Theater Talk


Caricaturist Ken Fallin plus Remembering Al Hirschfeld

Fallin discusses how he went from being an aspiring actor to one of the most sought after caricaturists working today. He also shows us a number of his best works, including new drawings of the 2017 Broadway season.
Next up, highlights of Theater Talk's 2001 conversation with the greatest caricaturist of the 20th ventury, Al Hirschfeld (d. 2003), interviewed by cartoonist Art Spiegelman.

AIRED: July 22, 2017 | 0:26:51

>> HASKINS: Coming up

on "Theater Talk"...

>> RIEDEL: Have you ever heard

from people who don't like

the drawings, don't like what

you've done to them?

>> FALLIN: I have. I have.

>> RIEDEL: Can you give us

an example?

>> FALLIN: I can't.

[ Laughs ]

>> HASKINS: "Theater Talk" is

made possible in part by...

From New York City, this is

"Theater Talk."

I'm Susan Haskins.

>> RIEDEL: And I'm

Michael Riedel of

theNew York Post.

>> HASKINS: So, Michael, we have

one of my favorite artists on

Broadway, but he is not an

actor or a director

or a composer.

>> RIEDEL: He's a hanger-on,


>> HASKINS: No, he is a


>> RIEDEL: Yes.

>> HASKINS: Ken Fallin, welcome

to "Theater Talk."

>> FALLIN: Thank you.

>> HASKINS: As you remember,

Michael, many years ago we

interviewed the great

Al Hirschfield

here on "Theater Talk."

>> RIEDEL: Indeed. Hirschfeld.

>> HASKINS: And when Hirschfeld

passed away, there were really

two artists who sort of stepped

up to the plate to take over --

Squigs and Ken, who...

I first discovered your work

when I saw your poster way back

for "Forbidden Broadway."

>> FALLIN: That was actually

my --

>> RIEDEL: That was your...


>> FALLIN: "Forbidden Broadway"

was my big break.

And I had been struggling as an

illustrator, and I heard about

the show, and I contacted

Gerard Alessandrini, and I sent

him some samples of my work.

And they were looking for

somebody that could spoof the

Hirschfeld style.

>> RIEDEL: Right.

>> FALLIN: And he contacted me

right away and just said, "We're

redoing our poster,

and you're going to do it."

And that started a whole

avalanche of assignments, which

eventually led to a job

at theBoston Herald.

And then I got an agent, and

I got American Express ads

andThe Wall Street Journal,

and it was --

>> RIEDEL: All from --

>> FALLIN: All from

"Forbidden Broadway."

>> RIEDEL: I love that Bono

holding the dangling...

>> HASKINS: Now here's your

Barbra Streisand.

>> Yes. I'm a huge

Barbra Streisand fan.

My second show that I ever saw

on Broadway was "Funny Girl"

with Barbra Streisand.

And my friend

Richard Jay Alexander invited me

to go see one of her dress

rehearsals in Philadelphia,

which was very exciting.

>> RIEDEL: Richard directs

her concerts.

>> FALLIN: That's right.

And she was wearing this dress,

and I was having an exhibit,

and I decided

to do a drawing of her.

And Richard saw this, and he

took a picture of it and sent it

to her on her birthday.

And he called me up and said,

"Barbra just called me up.

She said, 'I love this drawing.

He captured my leg.'"

>> HASKINS: [ Gasps ]

>> RIEDEL: Were you in awe of

Hirschfeld growing up as a kid?

And was it difficult for you to

fill those shoes?

Did you ever have any sense,

"Well, people...I'll always be

compared to Al Hirschfeld"?

>> I saw his work when I was

probably a teenager, in an

article inLife magazine.

I didn't even know who the

people were that he was drawing,

but I loved the style, and I

started drawing caricatures

of people that I thought were


It was something that I did.

I never thought that I would be

doing it professionally.

>> HASKINS: You were an aspiring

actor at one point.

>> FALLIN: I was

an aspiring actor.

I came to New York

to be an actor and fell into


And just like I was telling you,

the "Forbidden Broadway" thing,

it was just something that was

not in my control but turned out


>> HASKINS: Well, you know,

Hirschfeld himself, who wanted

to be a sculptor, said,

"You can't plan a career."

