Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category

Hugh Hefner 1926-2017

Friday, September 29th, 2017

I worked briefly for Playboy in 1972 (on Little Annie Fanny with Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder) and occasionally visited the Playboy Mansion with Harvey in the ensuing years. I met Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.

The supposedly sexist Hef (he insisted everyone call him “Hef”) primarily staffed his magazine with bright women, giving them opportunities and responsibilities in the publishing business that were very difficult for women to achieve back then. I saw Hef donate generously, often and early to feminist charities. Hef may have been sexist. If so, he was the most complex sexist I ever met.

Despite what his critics have said, Hefner never denied that females can be sexual their entire lives. One (but just one) of the the key focuses of Playboy in regards to women was on beauty, an ephemeral quality that greatly adds to its very preciousness. I personally find women beautiful at all ages (my beautiful wife is 70) but there is no denying the special attractive qualities of youth, both female and male. They have been celebrated by artists almost since the creation of art began. The cosmetics industry thrives on this quest for youthful beauty.

I was never fond of Hef (I only met him once) but I admired aspects of him from a distance. I had strong issues with the way he manipulated Harvey. I was fascinated, though, by what he had achieved and how he had achieved it and, especially, I admired his honesty and frankness in regards to himself. In service of the truth, he often publicly painted (or allowed to be painted) a seriously honest, unflattering picture of himself (see the Hefner chapter in Gay Talese’s book Thy Neighbor’s Wife; he comes across as pretty pathetic).

Kurtzman told me he loved to bring my wife and I to the Playboy Mansion because he found it boring on his own. What was the Playboy Mansion like? To me, the Mansion was kind of theme parky. I found it fun to swim naked with Harvey and my wife in the infamous Grotto. I was very surprised by the quality of the paintings hanging on the Mansion’s walls. I was expecting Leroy Neiman — not Salvador Dali. The aquarium/zoo was fascinating to me, as I love observing exotic creatures. I realized that this zoo was just a Hefner purchase, though, when I asked him some specifics and discovered he knew almost nothing about the creatures he owned. Did I see movie stars? Yup. I was pretty immune to the charms of celebrity by then, having worked in the film business. I did get an early glimpse of what we now know as the real Bill Cosby back then. Harvey was well aware of Cosby’s sexual proclivities and despised Cosby for his acts, attitudes and hypocrisy. I made a disappointing mental note, then forgot about it until the recent scandals surfaced.

Hef and I shared a deep passion for music. I love the blues; he loved jazz. There are lot of cross-overs between the two musical genres. I sent him a copy of my book Legends of the Blues and received a nice hand-written note of appreciative thanks from Hef in return.

Many reporters have written snarky Hefner post-death columns with extreme tunnel vision, skewing it solely to paint Hefner with one brush using a single color: He was a sexist. Now that Hefner has passed, apparently they feel it is safe to denigrate his memory which, to me, seems a bit cowardly. A little more research on their part would have revealed sides of him that many who never knew or met Hef might have admired.

In the future, I hope that journalists will look a little harder for the truth and all of its facets. That is what the public needs (now more than ever) from journalism today.

See You in Stockton!

Friday, August 18th, 2017

I look forward to seeing my family, fans and friends at the Stockton Comic Con tomorrow and Sunday. Woo hoo!

Be sure to bring stuff for me to sign!

Contdown to Comic Con #4

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Here’s a Barsoomian princess and her pet banth that I whipped up the other day.

BTW, nice opening reception last night at Copro Nason Gallery‘s Tribute to Heavy Metal show in Santa Monica. A lot of good stuff on display and for sale. I’ve got two pieces in the show. One is the splash page for my Arzak collaboration with Moebius, which ran in the 20th anniversary Heavy Metal special issue. The other is an Arzak illustration I drew and finished from a quick sketch drawn by Jean during our last time together — our final collaboration. I thought you might like to see them both:

The exhibition is up for about three weeks. The pieces are available to view and purchase online.

Countdown to Comic Con #3

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Here’s an Art Nouveau-ish piece I call “Blue Angel”. On my computer screen, though, it looks more green than blue. Maybe it was the RGB to CMYK conversion…

Come see it in person!

Countdown to Comic Con #2

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Here’s an Arthur Rackham influenced piece I’ll have at Comic Con.

Countdown to Comic Con

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

I’ve been working like a little beaver in preparing for Comic Con. Let me know what you think of these; I’ll be posting one a day.

