Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Overlook Lounge

The Overlook Lounge, 225 E. 44th St., NYC
(I "borrowed" this photo from my friend Mike Lynch's
blog because it's much better than the one I took.
Retroactive thanks, Mike!)

The Manhattan establishment now called the Overlook Lounge has been a bar or tavern for more than 50 years. In 1976, members of the National Cartoonists Society had their annual meeting in New York, met there for dinner and drinks and, reportedly, paid their tab by drawing on the wall. Their art has survived several changes in ownership and the tradition has been revived, spearheaded by cartoonist Mike Lynch. Though much of the new work was done in a single day in November 2005, Mike has continued wrangling cartoonists to fill in empty spots one at a time. When there's not a spot of white left--soon, I think--the entire surface will be sealed. Last week was my turn.

Mike arriving for our lunch date

Here are some photos of the original mural (shown in order from left to right as looking at the wall), with drawings by Mort Walker, Milton Caniff, Gil Kane, Sergio Aragones, Dik Browne, Jerry Robinson, and a couple dozen more.

Here are some photos of the new drawings. Unlike the original wall, which is one long piece, the new cartoons are on three walls that wrap around a banquette table in a niche, just opposite the originals. These pictures also go left to right:

Only Mike Lynch himself could name all the cartooning talent contained on these walls. The newer drawings include work by Dan Piraro, Jules Feiffer, Rick Stromoski, Guy Gilchrist, Ted Slampyak, Don Orehek, Mell Lazarus, Anne Gibbons, Stephanie Piro, Frank Springer, many more.

I enjoyed noticing that both the old and new walls have a Hagar the Horrible--the original drawn by Hagar creator Dik Browne, the new one by Dik's son Chris, who took over drawing the strip when his dad died. At least two cartoonists, Mort Walker and Irwin Hasen, drew on both the old and new walls (there were probably others, but it's a lot to take in).

After fortifying ourselves with beefy Overlook bacon-cheeseburgers and a pint of fine local draught, it was my turn to step up to the wall. I don't mind confessing I was intimidated. I chose my spot--the blank patch in the upper right corner of the last picture above--pulled out a conte crayon and Sharpie, stepped up onto the cushioned seat, and went to work.

I used the conte crayon to faintly sketch out the oval head shapes and features, then pretty much went straight to work with the marker. Sharpie is not an ideal medium and a vertical wall eight feet above the floor is not an ideal surface. I was also a little unnerved by the idea that every jot I laid down could stay there for another 50 years. If I'd had an "erase" function, it would've been better. But I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not incredibly embarrassed by the result:

I like the idea that I made a little piece of history and contributed something that maybe a scholar of the cartooning arts will work to puzzle out someday ("Who the heck was this guy?"), and I wouldn't have done it if Mike hadn't insisted. Thanks, Mr. Lynch.


R said...

It's a nice picture...! Tough to do in Sharpie. :)

Mike Lynch said...

Thanks for the kind words, Brian. Great to have your work adorn the wall!

ronnie said...


Wouldn't "Mom" have been pleased??