>> FALLIN: This...I --

>> RIEDEL: Did you know Al

at all?

Did you spend any time?

Did he give you advice?

Did he comment on your work?

>> FALLIN: I did meet him

several times, and I actually

escorted him once at Harvard to

a big event that he was being

honored, and I just happened to

be walking by as he was getting

out of a taxi, and I just...

escorted him, and when we got to

the front door, everybody

thought that I was part of the

thing and were applauding.

>> RIEDEL: He was very generous

to other artists, I always


>> FALLIN: Very nice, and he

actually saw one of my early

"Forbidden Broadway" posters on

aPlaybill, and he thought that

he had done it, so --

>> RIEDEL: [ Laughs ]

>> FALLIN: That was --

>> HASKINS: Since Hirschfeld

passed away, his widow,

Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, was very

supportive --is very

supportive -- of you, and you've

been up to the studio and all.


>> FALLIN: Yes. I was very


Before they sold everything...

Just before that, I met her, and

she invited us to come and

spend...have cocktails, and she

took me up to the studio.

I saw it, and it was an amazing

experience, and then she said,

"Would you like

to sit in his chair?"

>> RIEDEL: The barber chair.

>> FALLIN: The barber chair

behind the desk.

And I placed my hands on this

fabulous drawing table that he

had always used.

I have a photograph of my hands

on there, so...

It was very inspiring.

>> RIEDEL: But you know,

it's interesting 'cause Al

always said... and you may know

this name 'cause it...

If I can find it, I'll amaze


You know, artists build

on each other.

And Al...

There was a guy before Al.

I think his name was Foyer.

>> FALLIN: There was Al Frueh.

>> RIEDEL: That's what I'm

thinking...Al Frueh, yes.

>> FALLIN: Al Frueh, who was


I've seen all of these people.

You can go to the Players Club

and see some --

>> RIEDEL: Yeah, that's right.

They're all over. Yeah.

>> FALLIN: The originals there.

And he was amazing.

Also very few lines.

He sometimes drew people with no


>> RIEDEL: Yeah.

>> FALLIN: Just the shape of the

body, and you knew who it was.

>> RIEDEL: Absolutely.

>> HASKINS: Yes, that's the

thing about your work.

You've mastered the use of the


>> FALLIN: Well, thank you.

>> HASKINS: You know,

less is more.

>> RIEDEL: Oh, that was one of

my favorite shows,

"China Doll."

Al looks...

In that, he looks as unhappy as

he was in the play.

[ Laughs ]

>> FALLIN: He doesn't smile a

lot, anyway.

I tend to draw people not


I think it's more interesting,

but he's one of those people

that you wouldn't recognize.

>> RIEDEL: Are you aware of,

like, the backstage gossip?

Does that work its way into your

drawing of --

>> FALLIN: Probably


Probably subconsciously, but

usually I see the play, and then

I look at production photos.

And I study those.

And it's usually...

That's what the drawing

is based on.

>> RIEDEL: When you are looking

at somebody's face, are you

looking for that one

telltale thing that they have,

that we know that's

Al Pacino?

Are you looking for...

It's the nose?

It might be an eye?

Do you isolate something, and

you work from that?

>> FALLIN: Usually, you start

with one item, and the eyes are

a good place to start for most


If you capture that, you're

usually going to get there.

>> So if you look at Al, did you

begin with the eyes?

Because I think the eyebrows are

great for Al, too.

>> FALLIN: Thank you.

Yes, I think the eyes were the

part that I really zeroed in on.

>> RIEDEL: And the bags.

[ Laughs ]

Did Al ask for this one the way

Barbra Streisand did?

>> FALLIN: No. [ Chuckles ]

>> RIEDEL: You have some others

that we want to see, right,


Who is that?

>> FALLIN: That's Jude Law when

he did "Hamlet."

>> RIEDEL: Oh, right. "Hamlet."

Oh, did you start

with the stubble?