This one features Bud Abbott and Lou Costello with the monsters they met in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man and Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. That’s the castle from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein looming in the background. “Oh, Chick!”

Thanks!

Stoutzilla For Sale

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

Here’s a new piece that I intend to bring to Comic Con International. I know, though, that a lot of my fans can’t make it, so I’m offering this piece (titled “Rising Sun” — or “Rising Son”) in advance to them (or you).

The board size is 15″ x 17″; the image size is 10″ x 13.5″. It’s pen & ink on extra heavy cold press illustration board.

The price is $1250, unframed. There’s sales tax if you’re in California. I’ll pay domestic shipping; international purchases pay for the shipping to their country. I can personalize it if you like (unique birthday gift?).

If interested, contact me at williamstout@williamstout.com.

Jonathan Demme 1944 – 2017

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Jonathan Demme has passed away. He was one of the few directors I wanted to work with but unfortunately (for me) I never got that chance. We met when he was one of my instructors in a directing class I took many years ago. I strongly think that if I had taken the film director path in my career, I would have patterned it after Jonathan’s. I love (and share in my own way) his broad mix of genres. I completely understand his deep passion for music and its effective use in films.

Here is a list of the films he has directed. Most are fiction (or fictionalized) — but he was a fine documentary film director as well.
Caged Heat
Crazy Mama
Fighting Mad
Handle With Care
Last Embrace
Melvin and Howard
Swing Shift
Stop Making Sense
Something Wild
Swimming to Cambodia
Haiti: Dreams of Democracy
Married to the Mob
The Silence of the Lambs
Cousin Bobby
Philadelphia
The Complex Sessions
Beloved
Storefront Hitchcock
The Truth About Charlie
The Agronomist
The Manchurian Candidate
Neil Young: Heart of Gold
Man From Plains
Right to Return: New Home Movies From the Lower 9th Ward
Rachel Getting Married
Neil Young Trunk Show
I’m Carolyn Parker
Neil Young Journeys
Enzo Avitabile Music Life
A Master Builder
Ricki and the Flash
What’s Motivating Hayes
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids

I’ve seen most of these films but not all of them. Of the ones that I have seen, each was terrific. I look forward to viewing the rest of Demme’s oeuvre with great anticipation.

Like me, Demme received a big break and entry into the world of film making from Roger Corman. Jonathan’s first three films as a director were made for Roger. Prior to that, Jonathan had written the screenplays Angels Hard As They Come and The Hot Box for Corman.

As a documentary filmmaker, Jonathan knew when to get out of the way and let his subject tell its story. His concert documentaries like Stop Making Sense and Neil Young: Heart of Gold, as well as his filming of Spalding Gray’s fascinating monologue Swimming to Cambodia are fine examples of this.

Something Wild and The Silence of the Lambs are my two favorite Jonathan Demme movies. Something Wild really took me by surprise. Demme was fantastic with actors and had a real sense of their possibilities. Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith are both amazing in this film, yet the biggest scene stealing in this movie resulted from the terrifying screen debut of Ray Liotta (Liotta’s only screen appearance prior to Something Wild was a part in The Lonely Lady). Something Wild is one of a small genre of films I love in which the lead character who seems at first to be the story’s victim refuses to take that role and instead, through wit and intelligence, is constantly one-upping the story’s monstrous villain (another superb example of this genre is the 1978 Canadian film The Silent Partner with Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer and Susannah York).

It’s no secret that I love horror films. Jonathan Demme directed the only horror film to win the Best Picture Academy Award: The Silence of the Lambs. The Silence of the Lambs, in fact, won what are considered in Hollywood to be “The Big Five” Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best (Adapted) Screenplay and Best Director. I’ve seen nearly every horror film that’s ever been released, so I’m subject to a numbing effect (plus, I work in The Biz; when I watch a film I’m constantly analyzing what’s working and what’s not, and how certain effects were achieved). Sadly, it takes a very special film to really scare me and lose me in its story. The Silence of the Lambs is one of those films that made me forget I was watching a movie. It sucked me right in; and when Buffalo Bill turns of the lights near the end of the film, I was terrified.

Shame on me for not seeing all of Jonathan Demme’s movies. But Lucky Me! — for I’ve got plenty of wonderful films to look forward to viewing.

