In Praise of Healthy Vice
Remembering Lothrop Stoddard
(June 29,1883 – May 1, 1950)

Lothrop Stoddard
Master of Manhattan: The Life of Richard Croker
New York/Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., 1931

Our subject today is “The Lighter Side of . . . Lothrop Stoddard.” I’ll be focusing mostly on the delightful Master of Manhattan, his 1931 biography of Tammany Hall boss Richard Welstead Croker. Stoddard has some very interesting, you might say revisionist or contrarian, takes here.

This is a corrective long needed. Stoddard’s big books, mainly The Rising Tide of Color but also The French Revolution in San Domingo, are grave and grim. You might want to read them once, then put them away and wince when you see them on the shelf. Excellently written and researched, but too depressing to pull down again. So it’s always a pleasant surprise to come across his lighter, upbeat, stuff.

Richard Croker may seem an odd choice of subject, particularly given that Stoddard didn’t usually write biographies. But Stoddard greatly admires Croker, in much the same contrarian way people will express their love of Richard Nixon. “Boss” Croker was perpetually tarred in the press and popular histories as the archetype of the corrupt machine politician, living on graft and fixing elections throughout his long reign at Tammany Hall (peak years: 1880s-90s). With his grey beard and portly frame he somewhat resembled Thomas Nast’s caricatures of his predecessor William M. Tweed, and that might have helped poison the public perception of him.

As seen in Puck, 1900.

Of course Tammany itself is still demonized in popular memory. People can’t quite tell you what was wrong with it, they just know it was somehow bad and powerful and crooked. And that tarry reputation is not accidental. The Tammany Society was a mighty force in New York politics, almost from its founding in the 1780s until its fade-out under Mayor Robert Wagner in the 1950s and 60s. A big, familiar target, easy to attack. And so routinely denounced by an endless string of inept “reform” politicians and goo-goos—”good-government” activists.

Croker himself was not particularly corrupt, certainly not by the standards of the Robber Baron era. The Tammany organization sold influence, it is true (what political machine does not?), taking kickbacks and payoffs in return for lucrative city contracts. Croker himself was gifted with shares in streetcar and ice companies, while acquiring extensive real-estate holdings and an auction company. Up against all this we must put the fact that he was also a supremely capable and efficient leader, presiding over a city during the decades of its greatest growth. He literally made the (Elevated) trains run on time, forcing them to arrive at five-minute intervals and fining the Elevated Railroad Company $100 every time a train was late. (The subway system was still some years in the future.) People wanted to drink beer on Sunday even though there was a blue law banning Sunday sale of intoxicants. So Tammany and the police department didn’t enforce that law…and the people were happy.

That politics made Croker rich is undeniable. By age 50 he owned a breeding stable of thoroughbred racehorses and a grand townhouse on East 74th Street, in addition to his many other investments. After retiring from Tammany he owned more homes and horses in Ireland and England. He was a serious horse breeder, and two of his stallions, sire and son, won the The Derby (in 1907 and 1919).

The 1890s were the great age of the “reformers” in New York politics. There was a priggish Presbyterian minister named Charles Henry Parkhurst, and he swore from his pulpit that he was going to take down Tammany Hall for its corrupt ways. By corrupt he meant Tammany tolerated bawdy houses, gambling dens, and unlicensed “blind tiger” saloons. These persisted—the good Dr. Parkhurst claimed—because Tammany told the police department to take a bribe and look the other way.

No doubt Parkhurst was right…up to a point. And his crusade succeeded…up to a point. A fusion “reform” ticket ousted Tammany from City Hall in the 1894, but the new regime wasn’t popular. Young police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt was told to enforce the vice laws on the books. He shuttered the sporting houses, stopped liquor sales on Sunday, closed down the infamous backroom card games. The people were not happy, and they voted Tammany back.

When he gets to this part of the story, author Stoddard gives us a good hint why he’s such a fan of Croker. He despises reformist zealots, viewing them as obstructionists and bluenoses. He clearly implies they were the forerunners of the Prohibitionist zealots, whose antics eventually led to the current (1931) epidemic of crime and civic disruption.

