tv American Artifacts Off the Record Bar Political Cartoons CSPAN April 14, 2018 1:30pm-1:56pm EDT
our party. under the circumstances that he subscribed to our philosophy. georgeld reagan and wallace on "face the nation" in 1968 on reel america. american artifacts takes viewers into historic sites around the country. the historic hay-adams hotel is just across lafayette square from the white house. its bar, off the record, is decorated with a correction of dust collection -- a collection of political cartoons and is featured in the journal of the white house association. even the coasters are updated with current political characters. we spoke with vice president and general manager and a politico cartoonist about the artwork on display. >> the hotel was built in 1928 on the site of the residence of s of john hay and henry adams.
after the family relinquished their rights to the site in 1926, the wardman who was the developer built this hotel and along with another hotel which is now the saint regis. the hotel has been in existence since 1928. this bar has been in existence somewhere starting in the 1960's or 1970's. with my arrival in 1999, this bar was already known as off the record, a place to be seen but not heard. it was not in this color and format and layout. it was pretty much the same bar. it was kind of like the speakeasy. a place that has become very popular over the years. the decorations are political cartoons that are displayed from various artists. dating back to a collection of
from someone who is now deceased. we do keep some of the original artworks in the house. from what i know is that the previous ownership in the 1980's and the 1990's decided to bring in some artwork after having a few beers over at the bar and in the bar. that is how it really established. we have built on this because we are using local artists and pulitzer prize-winning artists in order to continue the tradition of rotating political art. >> my understanding is this goes back to about 2000. they redid the bar here at the hotel and they went with this classic washington cigar den. back then, you could smoke in bars in washington.
they redid it with the wing bench chairs and the dark burgundy walls. somebody had the brainstorm that they wanted to have the cartoons for art. the original collection was on the walls from an artist who collected cartoons and donated his 30,000 cartoon collection to the library of congress. he made an arrangement with the hotel to loan them a bunch of classic caricatures from this collection. since then, i got involved in 2008 thanks to my buddy, richard thompson, when they wanted to update the caricatures to stuff that was more current. the collection mostly went back to the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's. and then there was a big gap. people were coming to the bar and the newer clients did not recognize the people from the nixon and reagan administration. they wanted people from the clinton and obama administration. that is when richard thompson,
who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago, was brought in. richard was just an astounding caricaturist. he was the top caricaturist at the time. he did a lot of stuff for new report" and world "the new yorker." richard came in with a portfolio. i came in with a pile and i got to fill in the most recent political figures. i work as a caricaturist and a political cartoonist. there is a difference. political cartoonists use word bubbles. when i'm wearing my political cartoonist hat, i'm really a political commentator, just like somebody who is writing a column in the op-ed pages. except i have the advantage of drawing my opinion. i ideally express it with a certain amount of humor and
the poor columnists have to rely on just using their words. the old thought about pictures being worth a thousand words is actually quite true. somebody who writes an 800 word essay about tax policies or something has to rely on a reader who is willing to invest five minutes to read those 800 words. but the magic of the political cartoon is that you glance at a cartoon. humans have a visual acuity. we pick up stuff fast. we recognize a face, a setting, a metaphor, a pun and you can pick up a cartoon quickly. we have a certain advantage. there are some people that think political cartooning is going a way. that it is a sort of archaic form of political expression. i feel it's just the opposite. i think political cartoons are the perfect vehicle for our
current culture. caricaturists are a little bit different. they do not have the advantage of using word bubbles and captions. it is purely a visual thing. you're not expressing a complicated political opinion. you are just trying to capture a character. a good caricaturist can load that up with other stuff. and insert a political opinion , or maybe there is detail or there is some commentary in the settings or the clothings of the caricature. i learned this just recently after working as a caricaturist. the word caricature comes from the italian word for to load, as in a boat, a cart or a gun. a caricature, it is not a
portrait, you are not just trying to capture the physical attributes. you are loading that portrait with a certain edgy humor and hopefully and a little commentary. if you do it right, you capture more than just the attributes of somebody. i was very lucky in that as a young man i grew up in los angeles. when i was in high school and first interested in cartooning, i got to meet paul conrad, who was one of the giants of the field. three-time pulitzer prize winner for "the l.a. times." he was most proud of the fact that he was the only cartoonist that made nixon's enemies list. conrad opened the door to me that this is a viable career path, which is sort of an unclear path. he was very encouraging and inspiring. i started out in my teens and
20's, i would look around. i love the work of pat at the "washington post." david levine, who is probably, i don't know what is the right word. he was pivotal in very influential in the world of caricature. in fact, you still see it in my work somewhat. some of these other works like these wonderful -- he signed ed lowe, but his name was ed vaultman. very similar to levine. levine was the master of the solid crosshatch. he did the big bubblehead in the little body and then the twist with a little detail that was put in there. levine look like a lot of other cartoons. that is when i fell in love with it. the bar is a wonderful collection of cartoons. it spans a lot of decades. in fact, a century. it goes back to another one of
ies ofeat granddaddy's o political cartooning, kepler, who drew for -- i think it was a publisher. this was back in the golden age of political cartooning. kepler would do these beautiful lithographs that would be two page spreads. if you remember your american history books, there is a wonderful standard oil cartoons of the oil tank with the tentacles of the octopus representing rockefeller reaching out. to call it a cartoon is almost putting it down. it was a real work of art. it was like an oil painting. actually done as a color lithograph. there are a couple of kepler's here from puff magazine. those are probably the oldest ones at the bar. then, these from ed and ron covington would be the next ones. the vaultman cartoons are almost all from the reagan area.