Rest In Peace to a great storytelling talent and a fellow music aficionado: Jonathan Demme.

Happy (Hoppy?) Easter!

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Mmmmmm…chocolate brains!

Have a wonderful celebration this weekend!

Too Soon?

Monday, March 27th, 2017

I recently received a letter from a fan (let’s call him “Tom”) who was disturbed and offended by a painting I had created. I’d like to share my response and open this subject up for some (hopefully) civilized discussion.

Here’s the e-mail:

Hello Mr. Stout,

I am a great admirer and long time fan of your incredible artwork.

However, in perusing your website recently I came across your “Happy Easter” print. I found this image disturbing and out of turn with the rest of your body of work. This depiction of Jesus Christ is, in my opinion, in poor taste and disgusting on a multitude of levels, not the “fun” kind of disgusting.

I’m all for artistic expression but I have to ask, what is the motivation behind this image? I’m truly curious what set of beliefs, feelings and experiences leads one to be compelled to create such an image?

Here’s my response:

Hi “Tom”,

Thank you for your interest in my work. I’m happy to explain one of my favorite pieces, as a few people have had your same reaction. Most of my friends, upon seeing it for the first time, laughed out loud and then told me I was going to burn in Hell. It is one of my most popular prints, by the way. Of course, explaining humor is the quickest way to make something funny become unfunny — but I’ll try, nevertheless.

First off, if you haven’t noticed over time, I can have a very dark and subversive sense of humor. For the most part, this has been expressed in my underground comix work, where no subject is off limits (Thank you, Robert Crumb). I have loved the dark humor of cartoonists Gahan Wilson, Charles Addams, Rodrigues and Sam Gross for all of my life.

I am also known for designing zombies (I was the production designer for the cult classic Return of the Living Dead). Years ago, I was commissioned to create a one-man show of zombie paintings for a prestigious gallery here in Los Angeles. For this show I decided to come up with a number of fresh takes on zombies and use them to parody popular culture. I created a zombie version of Grant Wood’s famous painting “American Gothic”, for example:

While ruminating on possible subjects for this show it occurred to me that, technically, Jesus was the first zombie, i. e., he was the first person we know of to die and then be brought back to life. Since parody was on my mind, I also included the Easter Bunny, a religious icon that actually pre-dates Christ (Christianity absorbed a lot of other religious cultures to make Christianity more appealing to the folks they were converting. The rabbit — and eggs — symbolized Spring fertility to the pagans. Since the pagans’ celebration took place roughly the same time as Christ’s resurrection, rabbits and eggs became part of the Easter celebration. The Christmas yule log and Christmas tree are other examples. Many fundamentalist Christians have strictly banned the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs, Christmas trees and all other forms of paganism from their Easter celebrations).

One of the trademarks of the zombies that I design is that they’re all happy. My zombie Jesus is no exception; by that big smile on his face it seems that he’s glad to be back.

There is currently an ongoing public debate about “crossing the line”, humor-wise. I agree with nearly all of the professional comedians who feel that there is no line, that every subject is up for grabs and nothing should be taboo. That flies in the face of devout Muslims, for example, who hold that any depiction of the prophet Mohammad is disrespectful and forbidden. Many feel that such disrespect should be punished with death. My friends at Charlie Hebdo paid that terrible price, even though they were expressing themselves in what most Europeans consider a free society.

Many of the comedians agreed that the Holocaust is off limits for humor — right before telling some very funny Holocaust jokes (A German officer is trying to sell Jews on boarding the train to Auschwitz by singing the praises of how wonderful it is: “Auschwitz? They should have named it ‘WOWshwitz!”).

One of my favorite Hitler jokes was told to me by one of my closest Jewish friends:

Hitler was famously a vegetarian and a tee-totaler (this is true).

Q: Why did Adolph Hitler never drink?

A: It made him mean.

I got into the most trouble for an album cover I created back in 1981 for Rhino Records. The LP was entitled BeatleSongs. It did not contain any songs written by the Beatles; it was a collection of songs about the Beatles. I decided the cover should be a cross section of Beatles fans at a Beatlemania convention. I felt it would be incomplete if I didn’t include the fan who actually “collected” one of the Beatles, so standing far left is Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s assassin.

You might have missed this other visual Christmas/crucifixion joke of mine. Here it is. You can be choose to be offended or you can laugh.

I hope you laugh.

Bill

Friends, fans — What do you think?