He lays into them for several pages:

The psychology of this sort of “reformer” is in many ways intensely irritating, not only to the politicians but to the average run of mankind. There is a cocksureness, a self-righteousness, a lack of human sympathy and understanding about him which tends to arouse mingled anger and contempt. In short: the “reformer” himself has probably been the greatest single handicap to reform…

The typical “reformer’s” lamentable ignorance of human nature is strikingly revealed by his desire to coerce the public, by legislative acts or municipal ordinances, to matters which run counter to popular usage and therefore rouse the public to angry defiance. That, in turn, nullifies the special legislation,besides bringing all low into discredit…

The “reformer’s” gross lack of human understanding is primarily due to the fact that he is usually obsessed by some fixed idea which he devoutly believes will regenerate mankind and solve society’s problems, if only his idea be fully and resolutely applied. It may be any one of a dozen political nostrums advocated by rival reformist sects; yet in each case the psychology is the same.

This emotional obsession blinds the reformist zealot to the realities of the situation. Whence his deplorable tendency toward intolerance…

A “reformer,” in other words, is the sort of person who denounces the chicanery of Richard Croker’s Tammany Hall, but really wants to stop your beer.

Lothrop Stoddard was beguiled by Croker’s efficient practicality, and also by his remarkable life story. Little Richard first arrived in New York from County Cork as a three-year-old with his family. It was 1846. Not the most blessed time to emigrate. The Croker family ended up living for a few years in the tumbledown village—”shanty town,” Stoddard calls it—that stood in present-day Central Park, a bit southwest of the Reservoir. (There’s more to say about that shanty town, and I’ll get to it shortly.) Richard Croker’s rise after this, working on a tunnel gang as a lad, and eventually achieving the chairmanship of Tammany Hall—and then ending up as a wealthy horseracing toff in England—is surely the Horatio Alger story to beat all.

Except there’s a lot more to tell, and it’s all interesting. Croker actually was a sort of English toff, by ancestry. His family had been landed gentry in the so-called Ascendancy. They’d settled in Ireland around the time of Cromwell, possibly earlier. Richard’s father, Eyre Coote Croker (a name to be reckoned with) was an army officer and horse veterinarian who fell on hard times. The records are unclear, but I suspect he was heavily in debt. As a bankrupt he would lose his army commission. And so he resigned that and fled to America, hoping to land a nice position, tending to thoroughbred horses. He did find something like that eventually, but it took a while, and the horses were the kind that pulled streetcars.

Meanwhile there were those three years in that shanty town, which has no name in any contemporary map or census. Now, it happens that one of Richard Croker’s later Tammany cronies, George Washington Plunkitt, was born and raised nearby. And he did have a name for it. It was called “Nigger Village,” because, well, there were some black people there, along with the Irish and Germans and Swamp Yankees. In recent years, however, through a desire of political correctness and racial uplift, the area has been rechristened “Seneca Village.” Why Seneca? I don’t know. That designation does not appear in any newspapers or city manuals or Common Council minutes. But the Central Park Conservancy, via engraved signs and glossy flyers, has been promoting “Seneca Village” as a great landmark of African-American upward struggle. So far as I can tell, this hoax originated with a somewhat fanciful 1992 book about the Park. It tell both the Plunkitt story and the notion that the shanty town was an “African-American community.” (The Park and Its People: A History of Central Park, by Rosenzweig and Blackmar. Cornell University Press, 1992.) In reality the shanty town was on the outskirts of a larger village called Harsenville, which disappeared around the 1850s, the same period when our shanty town was condemned and swallowed up by the Park.

*  *  *

How was Master of Manhattan received when published in 1931? I’ve browsed through a handful of reviews and find that they fall into two buckets. Some reviewers describe what they think a book about Croker and Tammany is going to be about. Croker! King of Graft! Tammany bad! That sort of thing. Did they actually read the book, I wonder?