>> FALLIN: I think I actually

started with the eyes on that

one because he's one of the

people that I have difficulty

with in that he's an attractive


I usually --

>> RIEDEL: Go for the


>> FALLIN: Well, not quite

grotesque, but really

good-looking people, because

everything is so even, and I

find that pretty boring.

And so --

>> HASKINS: No distinctive

facial characteristics.

I mean, Hirschfeld complained

that people didn't have faces

anymore, and I think there's

great truth to that.

>> FALLIN: Well, the problem is

that once you exaggerate or try

to find anything that's

different, you sort of lose it.

It doesn't look like them

anymore, so --

>> RIEDEL: Right.

But you got the build right

of the body.

I remember, there was a tautness

to his Hamlet.

>> FALLIN: Right.

>> RIEDEL: Moving right along.

Oh, there she is.

>> FALLIN: Well, this drawing is

based on a drawing that I did

for Showtime several years ago

where I drew Bette Midler

wearing a dress that looked like

a big bomb.

They were promoting

a Bette Midler film festival.

And I just took this ahead of

time and did a "Dolly" because I

love Bette and I love "Dolly."

That was my first Broadway show.

>> HASKINS: You're all ready.

>> RIEDEL: I mean, with Bette,

you've got to go with the mouth,


Do you start with the mouth


>> FALLIN: The eyes again.

>> HASKINS: Yeah, the eyes.

>> FALLIN: The eyes.

She's got that squinty-eye look.

And she saw this drawing -- not

the Dolly, but she saw the one I

did, which is the same head,

face, and everything, and she

liked it, so she --

>> RIEDEL: Have you ever heard

from people who don't like

the drawings, don't like what

you've done to them?

>> FALLIN: I have. I have.

>> RIEDEL: Can you give us

an example?

>> FALLIN: I can't.

[ Laughs ]

>> RIEDEL: But they can't sue or

anything like that, can they?

>> FALLIN: No.

It's editorial.

>> RIEDEL: Totally.

>> FALLIN: It's editorial.

>> RIEDEL: But you do hear from

people who --

>> FALLIN: Yes. And from

publicists and so forth, I get

on occasion, but not that often,


>> RIEDEL: And what do you do?

How do you say --

>> FALLIN: I say, "Too bad."

I mean, it's my...

I'm just expressing...

I'm not a cruel person.

>> HASKINS: No, no, you --

>> FALLIN: So I can't...

You know, I'm not trying to --

>> HASKINS: You do not do unkind


>> FALLIN: I try not to.

>> HASKINS: Yeah.

No, but it's not in your nature.

I mean, I'm a fan of many

artists who do do unkind

drawings --

>> FALLIN: Right. Right.

>> HASKINS: Like, you know, say,

Ralph Steadman, the great

Ralph Steadman.

Or, you know, not unkind --

>> FALLIN: Angry.

His pen is angry, yes.

>> HASKINS: And that's a

different kind of look.

Ah, look!

>> RIEDEL: Oh, my favorite,

Lin-Manuel Miranda!


>> FALLIN: Yes, yes.

I sat next to his mother and

father during a press preview.

>> RIEDEL: Oh!

>> FALLIN: And so our seats were

very good.

>> RIEDEL: [ Laughs ]

>> FALLIN: And then I did...

I was commissioned by his...

Not Lin-Manuel...

The...Javier's management

company commissioned me to do

this drawing for his opening

night, so --

>> HASKINS: So this is the new

Hamilton, Javier Muñoz.

>> RIEDEL: Oh, oh, yes,

very good.

>> FALLIN: That's what that is.

>> RIEDEL: You know, I like

the hands.

The hands are very expressive.

>> HASKINS: Yes, those are

beautiful hands.

>> FALLIN: Thank you.

Thank you.

>> RIEDEL: And you always use

color, right?

You --

>> FALLIN: No, actually,

they're all pen-and-ink

drawings, and then I Photoshop

the color in, and I only started

doing that because

The Wall Street Journal...

>> RIEDEL: Right.

>> FALLIN: ...wanted everything

in color.

And I was panicky at first

'cause it takes so much more

time to hand-color something,

and then, bless, Photoshop came

in, and so all the originals are

black and white, and they're

scanned in, and --

>> RIEDEL: How long does it take

you to do a drawing?

