Archives for category: comics

Racky Rocky, quite a name, isn’t it? Got some poetry
to it, unlike some of the names the high and mighty
end up livin’ wit’. Actually, it’s short for Raconteur
Raccoon, get it? It’s all on account of all the talkin’
I like to do, people say I can’t shut up, but it’s all shtick
for when I go through their pockets without their noticin’
nice watch by the way, here you might want that back.
Yeah, I grew up with a magician dad and a mom who
said she was a gypsy. Cards were second nature by
the time I was one, sleight of hand I knew from birth.
Irregrettably, I suffered the pitfalls of a wild youth
and was arrested on a couple of vagrancy charges,
which didn’t matter much, but then I got popped
for pickpocketin’. I was an idiot, acted as my own lawyer,
argued it was compulsive behavior, I needed therapy
not punishment. The court disagreed and rewarded me
with three months jail time, which for a raccoon’s no
laughin’ matter, then 6 months of community service.
For the record, I would have done that on my own
considerin’ it was pickin’ up trash in public parks.
When I was in the can, what did I get? Therapy.
Once I got out I swore I was never goin’ back in.
You want a career in film, you’re doomed to live
on the street, unless you’re one in a million.
Me, I can live on the street no problem, but that’s
what therapy does for you, it helps clarify your goals.
Now, I work kid’s parties, banquets, conferences,
things like that. I can’t tell you how much doctors laugh
when I lift their wallet, return it while I take off
their tie without them noticing, and when I put that back on,
their weddin’ ring’s on it. One guys almost died in front of me
he laughed so hard. That, and he needed to consider a diet,
give up the cigarettes and booze, which for a doctor, you
would think would be an easy sell, but go figure, he was
on vacation, or convention, whatever they call it. I’m tellin’ you
I almost killed the guy. Plus, once, it would have been a struggle
to return this ring, here you go, or not take a little somethin’
shiny, like this lovely watch, oops, didn’t I give that back to you
before? But now, after my therapy, I’m over that and it’s all
about the laughs. And the stories. Did you like the stories?
Say, you recognize this necklace? Here you go. You see?
It’s all about the laughs. The shtick is all the stuff that
happens before I make you laugh. Shtick is the story
ordinary folk pay for. Listen. Without shtick, life is a state
where squares keep waitin’ for magic to happen.
Listen, why don’t you have protection with you?
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m concerned for you
your well bein’. You’re goin’ around, askin’ a lot of
questions, there are things that should be left alone,
some things too rotten for even a raccoon to stomach.
People are noticin’, they don’t want these things
talked about, I’m just sayin’, take care of yourself, OK?
You seem like a nice kid.

<Raconteur Raccoon’s portraits are copyright Lianne Côté. You can visit Lianne at Thank you Lianne! All I asked for was a character and you brought RR to life! wm>


I‘ve always been my worst enemy.
Everyone agreed I had that special sparkle,
that inexplicable shine that makes you a star
except — I just gotta get my glow on.
Actually, not like that, it’s more like
my glow on gotta get me. I’ll explain.
It’s my big break, I’m working on a Mouse
short, I’ve got lines, business with the Mouse,
He’s a gold miner, he uses me to light his way
in the mine. As he walks along, I keep digging
gold. I get heavier and heavier, he sags lower
and lower to the ground — hilarious!
I’ve even got myself a new gold tooth
for my close-ups, every time I grin it drives
the DOP crazy! And what happens? In walks
Minnie and my glow on won’t quit. She’s sees it,
everyone sees it! Then she’s way too close,
I’m radiating like a lime light, she’s stroking
my face and blowing kisses at me and all of a sudden
everyone is dead quiet, because the Mouse has not
missed a beat of this, he stands up and says, “Fuck this”
and walks out. Minnie giggles, smirks at me, and walks
out the other way. Like that, I’m done. I haven’t
the foggiest idea what has happened. The director says,
“go home Friendly, better luck next time.” I say
“But what about the scene, what about me?” He says,
“there is no scene, go home.” And I’m done.
Oh now I know what happened, how I got played
like a sap, caught in a war between gods, but,
all I really know is: my glow on was what got me
the part, and my glow on fucked me, once again.