And then there’s the other type of reviewer, who gives us a précis pretty much like the one I wrote above. That is, the book is really a critique of reform mania, disguised as biography. Sometimes Mr. Stoddard himself chimes in with a piquant quote or two. Talking to the New York Evening Post (March 19, 1931) about bluenose reformers and Prohibition, he says, “If they’re going to go the limit in this agitation, and close up the nice little speakeasy where I can get good food and drink, they can count me out. Also if they’re going to take advantage of the situation to inflict a drastic censorship of plays and all that.”

To the New York Times (March 18, 1931) he says, “New York will not be dictated to in its manners and customs. It wants a certain amount of ‘wine, women and song,’ and, willy-nilly, it’s going to get them.”

Ergo: so far from being the stern, mustachioed spoilsport he appears to be in his publicity headshots, Lothrop Stoddard is really more the kind of guy you’d see hanging out with Mayor Jimmy Walker at the Central Park Casino.

 

 

VENN DIAGRAM #1: Gun-grabbing Leftists and Ukrainian Flags

For your pleasure. Venn Diagram #1.

Male Nurse Eats Same Lentil Soup Lunch for 17 Years

This story, from the Washington Post, concerns one Reid Branson, a male nurse who takes care of AIDS patients at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. He makes himself a complicated lentil-spinach-squash-potato soup and eats it at work every day. Or almost every day.

We are assured the soup is delicious and nutritious and and tastes slightly different each time.

Branson’s routine is to make up eight days’ worth at a time, which he stores in glass jars. He is a vegetarian, age 63.

The recipe requires 18 ingredients and about three major cooking steps, about what one would normally put into a grand four-course meal.

You may wish to try it someday. Here is the recipe.

M. Stanton Evans, the new biography

“Thish iszh M. Shtanton Evansh.”

SPECTRUM! ELEVEN DISTINCT VIEWPOINTS!

Read the book review!

 

40 Years On—Paul Fussell’s Class

A book to laugh at and cherish forever. Here reviewed in depth.

Read the whole thing.

Male Supreemism in America

It’s all here…fresh as harvest day! Read the whole thing!

Outtakes, Male Supremacism

The rating at Amazon (2 stars) has registered but our review, rather different from the long one on this site, does not appear. Here it is with an early outtake, for archival purposes.

 

Amazon review

The thesis here is that there is a “male supremacism” that intersects with and is perhaps a source feed for “white supremacism.” One may toss such cant phrases around as a kind of tribal signal to others of your political stripe, but that does not give them substance. The two things simply do not exist, except as the vaguest of constructs.

The editors and a couple of the writers strain to show that anti-feminist movements and internet sites are a gateway to the nationalist and racialist Right, or as they like to say, “white supremacism.” They have this argument backwards, however. While there was an overlap between the two worlds, this wasn’t because one was feeding the other, but because there was little downside risk in appearing to be feminist-critical or in pronouncing onself “redpilled.” This was in much the same way that people will sometimes mask themselves as libertarians or even neoreactionaries.

Much of the book is spent on stale references to “the manosphere,” “GamerGate,” and the “alt-right”: thus a 2013-2015 mindset predominates. Richard Spencer is mentioned seven times.

We linger at length on the career and works of Phyllis Schlafly and Gavin McInnes, for both of whom the writers have a grudging admiration. There is some unintended humor in the McInnes section, as when we’re told that membership in Proud Boys (which McInnes founded in July 2016) was limited to “cis men.” And the chapter’s author apparently had never heard of the Knights of Columbus; she believes it to be a front for “fundamentalist right-wing think tanks,” which would passing strange indeed for a Catholic laymen’s organization.

Most of the URLs given for endnote and index references are old and broken. Seeing as this was published in recent weeks, we have to assume the editors were just copying links for years ago, and not bothering to test or find an archived source.

 

======

[Both notions are constructs of the far-Left, used to slur any native traditions and social supports that the Left wishes to destroy. Marriage, normal sexual relations, love of family and country and beauty, the aristocratic principle, Christian devotion, respect for your cultural patrimony—these are all sneered at in this book, regarded as old hat, dispensable, the enemy.]

