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Man’s Achievements in an Expanding Universe

Here’s another one from my cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos! (I would have loved to go to the 1964 New York World’s Fair.) –Daryl

One of the most demanding projects I ever got involved with was when I was working for Pablo Ferro Films as the chief designer. We got the job of designing a film that would be used at the opening entrance to the Singer pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow, Queens, New York. I, of course, just thought that Singer only made sewing machines –WRONG! They were involved in all kinds of technology and products.

The thing was, we got the job at the last minute and it had to be rushed out. We didn’t have the time or money to create a big-screen live action extravaganza which seemed to be what they expected, so we set about trying to figure out a way to short-cut it but still give it the feeling of an extravaganza.

The first brainstorm that Pablo had was to use two projectors on two large screens that were side by side and to divide each screen into four sections resulting in eight things going on at once.

We also decided that we would use the quick-cut, rapid-fire style that Pablo was known for.

The Singer company quickly provided us with tons of still pictures of products, sewing machines, rockets, etc. For example, we had pictures of African natives with sewing machines in canoes, paddling down a river.

To supplement these pictures, Pablo sent me with a photographer to visit various Singer plants around the nearby states to photograph factories, weaving machines and the like. I’d point to something and the photographer would shoot it.

Armed with all this material, the next step was to create a storyboard for approval by the company.

Since we had no idea exactly how we were going to improvise this whole mess into a quick-cut, double screen, panoramic extravaganza, I had to try to visualize what the whole thing would “feel” like without being specific in any way.

We had decided that it would be a visual feast of panning, zooming-in and quick-cutting shots of still pictures combined with graphics of old-fashioned sewing machines, along with flashing typographic elements. Of course this was all accompanied by a lively musical score. How we would show all of this on a storyboard was a challenge because we hadn’t made specific decisions; it was going to be, pretty much improvised on the animation stand –kind of like modern jazz musicians might improvise.

My solution was to do a series of drawings of the two screens (each divided into 4 sections) with totally abstract magic marker designs to try to give the feeling of the action, excitement and colorful visual effect we hoped to end up with. These were all completely abstract shapes and color… nothing specific… no depictions of a sewing machine or skeins of wool or natives in canoes or rockets or anything, just blobs of color. Pablo decided that the best way to show this storyboard would be to actually photograph it thereby presenting it as a piece of film. The color shapes would dance around and change configurations and appear to be zooming and panning and quick-cutting.


and they said, “The finished film better be as good as this storyboard!”

I guess it was. We panned a canoe lazily drifting down an African river laden with its cargo of a sewing machine while in the upper corner of a screen, a rapid-fire succession of antique sewing machines danced before the viewers eye in single frame machine-gun rapidity, while on another screen section the giant “S – I – N – G – E – R” letters paraded across while other words popped off and on; rockets were launched, all to a cacophony of sound effects and music to assail the surprised pavilion visitor. Horizontal, vertical and squarish screen sections morphed and sometimes formed into one big singular image created from all eight sections.

My wife and I attended the fair, whose theme was “Man’s Achievements in an Expanding Universe”, so I got to see the effect, in the flesh, so to speak.

But, to tell the truth, I think maybe I enjoyed, a little more, the shock of the exterior of an adjoining pavilion which had enlisted Andy Warhol to create giant black and white mug shots of America’s Most Wanted.

Email Randy Enos

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Chicken Gutz

I loved Chicken Gutz when I was in high school and college –by my buddy, our brilliant cartoonist, Randy Enos. Randy writes about the strip here …

If I’m ever remembered for anything at all, after I pass on to that great slanted drawing board in the sky, it’ll most likely be for Chicken Gutz, the comic strip I created for The National Lampoon in the early 1970’s. Shortly after I started illustrating for them, they instituted their Funny Pages. They asked me and a goodly number of other cartoonists to come up with some strips that would run every month. My contribution was Chicken Gutz. He was a little man who wore a tall black hat upon which stood a bird. The bird was never named and functioned as a spokesman (or spokesbird) commenting on and criticizing  the various goings on that unfolded below him. The little man in the hat was totally unaware of the bird but the bird was certainly aware of the man.

The name Chicken Gutz came from a phrase my high school friends were always saying, “suck chicken guts”. The idea of a bird on someone’s head came from a photo I once saw of a girl in a Greenwich Village club that had a big crow standing on her head. I started doing a little man with a bird on his head. Chicken Gutz first appeared in an animated commercial I had done for an insurance company. Later when I worked at Pablo Ferro Films, I did a painting that was on a piano hinge to cover our rear projection screen. The painting was of a man with a bird on his head confronted by a bird with a man on his head.

My intention with the strip was to create a really different kind of comic strip than was being seen in the venues of the day. I wanted to break some rules. I wanted it to be totally free to pursue any avenues I wished to pursue.