>> FALLIN: A pen-and-ink


>> RIEDEL: Yeah.

>> FALLIN: Usually a day and a

half, depending on the details

or how much --

>> RIEDEL: Anyone that you've

had trouble capturing, any actor

out there that

you've tried and --

>> FALLIN: Um, just the really

good-looking people.

I'm getting ready to do

Cate Blanchett.

I'm not...

I'm a little worried --

>> RIEDEL: That's

going to be tough.

>> HASKINS: She has bones.

>> FALLIN: She has bones.

>> HASKINS: She has bones.

We go on.

>> FALLIN: Liza Minnelli.

Now, I've never heard from Liza,

but she is not fond of

caricatures, nor is she fond of

people that do impersonations of


I think she's a wonderful

character, and --

>> HASKINS: And she has

a look.

God knows she has a look.

>> FALLIN: She's very


>> RIEDEL: This is "Cabaret,"


>> FALLIN: That is the movie,

"Cabaret," right.

>> HASKINS: Next.

>> RIEDEL: Oh, "Who's Afraid of

Virginia Woolf?"

>> FALLIN: That's right.

Thank you.

>> RIEDEL: Yeah.

Tracy Letts.

>> HASKINS: Now, but case in

point here --

You're showing the bedraggled

aspect of Tracy Letts but not

the sneering...

>> FALLIN: As George?

>> HASKINS: ...the sneering part

of George that he revealed.

>> FALLIN: Right. Right.

This was just...

He's listening to Martha saying

something --

>> HASKINS: And feeling


>> FALLIN: Right.

>> HASKINS: Yeah.

>> FALLIN: Tracy Letts's mother

bought the original and gave it

to Tracy as a Christmas present.

>> HASKINS: Oh, that's very


>> FALLIN: Yes.

>> RIEDEL: You got the booze


[ Chuckles ]

>> HASKINS: Now, on the sweater

there with that pattern,

is that all...

Do you sit there meticulously

making the pattern?

>> FALLIN: I did.

I'm always trying new techniques

with different...things to put

on the paper, and I used a

spatter, and I --

>> HASKINS: Oh, now, go back

to the Liza.

Go back to the Liza.

That spatter in the --

>> FALLIN: That's all spatter in

the background.

>> HASKINS: So you got a

toothbrush there?

What are you doing?

>> FALLIN: I have an old bristle

brush, and...

My dogs are covered in ink,

and I'm covered in ink.

[ Laughter ]

>> HASKINS: Very good.

>> FALLIN: The stocking, though,

is hand done.

That's all done with dots.

>> HASKINS: Very nice.

Moving on.

[ Gasps ]

>> RIEDEL: Oh, yes,

"American Psycho."

>> FALLIN: This was one of my

favorite shows last year.

>> HASKINS: I liked it, too.

>> RIEDEL: Now, there's a

handsome guy that you captured.

>> FALLIN: Yes.

Oh, thank you.

>> RIEDEL: I can't remember his

name, though.

>> HASKINS: His name is

Benjamin Walker.

>> RIEDEL: Benjamin Walker, yes.

But he's almost scarily


Maybe that's why you were able

to get him.

>> FALLIN: Well, there were

features about his face that you

could exaggerate or...not

exaggerate, just capture in a

certain shape.

And --

>> RIEDEL: Did his mother buy

that one, too, and give it to

him as a gift?

>> FALLIN: No.

>> RIEDEL: [ Laughs ]

I like the touch of his feet

submerged in the pool of blood.

>> HASKINS: Very nice.

Now, Hirschfeld used to sit in

the theater

and begin his sketch...

>> FALLIN: Yes.

>> HASKINS: the dark,

not looking.

>> FALLIN: Right.

>> HASKINS: Do you draw --

>> FALLIN: He drew in his


>> RIEDEL: Yeah, that's right.

He drew in his pocket.

>> FALLIN: Right, right.

No, I do not do that.

>> RIEDEL: Okay. You don't?

>> FALLIN: No, no, no.