Review: Male Supremacism in the United States

 

Male Supremacism in the United States:
From Patriarchal Traditionalism to Misogynist Incels and the Alt-Right
(Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right)

Emily K. Carian, Alex DiBranco, Chelsea Ebin (Editors)
Abingdon (Oxon) and New York: Routledge, 2022

Despite its beguiling title and subtitle, I am sorry to report that this new book from Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right is a very sloppy doggy’s dinner. A collection of essays and quasi-academic articles from the past decade, Male Supremacism in the United States throws together old scraps and rants in an effort to support its thesis that there is a movement of “male supremacism” that overlaps with, and indeed is a gateway to, “white supremacism.”

I suppose this is meant to mirror the concept of “intersectional feminism,” the belief that upper-middle-class American women need to share ideological grievances with oppressed females of all races and species, particularly Women of Color in the Third World. Anyway, it all sounds like a confused and tendentious thesis to begin with, and so it is. The essays collected here don’t even try to make the case that “male supremacism” or “white supremacism” really exist. I mean, apart from being Leftist swear words against normality and traditional virtues.

Nevertheless there are eye-openers and funny bits mixed in among the sometimes awfully tedious prose. Did you know there was an Institute for Research on Male Supremacism? There is, or at least there is a website that asks for donations. This notional institute is the fountainhead of this book, and its founders are the editors listed above. A year or so ago they described their upcoming, as-yet unnamed volume, with these murky words:

Drawing on a variety of data from many different male supremacist movements (such as “Incels”, “The Red Pill”, the “Men’s Rights Movement” and “Men Going Their Own Way”) the researchers seek to provide a comprehensive resource for future research on male supremacism, while also exploring the ideology’s importance to the Alt-Right’s recent political mobilization.

“The Alt-Right’s recent political mobilization.” I said there were funny bits, and this is a major one. Here are these founders/editors, in 2021 or 2020, imagining that the “Alt-Right” is still a thing—in fact a hot new thing!

And so their newly published book (April 2022) takes us on a long trip down memory lane, back to those thrilling days of 2014 or thereabouts. The days of GamerGate and incels and MGTOW and NEETs! [1] Of Milo Yiannopoulos writing for Breitbart News! Of 4chan and cucks and Pick Up Artists! The manosphere and “game” and Matt Forney! And even Roush V with his old Return of Kings website—here referenced and hyperlinked. (Only trouble is, the link is dead or at least doesn’t take you to the referenced article. This is true of most URLs in the book’s endnotes, bibliography and index.) Here’s Jack Donovan, and there’s Richard Spencer, mentioned seven times. Counter-Currents gets a look-in too, mainly for Greg Johnson’s essays, “The Woman Question in White Nationalism” and “Abortion & White Nationalism.” There’s also James O’Meara, whose Mannerbund theories are cited by Ann Sterzinger in her review of Green Nazis in Space.

The authors’ implied argument is that since these far-flung people and positions often seemed ripe with misogyny and anti-feminism, and some of them also relished frank discussion of racial matters, therefore they provided an easy entry to hardcore “white supremacism.” This is really a stretch, and overlooks a couple of obvious facts. One is that there was little stigma or downside in voicing strong opinions on GamerGate or toxic feminism. These were things one could talk about in barrooms and classrooms, regardless of your age or sex, without being tagged as a fearsome nazi. They were accepted as legitimate topics of discussion (at least in 2014).

A more obvious objection is that many if not most women share these basic attitudes even if they’re not hunkering down with the gameboys. That’s a sore point with the latter-day feminist Left, who like to pretend they ride point on female solidarity, and readily characterize women outside their cult as “bootlickers” or “handmaidens.” The latter expression comes from the current TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale, and suggests high-caste women who support and sympathize with conservative men on social issues. This is equated with being “submissive” because, you know, women have no agency.

Accordingly the book spends a long chapter attempting to take down the most effective opponent of feminism’s toxic wing, the glossy housewife-lobbyist-lawyer Phyllis Schlafly of Alton, Illinois. Schlafly (1924-2016) continues to be a target because she was a much more successful and presentable woman than her Leftist opponents. That irony provided much of the implicit humor in the 2020 miniseries Mrs. America, in which Schlafly was played by the regal Cate Blanchett and her foes were mainly depicted as neurotic, toad-like mutants. As the years go by it also becomes evident that Schlafly’s social and political analysis far surpassed that of her contemporaries. She saw that the long-term goals of feminism were not merely no-fault licentiousness, abortions, and state-run daycare centers, but a usurping of all male privileges while holding tight to their special female privileges as well.

