tv American Artifacts Off the Record Bar Political Cartoons CSPAN July 4, 2018 6:05pm-6:31pm EDT
>> at c-span.org view our schedule and watch college lectures and archival films and more. american history tv at c-span.org/history. each week, american artifacts takes viewers into museums and historic sites around the country. the hay-adams hotel is just across lay fayette square from the white house. it's bar, off the record, it's decorated with a collection of political cartoons at the bar, and even the coasters are updated with current caricatures. we spoke with the vice president and general manager hans bruland.
and cartoonist matt wuerker about what is on display. >> the hotel was built in 1928 on the site of the residence of john and henry adams and after the family relinquished their rights to the site in 1926, the then developer built this hotel along with the calder hotel which today is the st. regis. the hotel has been in existence since 1928. with my arrival in 1999, this bar was known as "off the record", a place to be seen but not heard. and it was not in this color and format and layout. but it was pretty well the same bar and the basement of the
hotel. and it was like a speakeasy and very popular over the year. the cartoons are displayed from various artists dating back to a collection of art work who at this stage is deceased. we do keep the original art work still in house. from what i know is that the previous ownership and the 80s and 90s decided to bring in some art work after having a few beers, i guess. over the bar. and in the bar. and that is how it established. but we have built up on this because we have pulitzer prize winning authors in order to continue the tradition of rotating political ad through the bar. >> my understanding is this goes back to about 2000, they redid
the bar here at the hotel and went with this classic washington cigar den, and back then you could smoke in bars in washington. so they redid wit the wing backed chairs and the dark burgundy walls, and somebody had the brainstorm they wanted to do cartoons for art. the original genesis was on the walls with some artwork. we made an arrangement with the hotel to loan them a bunch of classic caricatures of the 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 '60s, '70s, and '80s. and then there was a big gap.
the thing that happened in the bar, people would come in and the newer clients didn't recognize the people from the nixon and reagan administrations. so they wanted people from the clinton and obama administrations. so that's when richard thompson who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago was brought in. and richard was just an astounding caricature. he was the top -- caricaturists at the time. so e came in with some drawist and i got some of those. he came in with portfolio drawings and they wanted more and they said check with matt at politico and i got to fill in some of the more recent political figures. i straddle both worlds. i work as a caricaturist and political cartoonist. and there is a difference. they use word bubbles and when i wear my political cartoonist hat
i'm a political commentator just like somebody writing a column in the op ed pages except i draw my opinion and i deally express it and the poor columnists have to rely on just using their words. the old saw about a picture is worth a thousand words is actually quite true. somebody who writes an 800 word essay about tax policy 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 you glance at a cartoon, and humans have a visual acuity, we recognize things really fast. we recognize a face, a setting, a metaphor and a pun and you could process a cartoon quickly. and so we have a certain advantage, i think. there's some people who think political cartooning is sort of an archaic form of political
expression, and i feel just the opposite. i think that political cartoons are the perfect vehicle for our short attention span, twitter, social media culture. and i'm sticking to that. so the power of positive thinking. caricatures are a little different. caricatures don't have the advantage of using word bubbles and captions. you are basically just trying to capture a character. a good caricature can load that up with other stuff. a good care acaturist could load that up with other stuff and insert political opinion or detail or wry commentary in the setting or the clothing of the caricature. i learned this just recently as working as a caricaturist for 40
years and it comes from the italian word caricare, which means to load, as in a boat or a cart or a gun. and so a caricature is -- it is not a portrait. you are not trying to catch the physical attributes, you are loading that portrait with a certain edgy humor hopefully and a little commentary and if do you it right, you capture more than just the physical attributes of somebody. i was very lucky in that as a young man i grew up in los angeles and i -- when i was in high school and first interested in cartooning, i got to meet paul conrad one of the giants of the field, three time pulitzer prize winner for the l.a. times. most proudly -- he was most proud of the fact that he was the only cartoonist that made nixon's enemy list. so conrad opened the door to me
this is a viable career path, if you think about it. he was very encouraging and inspiring and then then you start out in my teens and 20s, i would look around and i love the work of pat oliphant from the washington post and david levine who is probably -- i don't know, what's the right word? he was pivotal in the world of caricature. you see it in my works somewhat. some of these other works, like these wonderful -- he signs down low, but his name was ed daltman. very similar to lavigne. lavigne was a master of the big fluid cross hatch, the big bubblehead in the little body and the west with some other little detail. so laveen was an early