The first thing that was different was that I lettered most of the balloons in cursive or what we used to call “long-hand.” I left myself free to smudge the ink, spatter it, blob it, and to generally create a mess. In Chicken Gutz, trees and brooks and rocks could talk, God or the Devil might make an appearance, the characters could talk to the reader and even the very structure (the panel outlines, word balloons etc.) of the strip could be subject to break-downs. Gravity and other laws were always ignored in favor of, hopefully, a laugh. I indulged my interest in the nostalgia of the old radio days and my love of the old early comics. I didn’t want it to look like anyone else’s style and I think I succeeded. The strip could be a nightmare to the copy editor, the long-suffering and wonderful Louise Gikow, who once advised me to just put a comma after every word because it would be easier to remove the unnecessary ones than to put in all the necessary ones. But, she was great because she always understood the purposeful misspellings.

One important feature of the Gutz strip was the use of commentary around the edges of the panels in which I would write notes to friends, fake advertisements, and all sorts of ridiculous space fillers. I couldn’t seem to be able to tolerate empty space in the panels. All this seemed to appeal to my readers who would write to me in an effort to get their names in the strip. One fellow wanted to propose to his girlfriend through the strip –so he did. I lost a wallet in a taxi in New York (again) and I thanked the driver, Nelson Cisneros in the strip when he returned it to me. Another guy named Gene mailed me an old advertisement depicting a 50’s woman opening a refrigerator. He said that he was hoping to get his name in the strip by doing so. I replied (in a border of the strip) that “No, Gene, you don’t get your name in the strip by mailing me a lousy advertisement of a woman opening a refrigerator!” One of my friends “Kathryn from Nantucket” almost became a regular character in the strip because I mentioned her so much. In the strip shown here in the column, you can see my reference to her singing at the “Brotherhood of Thieves” in Nantucket over on the right side of the last panel. Because of this note, an old high school friend of hers reunited with her by showing up one day while she was singing.

I got a lot of fan mail on the strip even years and years after it had ceased publication. I also got presents from fans like a 16” high stained glass replica of Mr. Gutz. I got a little stuffed Chicken Gutz doll, an embroidered Gutz and also a denim shirt with a large Gutz embroidered on the back. I got an actual laboratory slide of chicken guts and some sort of a partial rubber face (medical?) and a big set of colorful Mexican cards that have pictures of animals, humans and objects with the Spanish names. I lined the doorway of my studio with them. My biggest fan was a girl named Snooki that wrote me voluminous tomes. She was very creative sometimes writing in mirror image. I never met Snooki but I was privy to every turn in her life from being a Black Oak Arkansas groupie to finally a married woman with a daughter. Snooki wrote to only three people, Charles Manson, David Bowie and me. She threatened to come to visit me a few times but never did. She phoned me once or twice. I actually heard from her a couple of years ago.

Gutz appeared as a half- page for a while and then a full page (or the other way around. I forget). He appeared only once in color in a Christmas issue.

He also appeared later on in two long features in the same issue of the Fantagraphics “Blab” (issue 18).

He has also appeared in a new magazine called American Bystander.

A while back, I wondered what it would be like to do a daily strip because I have never done one. So, I created a blog where I could resurrect my old tall hatted friend and do a strip a day. I think I did about 45 or so but got derailed by a big children’s book project. You can see my aborted daily strip efforts here:

One experience with the fans sticks in my mind. Bobby London who did a strip for the Lampoon (and also Playboy) called Dirty Duck was staying with Leann and me for a while. I introduced Bobby to Bud Sagendorf who drew Popeye. Many years later after Bud died, Bobby ended up doing Popeye.

One day I got a letter from a Gutz fan and having nothing else to do that day, I suggested to Bobby that we both draw some fantastic pictures for the college kid. We spent all day making the most elaborate drawings and sent them off knowing that it would blow this kid’s mind. I was right –he sent back the most fantastic letter describing his incredulity when he opened our package. He promised to be our slave, wash our cars, etc., forever and ever.

You see, cartooning can sometimes be a whole lot of fun.

“Don’t neglect that right back fender there!”

Email Randy Enos

Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories:

Brought to You in Living Black and White

The Hooker and the Rabbit

Art School Days in the Whorehouse

The Card Trick that Caused a Divorce

The Mysterious Mr. Quist

Monty Python Comes to Town

Riding the Rails

The Pyramid of Success

The Day I Chased the Bus

The Other Ol’ Blue Eyes

8th Grade and Harold von Schmidt

Rembrandt of the Skies

The Funniest Man I’ve Ever Known

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part One”

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part Two”

Famous Artists Visit the Famous Artists School

Randy Remembers Tomi Ungerer

Randy’s Overnight Parade

The Bullpen

Famous Artists Schools

Dik Browne: Hot Golfer

Randy and the National Lampoon

Randy’s Only Great Idea

A Brief Visit to Outer Space

Enos, Love and Westport

Randy Remembers the National Cartoonists Society