people were failing to recognize people like that. i have bartenders that come in, or the new help will come in and go, "can you help us?" we will go around and help. they are constantly being asked who are these people. they say that's bob dole. you don't remember bob dole? they shrug and say i don't know bob dole. this wall is a mismatch of different cartoons. this is richard thompson. that is me. these are colors that are interesting in comparison to the ones that are around the fireplace. these are watercolor images. these were done in the 1970's. richard thompson's style is, as
a cartoonist, i look at this and it has just a beautiful combination of loose line. he was influenced by cartoonists the great english cartoonists , but then he took it to his own place. i aspired to this. but i'm still working at it. this is one i did of the for politico of bernie sanders. you can see the difference. i add watercolor. richard's approach was a classic sort of dip pen. he works in a style that what is would have fit in perfectly in the 19th century. but is still very, very modern. this is another richard thompson. you can sort of see the difference. little lines, little black and white lines that go back to the wood engraving of the thomas era.
richard's style here, you will see that the rendering is done with watercolor. he lets the paint render the shapes. here is a paul ryan that i did. there is a dick cheney and a carl rove. those are both richard's up there. this wall gets a lot of attention when i come in to the bar and i am sitting around. usually, people stop. they are leaving, they will stop. it gets a lot of attention. here is a shameless self-promotion thing that i did for politico back in the beginning. one of our reporters did a piece about odd couples in washington. people you would not expect to find getting a drink at a bar. this is when i started doing stuff with hay-adams. this is rahm emanuel and mitch mcconnell. i situated them in this bar for
this one. this was a cover illustration for politico when ron was chief of staff of the white house for obama. i was far too nice to mitch mcconnell in this one, but sometimes that happens. here is the biden, also one of mine. it couple more richard thompson's, laura bush. just lovely and sophisticated. it looks so simple, but the sophistication and the color scheme and the painting of richard's stuff is annoying and wonderful. up in the corner, that is our trump that kevin draws for the economist did just recently with a twitter bird on his shoulder. a fabulous piece of color art. probably 75% of the walls are straight caricatures. there are a number of real political cartoons here as well.
this particular corner has got one by me and one by kevin. this is something he did for the economist and this is one i did for politico. you can immediately tell the difference. we have word bubbles and captions. there is a lot more information and opinion being conveyed, which is really what we are all about. kevin's is a lovely example of a good political cartoon built around a clever visual metaphor. in this case, it is the boxing ring and it is israel and palestine going at it and obama is the new ref and it is round 3,487,000. you see the old refs, bush, reagan, allh again,
beat up. it is an example of how he could take a very complicated political issue and if you're doing a good political cartoon you can still it down to a nice visual nugget that conveys the complexities quickly. hopefully with a little bit of bite. this is a cartoon i did. naturally, they liked it here because it is about the head of the chamber of commerce, which is right next door. all the money they were spending on the campaign, i should not date my cartoons, but i believe this is from 2008. resistance is futile and they are blasting the democrats with piles of cash. i understand he likes this cartoon, which fills me with mixed emotions. these two are the oldest ones in the bar and really represent kind of the golden age of american political cartooning.
which you would have found in puff magazine. it was a political cartoon magazine. these were done by kepler. they are colored lithographs. i wish i knew the details of the politics at the time. here, you have a classic political cartoon trope. thumb of big interest being held down on the speaker and it says, the caption down here is very small. the leader of the minority cannot get the speaker's eye because it is under the thumb of the big interest. this of course is uncle sam. uncle sam being a creation of political cartoonists. i believe most people credit thomas nash with really creating the uncle sam that the rest of us recognize and cartoonists utilize all the time. this is the actual lithographic print.