I just have a memory.

And I actually just enjoy the

play, usually, and then look at

production photos.

Sometimes I...

>> HASKINS: Soak up the vibes.

>> FALLIN: my head, I'll

say, "Well, they had really

funny-looking hair" or whatever,

but --

>> RIEDEL: But you're also...

Are you combining then not only

the look of the actor, but also

the character that they're

playing in the play?

You try to pull that together.

>> FALLIN: Yes, I try to do


That's really what I'm going

after, is the character

that they're playing.

>> RIEDEL: Yeah.

Oh, this was "The Color Purple,"

one of our favorite shows.

>> HASKINS: Celie

with the pants.

>> RIEDEL: That's Cynthia

and Jennifer Hudson, right?

>> FALLIN: Right.

>> RIEDEL: Yeah,a nd then our


We love Danielle Brooks.

>> FALLIN: Well, I'm delighted

you're recognizing all of these


>> RIEDEL: Oh, "Elephant Man"!

>> FALLIN: Yes, yes.

>> RIEDEL: Now, there was a

good-looking guy, but he's got a


>> FALLIN: I tried to distort it

because you remember in the

play, he sort of distorts his

face when he's talking.

>> HASKINS: Yes, Bradley Cooper.

Bradley Cooper has a very

handsome face, but he was

distorting it, as you say.

>> FALLIN: Yes, and his

management... or his publicist

bought the drawing and gave it

to him.

>> HASKINS: Ah, very nice.

>> RIEDEL: Oh, you've got the

eye, the "Elephant Man" eye,

'cause the real Elephant Man had

that sort of big...

big eye there.

>> FALLIN: Right.

>> HASKINS: Next.

>> FALLIN: This was the...

>> RIEDEL: "Gentleman's Guide."

>> FALLIN: "Gentleman's Guide,"


And that's all one person.

>> RIEDEL: Jefferson Mays!

When these get published or when

you do it, you do this c--

this color?

This is the finished drawing?

>> FALLIN: You're seeing what

the...'cause these drawings

usually run inBroadway World.

>> RIEDEL: Right.

>> FALLIN: And that's what they

look like when they're --

>> RIEDEL: When they're...

Right. Right.


>> RIEDEL: Oh, "Front Page."

That's a good Nathan.

>> FALLIN: Oh, thank you.

>> HASKINS: That is a very good

Nathan, yeah.

>> RIEDEL: Oh, you got

John Slattery's hairdo.

>> FALLIN: [ Laughs ]

Oh, thank you.

>> HASKINS: And a good

John Goodman, and then there's

our friend Robert Morse.

>> FALLIN: Robert Morse.

>> HASKINS: And Holland.

>> RIEDEL: With her tricolor hat

on. [ Laughs ]

I never understood why she wore

that hat in the show.

It's so bizarre.

>> HASKINS: Fabulous.

>> FALLIN: It's a character hat.

>> HASKINS: Ken, I want to talk

about when you first came to my

attention, since I'll confess

I'm not a reader of

The Wall Street Journal.

It makes me too upset.

But --

>> RIEDEL: She reads

The Nation.

>> HASKINS: I went to see this

production of "Once Upon a

Mattress" with Jackie Hoffman

and John "Lypsinka" Epperson,

and there was this wonderful

aspect to it that the set was

a cartoon, and then into the set

comes this hand drawing

part of the set,

live, while we were watching

the show.

And it was such a wonderful

thing that I immediately tried

to find out...

Now, show us the set.

There's this --

>> RIEDEL: Oh, that's your hand?

You drew this?

>> FALLIN: I added to it.

>> HASKINS: Yeah.

Now go to the next.

>> FALLIN: The original...

I would just...

My hand...

They had a video camera.

I was in back of the theater,

and I had a desk, and I would

see it going up, and my hand

would come over and add things

to the drawing.

So I had...

These were the very basic

drawings --

>> HASKINS: Right, and then he'd

add the food.

He'd put in the...

His hand would come in

with the food.

>> FALLIN: Because it had to be

done very quickly because

the set changes.

>> HASKINS: It was brilliant.