The author of this chapter is grudgingly impressed with Schlafly, though she sees her “submissiveness” to “the patriarchy” as hypocritical, because Schlafly herself was not a meek, stay-at-home housewife. There’s no hypocrisy or irony here. The writer apparently doesn’t know much about upper-middle-class American women. Schlafly was in many ways typical of her peers, with an active life in clubs and volunteer work.

But what really burns the author’s biscuits is Schlafly’s relentless mockery of feminist cant:

Feminism, not patriarchy, was accused of being responsible for women’s misery. Schlafly continued, “If you believe you can never succeed because you are a helpless victim of mean men, you are probably correct.” This type of ridicule and feminist denunciation of men’s domination appeared often in her publications.

The writer is also annoyed by Schlafly’s persistent invocation of Christian ethics and iconography. Schlafly’s Catholicism and veneration of Mary is here spun as somehow exotic for her time and place, which it certainly was not. [2]

The other figure in the book who gets extended biographical treatment is Gavin McInnes, onetime hipster guru, broadcaster, and founder of Vice, though more notorious in recent years for founding the Proud Boys, a club of young men who wore Fred Perry polo shirts, drank beer, and sometimes sought out street affrays. As with the coverage of Phyllis Schlafly, the author here is awestruck by the figure of Gavin because he’s not some squirrelly political activist but rather a famous satirist and provocateur. An attempt is made to frame the uxorious McInnes (wife, three kids) as a misogynist, because a good part of his shtick has been to riff on the obvious differences between men and women. (Examples: Women earn less because “they’re less ambitious” because “that’s God’s way!” “You’re not a man unless you have beaten the shit out of someone.”)

Because McInnes specializes in over-the-top satire, and ritually denounces overt racialism, it’s very hard to portray him as a hatemonger. But the author does try hard, and adds a lot of inadvertent humor to Gavin’s own. She characterizes the Proud Boys as “a far-right group that only allows cisgender men to join,” a formulation worthy of Gavin himself. Funnier still is that she keeps griping about this, yet never looks into whether Proud Boy applicants were actually vetted on this crucial detail. [3]

At one point McInnes became a Catholic, and reportedly joined the Knights of Columbus. The author of this chapter, a young woman in Dublin, is surprisingly ignorant of that institution, and evidently supposes it to be something like the fabled Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. She describes the K of C as a “right-wing Catholic group” that has “ties to fundamentalist right-wing think tanks.” (Aye, the auld Papist-Fundie alliance!) Typically but less fatally, she says McInnes was born in Glasgow, when he was born in Hitchin, Herts., a bit north of London, then raised mostly in Canada.

As though to balance the clowning and hyperbole of Gavin McInnes, the book concludes with an angry screed by a “trans Latina” calling herself Katherine Cross. Cross has nothing to say about the intersectionality of male supreemers and white supreemers (this piece is from a speech way back in 2013), but does let us know she is very angry about many things. Angry because strangers often assume her to be a prostitute, or at least available for sex and mansplaining and oppression. This can’t be blamed on the uterus she doesn’t have, she tells us, inscrutably; rather it’s because of the patriarchy. “No uterus required, just patriarchy,” she says. In fact she says this four times. Among other outrages she shares with us, there’s her claim that the New York City police could legally “raid the handbags of trans women of colour [sic] and then arrest them on charges of prostitution if they’re found to be carrying condoms.” What she’s really referring to is black drag-queen prostitutes who make a loud fuss in neighborhoods outside their usual cruising venues. It’s true the NYPD often concocts outlandish pretexts for making arrests, however this one is hardly a sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance.

Anyway, this comic rant is an odd way to end this jumble-sale of a book. If the book’s thesis seemed tendentious to begin with, the finale suggests that the editors didn’t take the whole thing very seriously either.

