” He then launched into a rant about why anyone would want to do caricatures for a living, how Hunter S. Thompson had called it ‘a filthy habit’ and that he was right, and advised me to find a different line of work. Then someone mercifully caught his attention and I ducked away. At least he thought it looked like him….

Ralph Sings!
Ralph Steadman SINGS! (sort of)

Compared to that, the rest of the weekend was uneventful. I was nominated for a divisional Reuben for “Magazine Illustration” along with two unknown artists named C.F. Payne and Steve Brodner. Chris Payne won but I think he paid off the judges… surely it couldn’t have been all those Time magazine covers he did. Oh, well… I’ll have to console myself that I’m better looking than he is. The winner of “The Reuben” for Cartoonist of the Year was pulitzer prize winning Atlanta editorial cartoonist Mike Luchovich. I am a big fan of his work and thought he was well deserving of the honor. Congratulations to him and all the winners and nominees. The Sunday night roast was very entertaining as usual, put together in large part by Jeff Keane of “Family Circus” fame, who is a very multi-talented artist. Roastee Cathy Guisewite gave it out as much as she took it, and Mel Lazarus stole the show as usual.

As always I look forward to next year, especially if those lead pipe wielding thugs I hired find out where C.F. Payne lives…


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