We’re the originals …
the only ones.
No one could ever move …
like us, let alone …
make people laugh …
or just enjoy themselves.
We weren’t stuck in Christmas either…
oh no, we performed all year round …
we were always in demand.
All kidding aside, we don’t always do that.
We heard you met the triplets …
them talking after each other…
completing each other’s thoughts…
well, who do you think taught them that?
Where do you think it comes from?
It’s old candy cane tradition.
Candy canes have been forced
to work together since forever.
Prejudice, pure and simple.
Because of that we learnt
to make that work for us.
Tag scat is one of our traditions.
It comes from Christmas.
Round singing.
Canons if you want to go back far enough.

You know it was always
tough being black and white striped.
People didn’t know how to slot us…
or didn’t care to …
we were told we weren’t white enough …
we weren’t black enough …
to work in film…
or to work anywhere.
(Together) But that’s before they saw us dance!
(Both laugh.)

No one will ever do the splits like us!
That’s for sure! Everyone else uses their hands
to get up, but these stubby little things …
are no use pushing off the floor…
so we taught ourselves how to do it without them.
You know Gregory Hines, the dancer?
He saw us, came backstage, said if they
ever make our life story into a film they’re going
to have to use CGI when we do the splits
cause no one else can get up without their hands.

We danced everywhere in Hollywood.
We toured Europe.
South America.
The world.
Dance is universal.
The language everyone knows.

Now, we teach.
Television gigs.
And there’s always film.
That we were passed over
because of who we are?
How we looked?
Look, long as we held our heads high
we have no regrets.
Our work will always speak for itself.

That, in the end, is the sheer audacity of my neglect,
rudimentary rabbit—you know why they call me that?
That’s what it said in the script, for those shots when all you see
is the back of bunny head, or just a big fat rabbit foot sticking
into the frame for a moment before it disappears, that’s me,
rudimentary rabbit, they said it was because of the accent,
joda con eso, que se jodan todos, maricons!
Like a fool I thought there would be room for two rabbits
in the great Hollywood, but I thought wrong,
especially when I was so much more talented
than any other rabbit whose name shall not be mentioned.
I am properly an Iberian rabbit, and my Spanish heritage shows,
I can tell by the way you look at me, you ask yourself
how could such a handsome rabbit have been ignored
nay, barred from the screen? Because that’s the fact
I could have been better than the original, but no
because I’m too refined, I’m not American enough.
It’s as if my life has been defined by another
and the final insult is, I’m rudimentary rabbit
just the pieces, not this magnificent whole, never
to have my chance, just another bit player, everyone
told me Hollywood is cruel, don’t do it, but I thought
I knew cruelty; I should never have left my warren.
(Rudy is known for rabbit stand-ins throughout cartoon history. GG)

You want to know the worst thing that
can happen to a flower? I know what it is,
can you guess? I’ll tell you what it is.
Take away a flower’s song, stop her
singing; take away a flower’s dance
stop her dancing. You want to know
why that’s the worst thing that can happen?
Because what’s left? Sittin’ in a flowerpot
out on the window ledge enjoying the sun
waiting to drop on some poor schmuck’s
head, that’s what. What kind of joke is that?
Do you know what dropping four stories
does to your roots? Or maybe you get a
close-up while some hairy stinky animal
snorts your fragrance like it’s dimestore
perfume, dragging at all your petals in a
lewd and troubling fashion, and if you say
anything, if you say that’s not family
humour, then try to get a job the next time.
You want to know what happens after
you take away a flower’s song and dance?
I’ll tell you what: degradation. And no amount
of fertilizer can cover the smell of that.
(Ms. Susan first appeared in Silly Symphony Flowers and Trees, 1932, GG)

Okay, this is lunch break, so let’s keep it brief.
I don‘t do that no more, movie hammering.
I’m keeping it real on this worksite, just bam
bam bam bam wham! all day long. Gets me
three squares a day—meals, I mean meals,
it’s slang. I don’t mean the tools, I’m not into
squares, nothing like that, people are always
looking for the worst part of Hollywood or did
I miss something? Isn’t that what you’re looking
for? Crazy tool box orgies with plenty of machine
oil? No? Ok, look I’m sensitive about that, a lot
of folk came out the other side with someone,
but me, seemed I could never find the right saw.
Look I’m as broad minded as the next tool, squares
are fine, I mean, if they’re adjustable then fine
but with set squares everything is ninety degrees
and there’s no arguing. I hate tools like that.
Still, butting heads is part of the game.