*   *   *

Routledge books are usually nicely designed and produced, even if they’re politically slanted and enormously overpriced. Presumably most sales are university library accessions. The paperback is USD $45; the “hardback” is $160. I’ve mentioned the dead-URL problem, which is just sloppiness. It makes no sense to give a highlighted reference source if the thing doesn’t work. And little effort was put into the red-and-white cover design, a kind of reverse-Japanese flag motif. (Or were they really thinking of the Third Reich?)

The title of the book is unfortunate. The use of the prefix style “United States” makes it sound as though it’s a study of a secret male-supreemist network in the Federal government. They should have called it Male Supremacism in America: stately yet whimsical, with the obvious nod to Alexis de Tocqueville.

But Routledge’s loss is our gain. Perhaps we’ll hold that thought and come up with a light comic novel. Male Supreemism in America. Why, the book writes itself!

 

Notes

[1] I really ought to gloss these terms of yesteryear. GamerGate was a protracted online shouting match between male videogamers and a female “media critic” who claimed videogames were male-oriented and misogynistic. Incels were “involuntary celibates,” generally angry young men who live online and can’t get a girlfriend. MGTOW, Men Going Their Own Way, were an online community of men seeking to live without women, because feminism had made modern women degenerate. A NEET is generally a young man who’s not in school or employment. (Not in Education, Employment or Training.) In 2014 he was the stock caricature who lived in his mom’s basement and consumed Hot Pockets.

[2] There’s a very poor grasp of American religious history throughout the book. The authors believe there was historically a “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) nativism” which still “fuels conservative Christian ideology on appropriate gender roles.” But WASP is a 20th century term describing upper-class old-stock Eastern elites, not non-Catholic white Christians in general, and certainly not the Bible-thumping fundies and evangelicals the authors have in mind. Anyway American “nativism,” as exemplified in the Native American and “Know Nothing” parties of the 1840s-1850s, was not founded by sectarian-driven Protestants. It was spearheaded mainly by a Jew, the sometime congressman Lewis Levin.

[3] Fortuitously I was at a dinner with Gavin McInnes the night before his inaugural Proud Boys meeting in July 2016. He was announcing his new club, and I asked what the criteria were for membership. “Members have to have, or once have had, a foreskin.” This neatly answered a multitude of questions; the Jews at the table purred their approval.

 

P. J. O’Rourke Dies of a Tuesday

It’s just the way he would have wanted it.

P. J. dies of a Tuesday, and it’s just so obvious, no one sees the joke.

P. J. O’Rourke reportedly died earlier today, aged about 74. He was best known for being a master of canned snark, specializing in making fun of people’s clothes and celebrating the anarchic drug culture he reveled in during the 1960s and 70s.

He is perhaps best remembered for his 20,000 word travelogues published in Rolling Stone, but before that he had a long career of achievements. Among other things, he totally destroyed the National Lampoon in the course of five or six years in the 1970s.

“It was humor for brainiacs when O’Rourke first came aboard,” recalled Aloysius J. McQuade, Executive Humor Editor for the NatLamp, 1972-75.

“After two years of him as managing editor, its readership consisted mainly of retarded 16-year-olds, and we were losing money hand over fist.

“I hoped P. J. would do the same to Rolling Stone when he moved over there, but I guess their readership was already pretty dumb to begin with.”

The Snagglepuss Movie

Below, notes for a shaggy-dog story that’s been kicking around for 9 or 10 years. Basic point is that this talented guy who knows Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera proposes a feature film with one of their characters, and they give him Snagglepuss, because that’s definitely a second-tier figure. So the guy writes a script and works on storyboards but the animated feature just never gets made. Bill and Joe feel bad about it so they give the guy rights to Snagglepuss until 1970, thinking maybe he can use the figure in TV commercials. But the ad agencies aren’t interested, they think Snagglepuss is too much like the Pink Panther, so clients and audiences will wonder why someone would use an imitation Pink Panther instead of the real deal.