the nice thing about the wonderful golden age of editorial cartooning is it gives cartoonists lots of space. we get shrunk down more like that when we are in print. back to my optimistic graph on editorial cartooning, this is perhaps some of the best color printing, especially at the time, to display a political cartoon. in 2018, cartoonists are working in a digital realm. the biggest audience are now on smartphones, ipads and displays that let us do all sorts of watercolors and new uance that begins the rival
o rival the kind of cartooning you could do on the scale that kevlar got to do. in some ways, we are getting back to this kind of cartooning. these two cartoons or by ann, are by ann, who draws for the "washington post" on the digital side and political cartoons that are often animated gifs. she won a pulitzer prize back in 2000 for her political cartoons. she has moved on to animation. i think these were studies that ann did around the inauguration of obama. she has a different style. she actually went to cal arts and is a trained animator. you can see it in her very strong line style. it really stands out. she now works in watercolor as well. the hay-adams has a special place in washington. the first time i came in the bar was probably 17 years ago. a friend of mine brought me down here and you could still smoke in bars in washington. this was a smoking bar. this was a cigar bar.
we came in on a cold winter night. i had just loved to washington -- moved to washington from the west coast and was fascinated by the culture of the city. you walked in here and there was this inversion layer of cigar smoke and all of the people just dressed up in suits were sitting around having conversations. it was right out of a cartoon. this is the den of iniquity that you imagine being in the basement right around the white house. within that, this is the cave, there is one booth in the back they can close off. there is really no place like it in washington. a few years ago, besides providing cartoons to decorate the walls, he had the idea of doing coasters. so, they commissioned original art for these and ann and myself
every six months or so will design little caricature cartoons of people who are in used for coasters and they hand them out to people. it is an interesting exercise in american politics because certain caricatures -- like this, this is hillary clinton. you know she is not going anywhere. some of the other characters that we'd draw, you are not sure if they will be in the news. for instance, sean spicer was an obvious one. unfortunately, we did not do it on a coaster because he came and went. likewise, scaramucci and the like. these are always fun assignments and we situate the politicos in the bar doing various things. we usually add little details. like this is cal's caricature.
pence is drinking with a beer stein that looks remarkably like donald trump. little touches like this. this is my hillary one leaving the hotel and she is caring the carrying the luggage. luggage, baggage. you get the joke. these are more cartoons from the art collection done by ron covington back in the 1980's. covington has a distinct style. he is a little bit related to the david levine caricature but he took it is on direction. there is very light crosshatching here with a lot of grayscale. they are beautifully done. caricature is a very strange thing. when you're trying to caricature somebody, you exaggerate features and then there are limits to the exaggerations. some caricatures go to the very edge without taking it away from
something you would identifies that individual. -- identify as that individual. this is a wonderful, extremely exaggerated, pushing of the forms. it is just wonderful. here is senator byrd in west virginia. jerry brown. it is always fascinating when you also work with people. sometimes, i talk to art students and do workshops on caricature. it is amazing how you don't always have to be so rendered in detail. it is true of probably all political figures. it can become a simple iconic thing. george bush and barack obama, i could draw six lines and people would go, well, that's george bush or there is barack obama. once you outline the face, even before you complete it, people can tell what you are drawing. it is a mystical thing. our facial recognition software
in our brains is very acute. it is one of the things that caricaturists can use to their advantage. it takes a little effort to be nonpartisan when you are doing things for the coasters and stuff. my instinct and what i am paid is to give myo opinion and express it strongly. same with ann and cal. we get to dial it back. i understand it is not just that we don't want to unnecessarily rile people and they come in for a drink at the bar. one of the nice things about the bar -- frankly, i have learned about the culture of washington, there is this word called comedy where you figure out how to get along with people and you could sit down and have a drink with them. that is the spirit of the bar
and the spirit we all bring to the coasters. we will suspend our political opinions. we will save that for our political cartoons. in this case, we will have some lighthearted fun with the caricatures on the coasters. c-span atekend on 5:30 p.m. eastern today, road to the white house 2020 with jason kander. sunday at 6:30 p.m. eastern, montana democratic governor steve bullock. on book tv on c-span2, today at 7:30 p.m. eastern, a feature on black press in baltimore.
and the blue cheap book award -- ucci book award. prominent figures in american on, including elena kagan, the late thurgood marshall. reel america, ronald reagan and george wallace. watch this weekend on the c-span networks. year, c-span is touring cities across the country, exploring american history. next, a look at our recent visits to norman, oklahoma. you are watching american history tv on c-span3. afters house was named william