The guy who uses me pays an appreciation
charge. That’s what I call it, for the privilege
of bringing me to work, and he’s happy to pay,
because how many guys on this worksite
can say they have a fucking movie star
in their work belt? Not many, is the answer
to that one; although I did hear that Dribbly Drill
has gone back to the metal shop. It figures,
he’s such a gear head. What can I say? I was young,
thought I could be a star, not like all the others
who thought they were going to be stars, no,
I was going to nail this town. When it happened,
it was great. I walloped all the big guys; Daffy
will always be my favourite. His routines kept
changing. Even if it was only the old hammer
to the head joke, he kept it real, always found
a new way to work it. That duck has real talent.
But in the end, sitting around the lot for eight,
twelve hours a day, to do 5 minutes of shooting
and all of it, retake after retake … that’s not what
hammers are made for. I couldn’t take it, I had
to work. Bang things into place. Drive a big spike
and move onto the next one. Movies were nice
but this is satisfying. I can go to the pictures any
time I want, walk out, go home and sleep well.
Okay there’s the lunch whistle, gotta go.
Listen on your way out, let Larry — my guy
over there — know you’re doing a book on
all us cartoon folk, remember him who I am;
shine my handle a little, you know? Thanks!
See you in the pictures kiddo!
(Handy Hammer’s biggest role was in Disney’s film John Henry. GG)
<Handy Hammer copyright Emerson Maxwell. You can find Emerson on Instagram @emersonsmaxwell . Yes, Emerson is my nephew. No, there was no coercion involved, other than familial, wm>

People always tell me that inanimate objects
that come to life are never going to last, but look at me,
still going strong. Especially ‘cause I’m a kettle. We have longevity.
Who else is going to blow steam for “Teatime!” on the radio?
When Mickey needs to save the day how else can he create
a contraption that helps him escape, except one that uses steam?
And where does he get that steam? From a kettle! That’s me!
I’m telling you it’s a great world. Too many people see the down side.
I could focus on how my backside is all burnt and black from
too many years sitting on the hot seat but that would be missing
this fine chrome shine that is a result of careful polishing from many
a tender young spoon, or the rarest of candelabras. I’m not picky.
You have to remember to sample life’s finer moments.
Everything’s not just things.

How I got the name is an interesting story. I’m sure you’d love
me to tell you. Well, I grew up in a tough neighbourhood in New York,
Hell’s Kitchen, perhaps you heard of it? Yeah, well, all us young bucks …
we were called bucks as that was how much we cost — you see? I’m
expensive! … anyway, things were hot in the kitchen and tempers
were always flaring—fights all the time, forks and knives—you know,
gang stuff. Any rate, one night, this knife gang decides it’s time for me
to go down. Literally, go down. They’re trying to force me off the counter
onto the floor where they can go to town on me. I’m over the edge, I’m done,
no one’s coming to help me. I see this mop handle. This is no puny wooden
mop handle; it’s industrial grade steel, baby. I grab that thing, and I … well,
I guess it was me who went to town. Afterwards, a couple of knives can’t
be straightened out, they’re tossed; a whole bunch have lost their edge.
No one says anything about it. After that, everyone calls me Mop Handle.
No one gives me any trouble, and that’s when I think, luck like that,
I should be in the movies.

Yeah, it’s surprising you haven’t mentioned the difference in my name.
You know, most of us have the same letters to start our names, it’s that
illiteration thing, but not me! when I come out here I introduce myself
as Mop Handle, that’s what I call myself. It makes me stand out.
People love it. I tell some jokes, they remember me, “I’m Mop Handle!”
My agent tells me not to change a thing. It’s my stage name as well.
Not many people can brag about that, I tell you! See, you’re laughing!
That’s my trick, I make people laugh and they like me. Unforgettable!
That’s me!
<Mop Handle’s portrait copyright Lianne Côté. You can visit Lianne at Thank you Lianne! Thank you Mop Handle for sitting still! wm>