Finally our hero has to go to work doing marketing for a fast-food franchisor, and he comes up with the idea of a Snagglepuss Chili Dog chain. He’s got a special way of cutting hot dogs so that when you grill them (or sauté them—he’s the kind of guy who in 1966 was saying sauté) they curl up into a wreath so you can serve them on hamburger buns, and put chili or other fillings in the doughnut-hole! Well he and some investors do set up a few low-budget Snagglepuss locations in Florida, and they do okay. Home of the Round Chili Dog! Only ten cents! Except they have to raise the price to 15c and then 20c. And he makes a couple of animated commercials for this local market. But then one of the franchising groups for Bob’s Big Boy buys out the big investors and replace the revolving Snagglepuss statue with the Big Boy.

And now, the notes from the boneyard:

Adventures of Snagglepuss

Cousin Dave was hands-down the most talented of my relatives. He was also one of the wealthiest, at least when he was young. Taxes and bad investments ate up a lot of his inheritance, and then he blew most of the remainder on an ill-starred animation venture.

This would have been in the early 60s. Dave knew Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, then riding high on the success of The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, et al., and proposed making a feature-length theatrical cartoon starring Snagglepuss.

If you don’t know Snagglepuss, he was a fey pink puma who talked something like Bert Lahr. I think he appeared in a back-segment of Quick-Draw McGraw, the same way Yogi Bear started out as a supporting player on Huckleberry Hound. But Snagglepuss did not have the popularity and break-out potential of Yogi Bear. I’m sure this is why Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera gave Cousin Dave the go-ahead.

I don’t think Dave really knew the character well. He knew about making animated cartoons (mostly for commercials) but didn’t actually watch TV. So he didn’t know how bad a character Snagglepuss was—tiresome enough for seven-minutes, unimaginable for seventy-seven. All Dave knew was that Hanna and Barbera knew their business, and a Hanna-Barbera character was money in the bank.

The Snagglepuss feature was supposed to be a joint venture between Dave’s shop (then consisting of a half-dozen part-timers and freelancers) and Hanna-Barbera. Dave would do the initial writing and storyboarding, and manage the publicity. Hanna-Barbera would provide most of the technical knowledge and gruntwork. That was Dave’s clear understanding, anyway. Apparently it was never agreed to on paper.

After six or eight months Dave brought Joe and Bill the completed storyboards. Six or eight months after that, Dave discovered that Hanna-Barbera hadn’t assigned anyone to the Snagglepuss movie, and the storyboards were just collecting dust. Joe and Bill were apologetic, but said there was just too much work and too few hands. They suggested sending Snagglepuss off to a low-cost animation shop in Mexico. Dave did not like that idea at all, but he was stuck. He decided to try the Mexicans, and when they inevitably screwed up, he would show the pathetic results to Joe and Bill, and Joe and Bill would put their top studio animators on the job.

The Mexicans were even worse than Dave imagined. They took the money (about $1500, I believe) and produced nothing. Dave ran up thousands of dollars’ worth of phone calls to Guadelajara, demanding of the one person there who could speak English why the work hadn’t been done, or hadn’t been sent, or whatever.

Finally the Mexican shop moved or went out of business. Dave complained to Joe and Bill.

“That’s really awful,” said Joe Barbera. “They came highly recommended.”

By now Dave had almost as little interest in the Snagglepuss movie as Joe and Bill, but he had invested a great deal of his own time and money and wanted something to show for it. Joe and Bill were sympathetic, and suggested letting Dave have the rights to the Snagglepuss character for the next few years–say, till 1968. Dave could use him to advertise breakfast cereal, doughnuts, children’s vitamins, whatever. Dave wasn’t overjoyed at this payoff, but he took it, figuring that he would resell the rights quickly and get Snagglepuss out of his life. He leased the character to a chain of southern fast-food drive-ins specializing in chili dogs. For a year or two, travelers from Florida to the Carolinas grew used to seeing a 20-foot pink cat advertising ten-cent chili dogs. Then the chili-dog chain was acquired by one of the Bob’s Big Boy groups, and the Snagglepuss signs were no more. The Big Boy consortium said they weren’t obligated to pay the remainder of the lease.

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