It was wonderful, and that's,

Ken, when I thought, "Oh, I want

him on our show."

>> RIEDEL: Do you have any

desire to expand beyond the

caricatures and design sets?

Would you be interested

in that aspect of this?

>> FALLIN: It's interesting.

I studied that in college

a little bit, and I love set

design, but I don't think at

this point in my life I would be

able to...

And I'm not good at math, so I

couldn't figure out

all the engineering things.

I did design a set once, and it

even had a platform, and I was

like shocked that it didn't fall

down and kill everybody because

I had no...

You know, I was just drawing


I didn't know what it was.

I'm hoping that I continue on

this thing that Hirschfeld and

many other caricaturists

started -- theater caricature.

I think it's just such a

wonderful thing, and I'm having

so much fun doing it.

>> RIEDEL: Somehow, Broadway

lends itself to this kind of


>> FALLIN: I think so.

>> RIEDEL: Because they're

larger-than-life personalities,

larger-than-life faces.

Oh, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses."

>> HASKINS: The Janet McTeer

hair is quite fabulous.

>> FALLIN: Thank you.

>> HASKINS: So, again, so what

did you use as your reference

for this one?

>> That was a photograph.

I did see the play.

Not to drive people crazy, but

I'm always being asked, do I

hide Ninas in my drawings, and

I don't.

I hide my own last name.

>> RIEDEL: Yeah, there are



>> FALLIN: Yes.

>> RIEDEL: That's a nod to

old Al, right?

>> HASKINS: Yeah. So, and next.


>> FALLIN: This was the...

>> RIEDEL: "Natasha" --

>> FALLIN: Sasha, Nasha, Pasha,

"and the Comet of 1812."

>> RIEDEL: Ooh, the accordion

looks complicated to draw.

>> FALLIN: Well, I love drawing

musical instruments.

I don't know why.

>> RIEDEL: Really?

>> FALLIN: Just they're fun to


Whenever I get an assignment

with a trumpet or a --

>> RIEDEL: Boy, if they do

"Music Man," you'll be in


>> FALLIN: [ Laughs ]

>> RIEDEL: Trombones.

>> HASKINS: And, Ken, I also

wanted to say that I attended


Because I am a closet


>> FALLIN: And a good one.

>> HASKINS: I attended your --

>> RIEDEL: She's an angry one.

She's a mean one.

>> HASKINS: Well, that's true.

[ Laughter ]

Charles Manson.

>> HASKINS: No, that is the

hindrance to my career because I

offend people.

My subconscious inadvertently

offends people with my drawings.

So, but --

>> RIEDEL: Did you bring any of

your drawings today, Susan?

>> HASKINS: Well, maybe I

brought one.

[ Laughter ]

>> FALLIN: You're a great

student, and you're the

valedictorian, as we --

>> HASKINS: Yes.

Two days at

the Art Students League.

So much fun.

>> RIEDEL: Can you teach

drawing, though?

They always say you really can't

teach --

>> FALLIN: Not really.

The person has to have

some talent.

You just sort of refine it and

point out things and bring out

the good stuff.

>> HASKINS: It's getting

people to look.

You know, you can teach people

to be more observant.

You can't give them talent, but

you can teach them to look more

and --

>> FALLIN: Absolutely.

>> RIEDEL: Are you always

looking for the "less is more"?

Like, one line that gets it,

as opposed to --

>> FALLIN: Usually, yes.

More than that, though,

interesting shapes that tell you

who the person is

just from like the eyes or

something --

>> RIEDEL: Or the shape of the

head, like --

>> FALLIN: Not the shape of an

eye, though, like the shape of

something else.

>> RIEDEL: Right.

>> FALLIN: A bolt or something.

That really fascinates me.

>> RIEDEL: Hm! Now, you drew us.

>> HASKINS: Yes.

We only have a minute left.

>> RIEDEL: Uh-oh.

Here comes the moment of truth,


Keep the sunglasses on.

You may not like what you see.

>> HASKINS: We're told

that you drew us.

>> FALLIN: I did.

>> HASKINS: All right.

>> FALLIN: I did. I drew you.

And I brought them.