Will Rogers is a low down, no good, back stabbin’
skunk in the grass! Those weren’t his rope tricks,
that was me! I taught that man everything he knew
about what rope is about and then some! Not only that,
he robbed me of some of my trademark statements.
Oh, he changed ‘em enough to fool people, but not me!
Boy oh boy, not me, I’m not one to forget a good turn
paid back with a dirty trick. Oh, everyone thinks he’s
some kind of American saint but I know better.
“A well applied rope can make people cry, but there’s
never been a rope invented that will tickle them.”
There, that’s one of them! He just mixed it up a little!
Well forget about that — like I have always said
too much time is spent living in the past, and yes
he stole that one from me too. So what. I guess
I had it coming. I was working carny at the time,
Will was riding in the Wild West show and I said,
“you need a livewire of a rope to really make your act,”
or something like that, and despite an initial reluctance
mainly concern for his pony trampling on me, my reply
being, “you should worry more about your horse.”
We clicked. I’ll admit he was a charmer, no denying
that, plus how many lariats got to work with a true half
Cherokee Indian? Yeah, it didn’t impress many agents either.
But I respected where Will came from; except him stealing
my act. In the end, I realized, the rope is either around his
neck, or it’s yours. I had to cut loose. So I did. I never thought
about cartoons before. Everything Will and I did was live.
The man was funny, I have to admit. Once I said to him,
you know why the sky’s blue? and without missing a beat
he replied, because it would look foolish any other way.
We riffed off each other. That’s what I missed in ‘toons.
Everything was scripted. There was no element of surprise.
I wanted four sheets to the wind. I wish I had shut up
but I was so damn excited to work solo. I had to tell
everyone, I worked with Will Rogers. What can I say?
The young characters, they’d never heard of Will, and I was
What? Still, I landed jobs. A magic rope for Aladdin. A daring
escape. There was always cowboy work. All the big guys
loved to dress up as tough guy rough riders. Well, to do that,
you gotta twirl rope. Where you gonna get that? I’m still the
go to guy. I was auditioned recently for another live film.
Some cop needs to jump out a window holding on to a rope
so he can swing in some other window. Piece of cake for me.
Film’s called Die Hard. We’ll see if I make it past editing.
But it’s a good title for me. Fits my lifestyle.
<Larry Lariat portrait copyright Curtis Walker. You can find more about Curtis at Thank you Curtis! wm>

I arrived in town, a fresh ingénue, written
into a script, a bit part, by a friend who told me,
“Hollywood is where you want to be Glowworm.”
It was a romantic scene between Popeye
and Olive Oyl. They’re sitting on the sofa, he
turns off the light, she turns on the glow worm.
A standard gag I admit, but that was all it took.
I was bit by the same bug all the characters in this
account share. I would have gladly given a leg
to be Minnie or Daisy when I came to Hollywood.
Now I know the price that’s paid, the stars,
the dreamers, everyone who agreed to be part
of these portraits, now I’ve heard their stories,
I realize, I’m not so sure; perhaps dreams denied
are denied for the best reasons. If I’ve exposed
a culture of stardom no one knew, that’s because
I wanted everyone to know the lives that animated
these characters; in other words, what are the thoughts
and feelings of the faces we know so well? Once, I began
this project, I realized, how many voices, ambitions,
wait to be recorded, other than the stories of the stars,
the characters we feel are part of our families. Strands of
gossamer and fairy dust — failed dreams — led me to
the land of fame denied. The characters that chased
the will ‘o the wisp, and were ignored, perhaps looked over,
required equal time, if not more. Because they’re all stars,
cartoon characters in their own right, each with a compelling
story, great jokes, open hearts and the fellowship every
thespian dreams of finding in the theatre. That they took me
into their confidence means more to me than I can describe.

I was never meant to be part of this; I wanted
to create snapshots of the famous juxtaposed against
those who were not. I had no idea I would become
part of the story. All I can say is the record
of these interviews, the players and subsequent events
will hopefully say more than I ever could in my defence.

<Glamorous’ portrait copyright Lianne Côté. You can visit Lianne at Thank you Lianne! Who knew Glamorous smoked a cheroot? wm>

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)

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