inktober 2015: week one

So we just skirt the hallway sides, a phantom and a fly, follow the lines and wonder why there's no connection.

Well, here we go again! It’s officially October or, as it’s known in the online illustration world, Inktober! Every year, several illustration websites have presented the Inktober challenge. The challnge is to create an ink drawing everyday in the month of October. As I mentioned last year, when I participated for the first time, I am lazy and I would be taking the lazy way out. I would be doing one ink drawing per week.

So here’s my first one, keeping the same “monsters” theme as last year. (If you are so inclined, you can see my Inktober submissions from last year here.) I have three more to do. I better pick up the pace.

from my sketchbook: patsy kelly

And they didn't wait on you?

Twelve-year old Patsy Kelly made her show business debut as a vaudeville dancer. She eventually moved on to Broadway as a teenager until she landed a contract with producer Hal Roach. Young Patsy appeared in a series of popular shorts with Thelma Todd. Here, she honed her character of the wise-cracking sidekick. Patsy and Thelma made 35 shorts together until Thelma’s untimely death in 1935.

Patsy moved onto full-length pictures, usually playing smart-alec domestics and other working-class types. But her film career stalled in the 40s and she headed back to Broadway. She worked in various productions and soon became personal assistant to Tallulah Bankhead.

In the 1950s, Pasty made numerous appearances on episodic television. Patsy had roles in both dramas and comedies, including The Wild Wild West, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The 1960s brought Patsy a memorable role in the hit film Rosemary’s Baby. In the 70s, she won a Tony for her role of the tap-dancing maid in  the revival of No, No, Nanette. She also had small parts in several Disney films. She made her last screen appearance in a two-part episode of The Love Boat. A stroke, that left her unable to speak, ended her acting career in 1980.

At the height of her popularity, Patsy was an anomaly in Hollywood. In a time when gay actors’ sexual orientation was a closely guarded secret, Patsy was openly gay, often referring to herself, proudly, as a “dyke.” In a 1930 interview, she revealed that she was living with actress Wilma Cox and had no intention of marrying. She also claimed to have had an affair with Tallulah Bankhead while in her employ.

Patsy passed away in 1981 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House in Woodland Hills, California. She was 71 years old.

IF: mermaid

I wanna be where the people are

In 1842, master showman P.T. Barum leased a curiosity from Moses Kimball, a Boston contemporary. Barnum had big plans for the piece – the Fiji Mermaid. He wrote letters to newspapers, fabricating a story of the mermaid’s exotic past. He had an associate pose as “Dr. Griffith,” a so-called noted expert on … whatever. The act was convincing and people showed up at Barnum’s New York museum in droves. Barnum distributed pamphlets describing the mermaid’s zoological origins.

The Fiji Mermaid was, in reality, a novelty from Japan. It was comprised of the torso of a small monkey carefully stitched onto the tail of a fish. Additional animal hair was added for a more gruesome effect. These taxidermic specimens were popular in the Far East. However, Barnum wasn’t interested in the actual origin of the thing. The story he made up was more important to him and more interesting to his customers. He made back his weekly leasing payment of $12.50 in no time.

The Fiji Mermaid was allegedly lost in one of several fires at Barnum’s museum, but duplicate versions have surfaced around the world for years.

IF: old

You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older/And now you're even older/And now you're even older/You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older/And now you're older still

Jerry Lewis, the son of a popular vaudeville entertainer, is one of the last living connections to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

In 1945, he was performing at a club in New York City. He met a young singer named Dean Martin who was also scheduled on the bill. The pair decided to team up and became one of the biggest acts in show business. They made countless appearances on television, radio (they had their own show), night clubs and, eventually, the movies. After a small role in 1949’s My Friend Irma, the duo made their starring debut in 1950’s At War with the Army. They made seventeen films together over the course of seven years. During this time, they also maintained a grueling pace with personal appearances and guest shots on variety shows. Dean soon resented playing the “straight man” to the manic Jerry. Dean also felt his singing was taking a secondary role in the act and that too much focus was placed on this partner’s crazy antics. That and articles in the press identifying Jerry as the “real talent” were factors in the duo’s demise. They split ten years to the day after their first meeting.

