Monday, December 21, 2009

Crumb's WEIRDO

Weirdo was Robert Crumb’s magazine throughout the 1980s, with Peter Bagge as editor. It ran to 28 issues. A few years ago, some guy doing a retrospective approached me for an appreciation. I don’t think his piece ever came out. But here was my memory:

What I miss most is the old Weirdo Building on 7th Avenue. I remember telephone booths in the lobby manned by Bud Abbott-types in fedoras, running scams and barking out bets to their bookies. You could get a racing form and a spit shoeshine from ol’ Hustis—who some claimed was the original Chattanoogie Shoeshine Boy. The offices of Weirdo itself only occupied three floors. A huge department store sat underneath.

“First floor, ladies lingerie and French parfume, second floor, men’s hernia trusses,” sang out the bulbous-nosed Irish elevator men. They slid open the elevator gates while doffing their caps. And finally, you reached the 29th floor, those huge art deco doors with Weirdo International on the frosted glass.

Messrs. Crumb and Bagge took up opposite corners. Crumb, the publishing tycoon, resided behind a big oak desk, always with the calabash pipe and deerstalker cap. Large chorus girls, eyes cast down in shame, were ushered in by Irving, the buxom blonde receptionist. And Bagge’s office was the command center, to the right. He was the schmeichler, the two-fisted tough guy, a cigar clenched in his jaw. He assigned cartoons through a battery of phones and intercoms. In between, a sea of cartoonists at their easels lined up in military formation. It was there where I removed my hat before Chief Bagge—who accepted my first pitch: a series of scripts, to be drawn by my brother Drew, depicting the secret homosexual liaisons between Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors!

Ladies and gentlemen, that was Weirdo.

© 2009 Josh Alan Friedman