>> HASKINS: It's the reveal.

>> FALLIN: The reveal.

So, this is for you.

>> HASKINS: [ Gasps ]

>> FALLIN: And this is for you.

Thee are the original


>> RIEDEL: Oh, marvelous.


That's wonderful!

>> RIEDEL: It's great!

I love that, Ken.

That's terrific.

All right.

You got my hair.

You got my flyaway hair from


>> HASKINS: [ Chuckles ]

Thank you, Ken Fallin.

This is a treasure.

>> RIEDEL: I think you did a

really good job with a handsome

guy here.

>> FALLIN: It-It was hard.

[ Laughter ]

I'm glad that you're pleased.

>> HASKINS: Thank you very much.

>> RIEDEL: Thank you.

>> FALLIN: I had a lot of fun.

>> RIEDEL: Thank you,

Ken Fallin.

This is Michael Riedel

and Susan Haskins.

>> HASKINS: And Susan Haskins.

>> RIEDEL: Thanks, Ken, for

being our guest

on "Theater Talk."

>> FALLIN: Thank you.

>> ♪ Try to speak, but nobody

can hear, so I wait around

for an answer to appear ♪

♪ While I'm watch, watch,

watching people pass ♪

♪ I'm waving through a window,

oh ♪

♪ Can anybody see?

♪ Is anybody waving

back at me? ♪

>> ♪ Oh, oh, oh

>> ♪ Is anybody waving,

waving, waving ♪

♪ Whoa, whoa

[ Cheers and applause ]

>> SPIEGELMAN: One thing I

actually was really curious

about -- the way

you're doing this stuff, 'cause

I have a horrible time with


It's my least-developed skill

in a world of undeveloped


But I'm not one...

I find that all can do is,

I take a photo of somebody, and

I just sit there going, "Be a


Be a nose."

Hammer it into being

what I want.

>> HIRSCHFELD: It's difficult

doing it from a photo because,

you know, six photos of the same

person look like six different



And that's what you don't do.

It's like you're not going after

that kind of surface.

>> HIRSCHFELD: Well, when you

see them in person, it's a

different thing 'cause you...

If you can work with a CD,

one of those things where you

can put it in a TV and get the

movement, then you know what the

person looks like, you know,


But it's not a question of

exaggerating anatomy, really.

I remember doing a drawing of

Durante once, and I left

his nose off.

It served the same purpose

because you're attracted to the

nose, you know, in some way.

But it's...

I don't know what it is.

It's... Kind of an alchemy takes

place when you know when you're

finished, and that's about as

far as you can go.

>> SPIEGELMAN: Some kind of


It's not a surface of a face.

It's like a central aspect of


>> HIRSCHFELD: Personality.

That's right.

The essence of that person.

Because when I look back over

old drawings, which I rarely do,

but when I do, the drawing

seems to hold up

even though I've forgotten what

the play was about or what the

person that...


>> HIRSCHFELD: ...intended.

>> SPIEGELMAN: When I was told I

was going to be able to get to

talk with you and just that it

could be anywhere I wanted

to go, I was thinking of all

these roads you didn't take.

You know? Like, the road's a

long one here, like I'm going to

think back to like, you've

actually met everybody that I've

ever admired.

>> HIRSCHFELD: The road that I

didn't take -- I started out as

a sculptor.

And I come from a very poor


And the business of paying

the -- that I mentioned

before -- is not imaginative.

It stays with me forever.

And I did all sorts of

commercial drawings as a kid,

worked for all the movie


And when Selznick Pictures went

bankrupt, I decided I'll never

work for anybody again.

That was it.

I went to Paris -- 1924.

Met a couple English fellows the

day that I arrived, and they

arrived the same day that I did.

All three of us were very naive

about France, and none of us

spoke the language.

And we stayed up all night, and

we became great friends, and

we decided to take a studio


And we took a studio

on the Left Bank

on the Avenue --

a five-room detached bungalow

with running water.

No heat or hot water, of course.

Well, the price of the studio

was 2,500 francs a year.

Now, a franc was pegged at 25.

So that's $100.

$33 apiece for a year.