Jerry as Helmut Doork in
“The Day the Clown Cried”

Dean Martin surprised everyone by embarking on a successful solo career as a singer. He also proved to be a pretty good actor. Jerry continued to make films, expanding his already kooky shtick to his solo efforts. He made two dozen films — directing and writing many of them — and became Paramount Studios’ biggest star. Although the plots of his movies were mostly repetitive and formulaic, he gained industry-wide respect and was lavished with many awards and honors. Internationally, Jerry was mentioned in the same breath as comedy genius Charles Chaplin. He even taught a course in filmmaking at USC. Though, in the 70s, he was responsible for the notorious The Day the Clown Cried, the story of Helmut Doork, a clown recruited by the Nazis to lead unsuspecting children to their death in a concentration camp. The film was never completed nor released. Jerry publicly stated that the film is an embarrassment. Allegedly, the only copy remains locked in a safe in Jerry’s home and a handful of people claim to have seen it. However, it was reported recently that the Library of Congress holds a copy of the film and will screen it in “another ten years or so.”

In 1952, Jerry Lewis hosted the first Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. In 1996, the title was changed to the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. The annual 21-hour broadcast became a cavalcade of stars, all due to Jerry and his show biz connections. In 2011, Jerry was unceremoniously relieved of his hosting duties and the fundraising was cut back to six hours. Jerry disassociated himself with the charity. In 2015, it was announced that the telethon would be discontinued.

Jerry Lewis has been the subject of much personal and professional criticism throughout his eight-decade career. He has been maligned in the press by critics as well as by peers and associates. Hell, I’ve seen almost every one of his movies and I never thought he was funny. Not even a little bit. But, there is no denying the impact and influence he has had on the careers of other actors and comedians, specifically Jim Carrey. In recent interviews, he has been angrily outspoken about the mistreatment he has received and he has been very selective about the things he will discuss.

I suppose that after all this time and the ups and downs of his life and career, he has earned that right. He’s 89. Just leave the old guy alone already.

from my sketchbook: edwin geist

Edwin Geist taught and composed music and served as occasional conductor in his native Berlin in the early 1930s. However, when Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels founded the Reichsmusikkammer (The Reich Chamber of Music), Edwin’s music was declared “degenerate,” along with compositions by Debussy, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn, even Artie Shaw and Bennie Goodman. Banned from music in Germany because of his Jewish bloodline, Edwin left for Lithuania. He met and married Jewish pianist Lyda Bagriansky. Here, he wrote operas, as well as pieces for piano and full orchestras. In 1941, the Nazis invaded Lithuania. Edwin and his wife were imprisoned at Ninth Fort in Kaunas.

Edwin was able to persuade the Fort’s commander that he was an important musician and “half Aryan.” He was released in March 1942. Upon his release, he worked hard and forged documents to secure the release of Lyda. He was successful and the couple managed to spend several months together until Edwin was rearrested and executed. A distraught Lyda committed suicide a few weeks later.

Friends broke into the couple’s boarded-up apartment and discovered a suitcase filled with music that Edwin had composed and a diary he had kept while he was separated from his wife. The musical works received a world premiere in 2002, the same year that Edwin’s journal — the account of his efforts to free Lyda — saw first publication.

IF: heart

I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside

Anne Frank received a journal as a present for her thirteenth birthday. Nearly a month later, she was hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex with her family. She remained in seclusion for a little over two years until someone, who still remains officially unidentified, exposed the family to Nazi officials. Three days after she penned what would be the final entry in her journal, she was captured and transported to Auchwitz, then Bergen-Belsen where she died of typhus just a few months before the concentration camp was liberated.

During her hiding, she stayed hopeful that one day she and her family would go back to their normal life. She looked forward to returning to school and one day achieve her prophetic aspirations of becoming a writer.

After World War II and the eventual posthumous publication of her famed diary, speculations and criticism arose. There were accusations that her father, a survivor of the Holocaust, had fabricated the entire thing. Other skeptics went so far as to claim that “Anne” never existed. Later, it was the subject of proposed bans, labeling some passages as pornographic.

It is difficult to believe that the young girl who endured two years of fearful seclusion, day after day of turmoil, isolated soul-searching and the daily tedium and mounting frustrations of her family was still able to maintain such a bright and optimistic vision of the human race.

Anne Frank was truly remarkable.