Saturday, May 10, 2008

Picture This: Peter Arno

I know this may be hard to believe, but long, long ago, I was a fledgling baby queen living in a far-too-small city far-too-far from the bright lights, looking desperately around me for the fabulousness that I knew was mine by right but that seemed at eight, ten, twelve hopelessly elusive.

One saving grace was my grandparents' subscription to The New Yorker, which from the time I could turn the pages neatly I read almost cover to cover (almost because to this day I generally can't get through the short stories and I remember hating the endless memoir-articles by Ved Mehta). Even better, Grandma and Grandpa had books of New Yorker cartoons, and while Charles Addams had his undeniable charms, for me Peter Arno reigned supreme.

He still does.

I love his chorines and beauty queens, his stiff-shirted old geezers and sugar daddies, his country-club couples and his utterly urbane, utter New-Yorkiness.


You just know that restaurant is Le Pavillon, don't you? Imagine a time when French food was - exotic!

His work, of course, went far beyond Mr. Ross's magazine; he achieved the ultimate cachet for a mid-century illustrator: creating the Playbill cover for Broadway shows, those signature images that were meant to freeze in the audience's mind what a show was all about. He did it well:

She never looked Mermier...

I still read The New Yorker (here on the far side of the earth it's passed around like samizdat in Russia used to be), and especially the cartoons. Some still rise to the standards of yore - Roz Chast at her best is every bit as funny, if not as graphically dashing - but somehow... Oh, you understand. It's just not the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment