Archives for category: comics

No one ever asked if a blue dog can sing the blues,
but if the name on my collar is any indication
I’m you’re Huckleberry.
That’s my intro for the band these days, except I croon
it a lot like Bing would. He’s my hero and why I quit the biz.
I was tired of being one of a band of clowns, explaining
defending, defining, listening to endless whining, all
the while pretending to be some kind of leader. I thought
if I have to put up with that kind of behavior, musicians
do it much better, plus you actually get to make music!
So, that’s what it is now, except these clowns swing, man
they can play and there’s no need for me to explain,
only croon the blues so the squares can let it all hang out.
I’ve got The Squirrely Brothers on doghouse guitar, Squink,
Squeek and Chatter, they stand on each other’s shoulders,
four paws on the fretboard, two slapping the box,
another four paws on the strings , I don’t ask where
the other two are. I don’t want to know. (Grins and winks.)
Ollie Octopus is on kit, he brings eight drumsticks and a whole
new meaning to Beat me Daddy Eight to the Bar. To round
it all out Chuck Caterpillar’s on keys, the way he runs up
and down that Rocket 88 is going to send a shiver up and
down your spine. Forever Young’s our signature tune.

As I look back on it, it’s hard for me to put it all together.
Part of it seems real, the other, only what wants to be real.
Everything is as much about how people want cartoon
characters to be what they believe those characters to be,
as it is about the quality of the acting. There’s a lot of folks
that want those characters to be like them, which in turn
consumes them, and that’s when it begins to consume you.
A lot of ‘toons spend a lot of time putting a wall between
them and whoever they are on the big screen. Really,
it’s all about appearance, getting the right accent, hitting
your marks, remember your lines, as few takes as possible
and laugh all the way to the bank. It never seemed to matter.

I realized I was in the wrong business. I had to follow
my heart. Give up fame, very little fortune and believe
in my music. I know on film I’m a tenor but my singing voice
drops an octave. When I mention Bing, that’s no mistake.
He’s my idol, that mellow tone, that self-assurance; it’s funny,
I always had that in film, I didn’t even realize I had it.
I never tried, never rehearsed, was always at work on time,
checked out at end of day without a thought for tomorrow.
I should have realized my heart wasn’t in it, but you know
how it is, the attention, the glamour, if someone tells you
that wasn’t part of it for them, that thrill, they’re lying.
Even then, it wasn’t enough. What I got now is for real,
if feeling great about what you do makes something real.
I’m no fool. I’m trading on the name. Huckleberry Hound
and his Firehouse Four, it gets us noticed. We’re growing our audience,
a record deal in the wings, and who knows? Maybe I’ll be the first
to have a live show on TV. Anything can happen in Hollywood.

I’ll tell you something, something I think about a lot.
When Bing was done singing he went and played golf.
You know why? Because once he was done doing what
he loved, he went out and relaxed. I used to go home,
stare at the wall and wait for another day. That’s why now,
Bing’s my ambition — do what I love, then go play golf.

(The loveable blue hound got his first big break in 1958, and continued to charm audiences throughout his cartoon career.
It is at this point that Cartoon Vérité will take a short hiatus before returning with Part 2, the Characters, the Background Players. GG)

I had a quick kick at the can.
Nothing like the big guys,
but, then again, my heart wasn’t in it.
I wasn’t meant to be a cartoon sheriff.
I wanted to be the real thing.
It’s funny, a lot of us need to know
which side we fall on, whether we
really know what’s right from wrong.
I mean consider it, there’s very little
we’re not allowed to do; it all comes down
to: what are you willing to do? When you
think like that, either everything falls
into place, or you don’t get it at all.

I got it.

It was fun while it lasted, and I can’t tell
you how many times I say to myself “Kaboooong!”
when I put some lowlife behind bars,
but that’s it; entertainment is fun, but it’s not
real life. If you look very closely when you rub
up against the world, it’s no longer all colour
and oh so wonderful. It’s a little more grainy,
no longer fair or just.

That’s when you have to choose, is being a cartoon
enough, or do you want to make a difference?

I made my choice.

(The lawman horse first appeared in 1959 and won his first Emmy in 1960. On a personal note, having now finished a number of these interviews, some of which, as you may have read, veered at times to the personal, some that seemed possibly dangerous, I never felt safer than when I was in Mr. McGraw’s presence. His is a deeply calming presence. GG)


Here’s an interesting fact for you: my original name
is Archibald. I told my agent Archie is a natural name
for cartoons, but you know how it is with alliteration
in this industry, so Woody I became and Woody I am.
I loved the theatre from the start. It’s taken me
a lot of time and therapy to realize that was to replace
the love I never received at home. I hear some
woodpeckers have a normal home life, you know,
loving mother, sober Dad. I wouldn’t know.
It’s not something I care to talk about, but that’s
because I am a shallow boor with all kind of
defences, hypocrisy and vanity that I am trying to
finally accept, and by doing so, start again.
That I had a difficult childhood is something
I have to acknowledge. All I know is when I was
that age the theatre loved me and I loved it.

I broke into vaudeville as a member of a troupe
called The Peckers. I was a stilt walker attacked
by a group of malicious woodpeckers. You can see
where this is going, can’t you? The “woodpeckers”
were really clowns dressed as woodpeckers,
and as they chewed away at my stilts, I kept
getting closer and closer to them, until finally
I’d jump off the stilts, a real woodpecker
and chase them all off the stage. Audiences
loved it. It’s how I made it to Broadway,
and that’s what led to Hollywood.

I appreciate this isn’t what you had in mind
when you said you wanted to understand me.
I have to admit your request is what led me to agree
to this, because I need to know, more than you,
who am I? Am I the unloved child, lost,
or am I the movie star, found? I don’t have
that answer, nor do you. Isn’t that it? The answer
escapes us. You can pound your head all you like
against that truth but it just doesn’t crack, does it?
I’ve had to learn to accept who I am, that where
I came from had its hand in determining who
I am today, but I can change. I can be more
that I was taught to expect. There’s no reason
for me to live in the past. After all, today’s
a beautiful day isn’t it?
(The hardest head in Hollywood got his start with Walter Lanz in 1940. GG)

My father was a German Jew and a communist,
my mother a Spanish anti-Fascist resistance fighter.
They met on a boat fleeing the Nazis to Mexico,
seeking freedom and a chance to build a life.
Not only for themselves but for me, my brothers
my sisters, of whom there are many. We are mice,

we know a common bond built on pain and sacrifice;
life is short is our cultural norm; but my father taught me
“if life is short, then move fast.” I am belief in action.
Speedy is not a character; he is my manifesto to all oppressed
people; no one catches the quick; Speedy always beats the cats.
When I say cats, I mean the invested forces of capitalism
that profit from the unpaid labour of the people and the
destruction of their dreams of prosperity and equality.

My father taught me to run.
He told me, “Might weighs too much,
strength without laughter is weak,
those who are light on their feet
will always confound those who
would put their paws on our necks;
now, run like your life depends on it.”

So I run. I run for the revolution.
If you were me, would you do anything differently?

(Speedy first premiered in 1953, and the world has been trying to keep up since. Run, Speedy, Run! GG)


I don’t know about the old guys, I heard
they could be kind of serious on set. All
we did was have a ball. I wish Boo-boo
was here to tell his side of it. That was a
sad day when we lost Boo-boo. Cancer.
Off camera, you never saw him without
a cigarette. That came from his Army days.
When? He served in Korea. I have no idea what
he did. I thought there was a height restriction
but if there was it didn’t apply to him. I’ll tell
you, he could scare the hell out of you if he
wanted to. One very ferocious little bear was
our Boo-boo. But oh the sense of humour!
Poop jokes were his favourite. More than once
when Ranger Smith found the pickanick basket
there was a ripe Boo-boo turd in it. Some of
those shots where we’re laughing together,
they were completely unrehearsed. Camera
would catch us watching Ranger Smith open
a basket full of crap, and we’d just lose it. Smith
was an OK guy for a hooman, but he couldn’t take
a joke. I guess he just didn’t get bear humour.
With Boo-boo gone and Ranger Smith left,
it seems like a joke gone wrong. If we have to
do a show now, we can always find some bruin
who can stand in for Boo-boo but it’s not the same.
OK, let’s not us dwell ‘pon the painful stuff.
Here’s something. You know the running sounds
they used for us? That was all Speedy Gonzalez.
He has these Mexican drums, congas, timbales,
all kinds of things and he gets on those with his big
feet and man it sounds like Gene Krupa had babies!
He’s an amazing musician, which, a lot of people don’t know.

The strangest time was the late Sixties, early
Seventies. For some reason, all these hippies
decided, because of the name, I was enlightened.
They’d camp out on my front lawn, hoping
to meditate with me, nonsense like that.
I have an old scattergun I keep as a memento
of how hoomans have hunted us since time
began. It was loaded with buckshot, ready to go,
I mean I was ready to go out and enlighten them
with a load in the butt. I had no time for that hippie
crap. Fortunately, my agent was there. He talked
me out it. That’s how the press got that big story
about me talking to the hippies on my front lawn.
My agent called them! Told me to go out and get
some good publicity. You never heard of it?
It was big news in all of L.A. for Pete’s sake!
You sure you never heard of it? OK, I went out
on the lawn all steamed about these hippies
camping there, leaving all their shit everywhere.
I called them all into a circle. Once I did that the
press crowded around, which really turned the hippies
on, as all they really wanted was attention, then
I told them I was going to enlighten them but only
once so they had to pay attention, and if I did they were
all going to pack up and go. I made them all solemnly
promise. All the cameras went click clickety click
and I gave them a speech which became kind of famous
for awhile; I’m surprised you never heard of it.
“America is built on a tripod of a strong work ethic,
good fun, and healthy nutrition. You want enlightenment?
Go home. Clean up. Cut your hair. Get a job. Three squares
a day. Roof over your head. Upstanding member of the
community. Regular Jack or Jill. That’s it. Now split!”
I would have added “like a banana” but that might
have made them think I wanted them to stick around.

Yeah, I’ve totally gotten into skating.
Ever since the Ice Capades. Gives you this sense
of freedom that’s even better than running naked
in the woods. That’s a joke sweetheart. I do wear
the hat and tie. Got to rise above the animal, you
know. Where was I? Yeah, Skating. I’m thinking
of getting into hockey. I heard there’s this kid,
Charlie Brown, putting together a team of cartoony folk
to play some movie stars and NHL vets for charity.
I’m going to check into that. What position?
Center, baby, center. When I get that puck, it’s mine.
You want it, you gotta take it away from me.

(The big friendly bear first premiered in 1958 as a secondary character on the Huckleberry Hound Show, but once he hit the big time he never looked back. GG)

If I had a mouth I would tell you,
Felix is gone. No one has seen him in a while.
He jumped inside me. No one’s ever done that before.
Usually, Felix reaches in and pulls stuff out, tells
me to change myself into whatever, not
the other way around. But no one is asking; I’m
stuck here in his closet, in the dark, both literally
and figuratively. I have no eyes, ears, fingers, tongue
any of that stuff, except you did the smart thing,
you asked me, what I can tell you is I can’t tell you
what he‘s doing in there, and unless you want to dive in,
no one else will know either. Even then, you’ll have to
want to pull Felix out. You know, if you ask for it,
I’ll bring you the Holy Grail, but after that long inside,
I wouldn’t advise pulling out the Cat. One thing for sure,
he won’t be just Felix no more.
(Bag of Tricks was one of the first to take advantage of the new medium, television. Introduced in 1953. It brought a new wrinkle to an old character, helping resurrect the famous cat’s career. GG)

D*C
You know you’re a fraud, don’t you?
Your license expired, you haven’t paid
your insurance since God knows when,
it’s just a nickname now isn’t it?
The fact you dispense medical advice,
minor first aid, isn’t really a crime,
but that scrip you write each week
for Dopey sure as hell is. You do
remember your oath, don’t you?
No, don’t tell me about a higher power.
Yes, I know about your diamonds,
you can’t bribe me, they’re mine too.
Besides, I’m a poet, not a cop.
No, I’m not going to call the AMA.

D*PEY
You are so visible it is risible you fool anyone.
Why are your sleeves so long? Sure as Hell not
so you can stumble over them, that shtick is older
than the diamond mine. No, you wouldn’t want
anyone to see those arms. Something hidden
under the skirt? Oh, how that smile says search me,
with at least three meanings that I can think of,
and at least one that must be ignored. One
smile says I forgot about the mechanism taped
to my thigh, the one that ends in a syringe,
alongside the glassine packet of white powder.
Who the fuck cares? That’s America’s favourite
past time, and you’re their poster boy.

GR*MPY
I’m the poet. It suits me to tell the story
in verse. The guy next door started cutting
down trees at 6 am using a chainsaw.
Dropped a couple into our yard, trimmed them
there, left the slash. He has this yappy little dog
that runs into the yard and craps everywhere.
I lose it. I yell at him to get his crap and
his dog’s crap outta my yard. He says Fuck you
midget! That’s when the fireworks started.
Let me sum it up this way: never mess with
a dwarf named Grumpy. Bad things happen.
Except I stop myself from bashing his brains
in with a pickax and stomping on his little dog.
I tell myself, the guy ain’t worth it. Let Dopey
and Happy clean this up. Why do you think
they’re named that way? They’ll whistle
while they do it. I tell myself, the best part of
revenge is served cold. I write a poem about
what an inbred, knuckle dragging, snot nosed punk
the bastard is. And that little dog, the bitch he owns?
She sure walks funny, like her ass is being pushed
into next week far too often. I send the poem out.
It gets published. The guy next door shows
up a week later and threatens to sue.
Who knew the idiot read poetry?

B*SHFUL
Bashful was a dog in a previous life.
He told us about it.
Life was better then.
All he knew was big eyes,
not saying much,
belly rubs and warm fires.
Then he tells us he wants to eat out of a bowl,
on the floor. We say he can eat outside if he does that.
We say he can forget the belly rubs
but we’ll get him a dog tag if it makes him feel better.
Because we live outside city limits
a license wasn’t required, so we couldn’t get one.
When we said that was all we were
going to do for him, he said
“I feel like you were my friends once.”
He doesn’t say much anymore.
He never looks into our eyes like he used to.

H*PPY
Happy should be miserable,
like a guy named Curly has to be bald,
or a guy named Tiny is the biggest man you’ve ever met.
But not Happy, he is what the name says.
You’d think a guy named Happy should be as dumb
as a post just to balance out Nature,
but our Happy is the smartest, no argument.
He’s probably the only reason Doc hasn’t killed Dopey yet.
He’s the one who figured out the shoring in the mine,
which is probably the only reason we’re all alive.
He’s the one who always starts whistling, so,
aside from the fact I’d like to strangulate the guy,
he’s got something I just can’t figure out.
It’s a good thing I love him like a brother
otherwise, I’d have to hate him because
he’s so goddamn happy all the time
and I can’t figure it out to save my life.

SL**PY
Let’s see, you slept through Reagan busting the unions.
Thatcher busting the unions. The end of the mines,
the factories, the slow death of the working class,
yet you shuffle along with the rest of us
pickax, shovel in hand, asleep on your feet
oblivious to everything happening around you
pretending you’re still one of us.
Do I need to remind you who your shop steward is?
God, it’s like talking to a wall with you,
you just stand there with that vacant stare.
Between you, Dopey and Bashful I just want
to look into someone’s eyes that look back,
you know lights on, somebody home.
Let’s consider the evidence: despite the diamonds,
you still buy a lottery ticket every week,
you voted for Trump and you don’t hear
a single thing I’m saying, do you?
You fucking class traitor.

SN**ZY
God I love Sneezy. That dwarf is dedicated to everyone
who blurts out something they really shouldn’t have said, but did,
something they really would like to take back, but couldn’t.
He is the muse of those who fart at dinner tables,
crinkle candy wrappers during the opera,
the guy who laughs out loud when someone trips and falls.
There is no occasion he cannot change abruptly
with nothing but the loudest blast of spit, snot and noise
possibly imaginable. The man is a genius of disruption.
Seriously, he should have his own TV show.
People would pay to watch him interview movie stars,
the high and mighty, and coat each one
in his vital bodily fluids as ejected through that grotesque
mouth and nose permanently attached to his face, which
by all rights should have been blown clear off by now.
I’m telling you, the guy cracks me up on a daily basis.

(I present the manuscript with no comments. It arrived on my doorstep with the enigmatic note, ”You’re not the only poet”. The always loveable dwarves first appeared in the smash hit Snow White in 1937, marking them as true pioneers, survivors, legends. GG)


Emma Webster tain’t here no more on Earth to answer
yur questions and I believe she is in a better place now
seeing as she didn’t get no ticket to immortarreality like
those other creatures that made her life such a living hell.
She was a kind and fine w’man but she told me time and time
again, they should have kept those anumals in pens cause
that’s what they are, dontcha see? nothing but anumals with
animule instincts. She said it repulsed her to go to work
when she came home she felt unclean— but that’s what
she said when she worked in any film. I can’t really understand
why she did what she did claiming to hate it as she did so.
There were a lot of odd looking children at the funeral
and flower arrangements that said “rest in the nest of love”
“wallow in joy now that you root in eternity” and such like
and everyone still talks about that one composted of
vegetables and trash and such — it was awful pretty
or pretty awful depending on your point of view.
The service was open casket as she requested, still
it was off putting when they all sniffed her. Again
when they howled as she was laid to rest.
(Granny was first featured in 1953. Im sorry I wasn’t granted the opportunity to speak with her in person. GG)

Hidden in plain sight, that’s me.
No one in the business ever suspected
I’m a result of a classified eugenics program
that not only gave me mental capacities
far beyond those of mortal chickens, but also
the heightened senses required to be one
of the deadliest assassins to ever belong to the CIA.
What better way to hide the greatest weapon
this country has ever known, but in the funny
pictures? None of that stuff was scripted.
I was supposed to fly a paper plane they
would manipulate to bonk into the rooster’s
head. No one anticipated I could fashion
a high speed assault jet out of paper capable
of shooting that moulted pile of big mouth and
fluff—when I strafed that loudmouth hambone,
I was just playing with him. Those detailed
diagrams I drew during our baseball games?
Secret plans transmitted to other operatives.
Like I said, out in the open, eyes wide shut.
You know that obnoxious chicken hawk, the one
everyone thought the mob rubbed out? Me.
I’d had it with his strutting Mr. Patriot when
the real patriot was me. Used one of my secret
karate chops — karate is the Eastern art of killing
with your bare hands — and his little neck snapped
like a twig. I made it look like a Mob hit, nothing
like the CIA program to teach you how to do that;
no point in elimination if all the evidence points
to you. The bit about him being ground into burger’s
true. I may have knocked him off, but it was
George P Dog who ate him in the canteen. Ha!
That’s the thing about birds. No neck muscles.
Now I’m a different bird; can you imagine
how strong my neck must be to support this head?
My neck muscles are like steel cables, baby, steel cables.
Yeah, lots of the chicks want to touch the big noggin
but you want to get to know me, you help me work
the kinks out of my neck, if you know what I mean.
Aww, don’t take it that way, c’mon don’t go … I got
lotsa stories about the rooster and the widder …
I’m working on a TV show with Gary Gong …
hey, I ain’t told you about any of my assassinations,
chicks dig those … aw c’mon, c’mon … .
(Egghead Jr. first made it to the screen in 1954. That doesn’t excuse the manners or lack thereof. GG)


My full name is Abigail Philomena Mercy Cornscratcher, a distinguished
family name and that it came to pass that I would play a widder in film,
“Miss Prissy”, would probably have shamed my entire family to death.
Of course, that would have been the least of their concerns —
and causes of death. I have done far too much to return to innocent days.

So, back to how I broke into film. First, that’s a misnomer,
film broke me in. My first films were in Tijuana. I bet you’d love
to hear the story. First and foremost, I was a widow all right.
At a tender young age, I crossed the plains as one of many child
brides of Joseph Smith—it was because of me he pronounced
a special dispensation for cross species breeding — his feelings
were that strong. Things would have turned out differently
if we had only had a chick. I promised him a mighty
rooster just like him but fate was not so kind.

When he died I was shunned, cast from the flock.
I had to survive on my own. Soon, well known, well
to do, forthright gentlemen of the congregation came to visit,
tell me how they would love to help me, fallen as I was on hard times.
Soon, I realized every gift comes with strings attached
and many a rooster no longer rules the roost; many a man
lusts after that which he does not possess, and money is such an easy
way to get what you want. I had no ambition to be a wanton woman,
but fate had other plans for me. I did not have the luxury of pride.
I did what they asked, learnt to play the parts they wished in return
for a fiction of freedom from want and misery. I planned my escape.

Foolishly, I thought people would want to help a poor fowl down on her luck.
It didn’t take long to realize the Kingdom of God is long gone from this land
and the Devil rules and if you play by his rules — you succeed.
I moved to Vegas, I was a plaything for mobsters and their friends.
I heard about movies they were making in Mexico. They offered
big money and a chance to be free. A number of not to be named
second tier stars were doing it as well — I thought I might meet someone
and get lucky. So, I went to Tijuana. What can I say? The industry
loves chicken.

When I was there, I didn’t meet a star, I met a star-maker — Charles Feldman.
He didn’t ask what I was doing there; I didn’t ask him either. Before you jump
to conclusions it wasn’t like that — we met in a bar, shared some laughs.
I knew quite a few “off-colour” jokes by that point and the high point of the
night was when Mr. Feldman said “Sugar, you crack me up!”
I don’t think he understood what that phrase means to a hen, but he gave me his card,
told me to look him up if I ever made it to Hollywood — the studios
always wanted new animal characters. I packed my bags that night,
was waiting on his doorstep the next morning before he arrived to work.
He was such a kind man. Once he got over the surprise of seeing me there,
he said, “OK, let’s see if we can get you some work.” It was his idea for me
to play the widder, he told me, “You look innocent with those big baby blues.
The part’s yours, if you want it. Just don’t tell any jokes.”

Everything would have been fine except for that big buffoon of a rooster.
Now, maybe if he was a real rooster, things might have turned out differently
but he was a low, unfit, creature whose mind apparently had been born
in the gutter along with him. Of course, he had a disgusting taste for dirty
pictures, along with dirty laundry and of course he found out about my past.
Mr. Feldman had never asked me much about what I was doing in Mexico
and I never felt he needed to know. So once again another depraved man sought
to “comfort me” and “no one ever need know.” So now, you, and I imagine
the entire world, will know. So be it. As long as you let the world know
what a disgrace of a wretched wreck of a bird that wicked rooster is.
I should never have given in, I should have told him, “Go ahead, make my day,”
and blown his head off. But I didn’t. At least he didn’t take long.

The desire for revenge became a constant in my life. George P. Dog
was my suggestion. I’d met George at a casting call. He was a nice guy.
Not very aggressive. I coached him. I told him, “Bring out the bad side, George.
Frighten them! No more Mr. Nice Guy!” He was working on it. The opportunity
arose whereby I could add misery to that insidious creature’s life. The studio
wanted another character for the louse to play off. I meekly suggested,
“Why not a dog — I know one.” Well, Cornpone squawked, “No dogs on set!”
Everyone by that point was completely tired of Kernel Blowhard Lowborn,
I’ll never forget Mr. McKimson saying, “I think a dog will work out fine.”
Oh how my heart beat when I heard that. Justice arrived. I got in touch
with George, told him about the part, and that I put in the good word.
Everyone loved the role he’d been working on. George was in, and so was
my revenge. The look on that inflated buffoon’s face when he met George;
when he met every baseball bat, slat of wood, every time he flew out
of frame when George barked his sorry ass to Hell. After that, every day
George P. Dog was on set was a gift that kept on giving.

My only regret is I had no choice in how I led my life.
Men were always telling me what to do or wanting to tell me what to do
and the only constant was they all thought they could own me. But that’s done.
I saved a nice nest egg, and I’m on my own. No men, no humiliation.
Just me and this fine ranch, with rich soil you can sink your claws into
and peck to your heart’s delight. Funny, I left a farm just like this
to see the world, to discover life, to experience love. Then I went
to the very bottom where I performed in a caricature of life
for my daily corn, and finally, I have come full circle back to where
I began. If only I had known, I might never have left. Maybe you should
call me Candide.
(From the beginning in 1950, Miss Prissy played a part she needed so she could escape. Again, the stories the women of cartoons tell speak of an industry tilted against them. I hope this glimpse into Miss Prissy’s life serves to inspire future hens. GG)

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