cartoonist. bar is a wonderful collection of cartoons that spans a lot of decades. in fact a century. and it goes back to another one of the great granddaddies of political cartooning, keppler, who drew for -- i think it was a publisher, one of the joints -- joint owners of puck magazine. keppler would do beautiful color lithographs two-page spreads for the magazine and if you remember your american history books, the standard oil cartoon of the oil tank with the tentacles or the octopus representing rockefeller reaching out. and to call it a cartoon is almost putting it down because it was a real work of ar-- of a and it was a oil painting done as a lithograph. there is a couple of kepplers here from the magazine and those
are the oldest ones in the bar. and then these ed valtman and ron covington in this corner, i think would be sort of the next ones. the vaultman cartoons are almost all from the reagan era and that is when richard and i were brought in, when people were failing to recognize gene kirkpatrick and things like that. i've had the bartenders come in to have a drink and the new help will come in and say we'll go around and help us -- because they are constantly being asked who are these people. and you go, well that is bob dole. do you remember bob dole? they shrug. i don't remember bob dole. so this wall is sort of a mix -- a mish-mash of different cartoonist work. this is richard thompson. that is me. another richard thompson. that is me. thuz are a column of color
valtmans in comparison to the pure cross hatch around the fireplace. these are water color images. these were done in the 1970s. richard thompson's style is just -- i mean, as a cartoonist, i look at this and it's such a beautiful combination of loose lines. he was influenced a lot by some of the great english cartoonists, and then he took it to his own sort of place. a spire to this kind of aloofness but i'm still at age 60 something and working on it. this is one i did for politico. this is a caricature of bernie sanders. i do a cross hatch and then add water color. and richard's approach was a classic sort of dip pen. he works in a style that would have fit in perfectly in the
19th century in some ways but very modern. this is another richard thompson. you can see the difference. i rely on a lot of black and white lines that harken back to the wood engravings. i guess i'm trying to get that. richard's style here, you'll see that the rendering is done with water color. and he lets the paint render the shapes. here's a paul ryan that i did for politico. a dick cheney, a karl rove. those are both richard's up there. it's interesting, this wall gets a lot of attention when i come into the bar. and i'm sitting around, you usually see people leaving the bar, and this wall gets a lot of attention. here's a shameless self-promotion i did for politico in the beginning. one of our reporters did a piece about odd couples in washington. people you wouldn't expect to
find getting a drink at a bar. so of course, this is when i started doing stuff with the hay-adams. this is rahm emanuel and mitch mcconnell and i situated them in this bar for this -- this was a little covered illustration for politico when rahm was chief of staff at the white house for obama. i was far too nice for mitch mcconnell in this one, but sometimes that happens. and here's a biden. a couple more of richard thompson, laura bush. again, just this lovely, sophisticated -- it looks simple, but the sophistication and the color scheme and the painting still is annoying and wonderful. up in the corner, that's our trump that kevin draws for "the economist" did recently with a
twitter bird on his shoulder. a fabulous piece of color art. in the bar is probably 75% just straight caricatures. there are a number of real political cartoons here, as well. and this particular corner has got one by me and one by kevin callaher, something he did for the economist and this is something i did for politico and you could immediately tell the difference in that we have word bubbles and captions and there is more information and opinion being conveyed in these which is really what we're about. kevin's is a lovely example of a good political cartoon, sort of built around a clever visual metaphor that again is conveyed really quickly. so 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 around
3,487,000 and then you see the old refs from the boxing ring, bush, clinton, bush again, reagan, all beat up. and it said -- it is a lovely example of how you could take a very complicated political issue and ideally if you are doing a good political cartoon, you could distill it down to a nice visual nugget that conveys the complexity but quickly and hopefully with a little bit of bite. this is a cartoon i did that naturally they liked here at the hay-adams because it is about the head of the u.s. chamber of commerce which happens to be next door. and all of the money that they were spending on the campaign -- i believe, i shouldn't date my cartoons but i believe this is from 2008. and resistance is futile and their blasting the democrats
with piles and piles of cash. and understand he actually like this is 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 would -- you would have found in puck magazine which was a cartoon -- a political cartoon magazine. these were done by keppler. they are color lithographs. i wish i knew the exact details of the politics at the time. but here you have a classic political cartoon and the big interests being held down on the speaker and it says -- the caption down here is very small, the leader of the minority, he can't get the speaker's eye. it is under the thumb of the big interests. and this of course is uncle sam. uncle sam being a creation of political cartoonist and i believe most people credit