Coffee in ourarrondissement

was 25 centimes,

which is 1/4 of a franc --

one penny for coffee

in a café.

So you could live on $40

or $50 a month very comfortably,

you know.

Wooden [ Speaks indistinctly ]

corduroy pants,

and a lumberjack shirt.

And you were home.

And you had those two or three

years to discover whether this

is the life you want to lead,

you know.

>> SPIEGELMAN: So this is the

glory moment of French painting,


>> HIRSCHFELD: Yes, and I

started painting.

And I was a very serious painter

at that time.

>> SPIEGELMAN: So, what were

some of the people that you knew

at the cafés there?

>> HIRSCHFELD: Well, it was, you

know, the usual crowd.

>> SPIEGELMAN: The usual


>> HIRSCHFELD: Gertrude Stein

and Toklas and Hemingway.

A whole American group there.

And European groups that were...

It was a gathering place for a

lot of artists and writers.

Everybody was writing and

painting in that corridor,


And today it's all full with

computer specialists.

>> SPIEGELMAN: [ Chuckles ]

>> HIRSCHFELD: They all look

exactly the same.

They look very bohemian.

But they're all computers.

>> HASKINS: Did you know

Gertrude Stein?

>> HIRSCHFELD: Oh, yes.

I know her very well.

>> HASKINS: Now, what was the


Why was she so popular?

Why was she so well liked?

>> HIRSCHFELD: Well, she had

free meals...

[ Laughter ]

That was a very attractive


>> SPIEGELMAN: A meal is a meal

is a meal.

>> HIRSCHFELD: You know.

You'd get a wonderful meal,

and --

>> HASKINS: And Toklas coming --

>> HIRSCHFELD: A lot of very

interesting people used to go

with her, you know, and sit

around and schmooze for an


And she didn't resent doing it.

She loved having people in,

particularly artists

and writers.

It was a whole different era,

you know.

I can't relate it to anything

that exists today.

It's just...

The form changes, you know.

The talent remains

about the same.

I started doing theatrical

things in 1925

for theTribune.

And I worked for them for a year

or two, and I got a telegram one

day from theTimes asking me to

do a drawing of Harry Lauder.

And the telegram was signed

Zolotow, and I called up the

Times to see if there was...

And there was a Mr. Zolotow


And so the following couple of

weeks later, I got another

telegram to do a drawing of, I

think it was Zasu Pitts.

Well, this went on for about two


I never saw anybody at the


I would bring the drawing down

and leave it with the doorman.

And I never saw a human being

[ Chuckles ] at the time.

And one evening in the theater

at Information at the Belasco,

we were standing around

schmoozing in the lobby,

and he said, "You fellows

know each other?"

We said, "No."

And that was Zolotow.

And he said, "Listen.

You're the most mysterious man

on the paper.

Why don't you come...

Next time you come down, come up

and meet the fellows

in the drama department."

And that's when I did.

I went up, and I met

George Kaufman, who was

the editor, and Brooks Atkinson,

who was the critic,

and Zolotow, who did a column.

And Brooks and I got along


We really became great friends

across a lifetime.

>> SPIEGELMAN: This theater

thing wasn't an obsession.

It was something that just fell

on you, right, like...

It wasn't like you always wanted

to be sitting in theaters.

That wasn't like your first --

>> HIRSCHFELD: No, not at all.

Just all accident,

like everything in life,

you know.

You're on one side of the street

instead of the other, and your

whole life changes, you know.

>> SPIEGELMAN: Old saying.

Because one thing I was

thinking about --

>> HIRSCHFELD: Unplanned.

You can't plan a career.

You can't plan a career.

>> SPIEGELMAN: You can have

obsessions that just keep you

from --

>> HIRSCHFELD: Well, I just roll

with the punches, you know.

I have that talent, apparently,

for accepting what exists.

I mean, today I'm very much

aware of what's going on.

I'm not interested

in the past or the future.

>> HASKINS: Our thanks to the

Friends of "Theater Talk" for

their significant contribution

to this production.

>> ANNOUNCER: We welcome your

questions or comments

for "Theater Talk."

Thank you.


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