#6: Six Duck Salads with Gus Van Sant
A New Yorker Cartoonists' Lunch with one Hollywood's finest directors.
(Last week’s post about seeing a movie about a cartoonist got me thinking about the story below. Hope you like it.)
Diary Entry: June 26, 2018
Today I was invited to have lunch with a bunch of New Yorker cartoonists and the film director, Gus Van Sant1.
Gus directed of some of the greatest films of the past 20 years: "Good Will Hunting", "Milk", "Drugstore Cowboy", and just released a film this week about the cartoonist John Callahan2, called "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot."
The lunch took place at the decades-long traditional weekly cartoonists lunch3 which usually takes place following the Tuesday cartoon pitch meeting at the New Yorker. We shuffle up to Pergola des Artistes in the Theatre District and talk shop over duck salad and cheap red wine.
Sam Gross held court, telling stories of his experience with Callahan and with other New Yorker cartoonists over the decades. Gossip, scandal, kvetching: the whole nine. Six of us listened as we pecked away at the duck salad, piled on a plate like it had fallen out of a ziplock bag.
At one point Sam pulled out some cartoons and I pitched a (bad) caption. I think I’m the only cartoonist listed in the New Yorker as having pitched a gag to a table of ‘groans’. It feels right though.
Gus Green Van Sant Jr. (born July 24, 1952) is an American film director, producer, photographer and musician. He has earned acclaim as both an independent and mainstream filmmaker. His films typically deal with themes of marginalized subcultures, in particular homosexuality; Van Sant is considered one of the most prominent auteurs of the New Queer Cinema movement.
John Callahan (February 5, 1951 – July 24, 2010) was an American cartoonist, artist, and musician in Portland, Oregon. After a terrible drunken car accident, he lost the use of his legs. He found solace in the world he created through his very dark, (very funny) gag cartoons. See some of my favourite Callahan cartoons here.
The Cartoonists Lunch is a legendary, long-running tradition among New York gag cartoonists. They used to stomp around town every Wednesday (later moved to Tuesday) with an armful of cartoons, going from magazine to magazine selling their gags. They’d then finish up trading stories and talking shop for the rest of the afternoon at Pergola des Artistes, and carried on well into the evening before scattering back to their studios. When I got my first invitation to the lunch, it felt like I’d finally landed in New York. The lunch no longer happens. Nor does the in-person New Yorker cartoon pitch meeting on Tuesdays.
You can read more about the legendary cartoon lunch in the New York Times here.