Monday, September 06, 2010

The brilliance of Paul Conrad

My favorite political cartoonist, Paul Conrad of the LA TIMES passed away Saturday. He was 86. In a career that spanned over 50 years he won three Pulitzer Prizes and more impressive, he was named on Nixon's Enemy List.

Conrad was fearless, funny, a fabulous artist, wildly original, and his cartoons hit you like a stun gun.

Here are just a few examples. If there is an afterlife, Nixon and Reagan are doing spit takes.


Michael said...

Conrad also was my favorite cartoonist, partly for his passion, partly for his talent, and partly because, better than anyone else, he could get his point across in one panel with few words. If I remember, he once beautifully skewered Sam Yorty, the mayor of Los Angeles (who once sued Conrad for libel for suggesting he was, shall we say, insane), who decided to run for president. Conrad depicted a bunch of trees with spigots, buckets, and Yorty for President signs, with the caption, "The sap is running in the maple trees of New Hampshire."

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Amen. Conrad was one of the first polititoonists I ever followed during the Play-Doh years of my political awareness - a truly masterful and gifted observer of the American condition. AND very worthy of the real estate his large work needed on the editorial page.

Wallis Lane said...

I wanted to be Paul Conrad when I grew up. I was given a collection of his: "Pro and Conrad" when a teen, and have enjoyed and pored over it ever since. He was a brilliant artist, a master of the wordless image, and a righteously outraged and principled individual. The LA Times never truly recovered from his and Jin Murray's departures.

I finally got to meet him a few years ago at the UCLA Festival of Books. He didn't look well, hunched over and ensconsed in a voluminous grey pullover sweater, but behind those big horn-rim glasses, it was unmistakably and cantakerously him:

I told him how much I admired him, especially how he used to go after Reagan, while most of the media gave the guy a free pass.

Conrad smiled briefly then said: "The guy was a prick!"
and then shook my hand.

I'll miss Conrad, as much as I miss the decline of political cartooning as a viable profession.

D. McEwan said...

Conrad understood the punch value of brevity better than that. The caption merely said: "The sap is running."

Over in my Facebook photo albums there is posted a photo of a party in my living room in Hollywood in February, 1980. My ex can be seen rolling a joint, and future-film director Betty Thomas is sitting on my sofa talking to someone off-camera. On the coffee table, clearly visible, is Conrad's great book: Pro & Conrad. I've been a huge fan for decades.

Once, on the old original FAMILY FEUD with Richard Dawson, I saw Paul Conrad and his whole family compete, not as a celebrity, but just as a regular guy, who happened to have a Pulitzer Prize.

Great man. Great Artist. Great wit.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

One word describes Paul Conrad... "genius". He didn't need many words to make his point.

D. McEwan said...


I must de-correct you. I just looked at the "The sap is running" cartoon, and your caption was correct; mine was wrong.

Dam! I HATE being fallible. Now I'll never be pope!

Raymond said...

I am Jewish, but unlike Ken Levine, I am a proud Jew. I say this because Ken Levine has nothing bad to say about such antisemites as Hussein Obama and Paul Conrad, and has nothing good to say about philosemites like the beautiful Sarah Palin and President Bush.

Gridlock said...

Actually for every president after Clinton they are no longer referred to using the honorific "president" after they leave office. I'm afriad he's just "Mr Bush" now.

Kudos on your use of 'philosemites' though, even if your post does betray your dribbling insanity.