thomas nast with creating the uncle sam that the rest of us recognize and cartoonists utilize all of the time. but this is -- this is the lithograph lithographic print and the nice thing about puck and the wonderful golden age of editorial cartooning, they gave cartoons losts of space. cartoons these days get shrunk down to that when we're in print. but back to my sort of optimistic wrap on editorial cartooning, this is perhaps the best color printing especially at time to display a political cartoon. but in 2018 cartoonists are working in a digital realm and the biggest audience for our cartoons are now on smartphones and ipads and retina display is letting us do all sorts of elegant water color and other kind of nuance that begins to
rival the kind of cartooning you could do on a big scale like keppler got to do. so in some ways we're getting back to this kind of cartooning. these two cartoons are been ann tillness who draws for washington post on the political side and does political cartoons that are often animated gifes. she won the pulitzer prize back in 2000 for the static political cartoons and has moved on to animation. and these -- i think these were studies that she did for an animation that she creates around the inauguration of obama. and ann has a different style. she's not a cross hatcher. she actually went to cal arts and is a trained an imator and you could see it in her very strong line style that really stands out. she now works also in water color as well. the hay-adams has a special place in washington and this
particular in particular. the first time i came in the bar was 17 years ago and a friend of mine came and brought me down here and you could still smoke in bars in washington. and this was a smoking bar. this was a cigar bar and we came in on a cold winter night and i had just moved to washington from the west coast and was fascinated by the culture of the city and you walked in here and there was this inversion layer of cigar smoke and all of these people all dressed up in suits or whatever sitting around having conversations in wing back chairs. it is right out of the cartoon. it is like, this is the den of inequity that you imagine being in the basement around the white house or something. and within that, this is the cave. there is this one booth in the back they could close off and it -- there is really no place like it in washington.
then a few years ago besides providing cartoons to decorate the walls, hans had the idea of doing coasters and so they commissioned original art for these and cal and ann and myself every six months or so will design little caricature cartoons of people in the news. they are used for coasters and handed out to people here. it is an interesting exercise in american politics because certain caricatures will be evergreen. she's not going anywhere. but some of the other characters that we draw, you're not sure if they are in the news. sean spicer was an obvious one when trump came to down. and we didn't do a coaster for spicer because he came and went.
likewise scaramucci an the like. and these are fun and we situationu ate the politicos in the bar doing various things and add if you can little details like this is cal's caricature and looks like donald trump. and this is my hillary one. hillary leaving the hotel and bill carrying all of the baggage -- the luggage. baggage. any way. you get the joke. these are more cartoons from the art wood collection. these were done byron covington back in the -- mostly in the '80s i think. and covington has a distinctive style. he's a little bit related to the david levine school of caricature but he took it his own direction and there is very light cross hatching here with a lot of gray scale and they are beautifully done. there is -- caricature is a
strange thing. when you try to caricature something, you exaggerate fe-- features and then some are good at going at the edge of taking it away as something that you would recognize as that individual. covington's stuff is like this. this boris yeltsin is exaggerating and pushing to the forums. here is a bird. senator bird from west virginia. jerry brown. it is always fascinating when you also work with people -- shiems i'll talk to art students and do workshops with caricature and it is amazing how you don't always have to be so rendered in detail. presidential caricature in particular but it is true of probably all political figures can become a simple iconic thing. george bush or barack obama, coy draw six lines and people would
go, well that is george bush or there is barack obama and you just -- once you've done the outline of the face and the ears with obama, even before you completed it, people could tell what you are drawing. so it is a mystical thing. it is -- our facial recognition software in our brains is very acute and it is one of the things that caricatures could use to their advantages. it takes a little effort to be nonpartisan when you are doing things for the coasters. my instinct and what i'm paid for at politico is to have a political opinion and express it strongly and same with ann and cal and we have to dial that back. which i also understand is -- it is not just that we don't want to unnecessarily rile people when they come in for a drink at the bar or something like that, but one of the nice things about the bar and about frankly i've learned about the culture of
washington is there is this lovely word that members of congress use called comedy, where you get along. you figure out a way to get along with people. you may disagree with them politically, but you could sit down and have a drink with them. and that is sort of the spirit of the bar and sort of the spirit that i think we all bring to the coasters. so we'll suspend our political opinions. we'll save that for our political cartoons and in this case we'll just have maybe some lighthearted fun with the caricatures and the coasters. you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's
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