eeTeeD said...

what inspired you to visit prague?

I'm not sure. It was really just a whim. I have always heard it's a cool place, but I wasn't really JONESing to go there. Neither was Brigham. It just seemed like a good place to explore.

did you visit gene deitch while you were there?

Yes we did, and a nicer guy you'll never meet. He was very busy that week - and apparently is very busy every week, a real workaholic. And we had a bit of a logistical runaround hooking up with him because Brigham tore a ligament in his foot and was on crutches on day 4, and on a cane for the rest of the trip.


Trying to find out where to buy a set of crutches in Prague can be quite trying when you don't know the language and are not yet aware of their 3-tier system of healthcare stores: Drugerie (cosmetics, notions, toiletries, all the junk that is not medicine you can buy in a dugstore), Farmacie (all drugs, including aspirin and "over the counter" drugs, which must all be brought to the counter from behind the counter by the farmacist) and finally - uh - I'm not sure if this upper tier has a specific name, but there is a third type of store that specializes in medical hardware, like neck braces, IV tubes, crutches...

Anyway, back to Gene Deitch - I called him Saturday and he immediately started trying to arrange a meeting in the midst of his busy working weekend. I told him no no no, we did not expect to drop in on him unannounced, let's just wait til Monday! OK, fine...

Monday I called him back, and once again he immediately launched into a series of calculations and negotiations with his schedule, until I was finally able to get a word in edgewise and tell him that once again we must bow out due to Brigham's inability to walk on his foot even a little bit, since he had torn the ligament since we last talked to Gene. Upon finding out that I had already been out once searching for crutches and come up emptyhanded (in case you are wondering, the hotel concierge was NO HELP AT ALL, scratching her head in utter bafflement at the very idea of renting or buying crutches) Gene sent me to a clinic in Prague that "has experience dealing with tourists and foreigners".

This story goes on and on in spectacular "The Out Of Towners" fashion, but back to Gene Deitch. Just as soon as I tell you that if you ever need crutches in Prague, you need "BERLE" (pronounced behr-lah). That is what you will learn after you pantomime walking with crutches and draw a little picture of a man on crutches and show it to people.

GENE DEITCH: So we finally hook up with him on our last day there, him crowbarring us in between meetings, and me racing across Prague and back to collect Brigham, who was out taking pictures in Old Town. We all finally merged at Cafe Savoy, a beautiful historic fancy INEXPENSIVE cafe around the block from Gene's studio. Here's a pic Brigham made of the ceiling*, and here's some more pics.


*Well heck, the pics of the Savoy ceiling won't open, due to an incomplete string in the jpeg code or some such tech gumbo. Instead I'll go ahead and show this picture I took for Bissette.

Gene Deitch, who had a day cram full of work and meetings, spent a relaxed hour regaling me and Brigham with with the kind of stories that probably make his wife think "Oh God, THAT one again!" but are quite entertaining and fascinating to someone he just met. He really has lived an interesting life, the kind of life that would make a great movie, if Hollywood did not alter the story and ruin it.

If you'd like to read all about Gene Deitch's life, buy this book.

I bought one. In fact I bought 3. Then I forgot and left 2 in my hotel room when we went to meet Gene, so only one is signed, to me and Brigham. Sorry, Mike and Steve. Then I lost one of the other two. I can't imagine where the hell that book wound up. Sorry, Steve. I bet you own it anyway. Or maybe Mike owns it anyway. We'll work it out.

(I'm talking to Steve Bissette and Mike Dobbs here. Mike is more of an animation historian than Steve, that is he is more FOCUSED on animation vs all film. That's why I said "Sorry, Steve". I figure Mike needs the book the most.)

Mike also sent two questions along for Mr. Deitch. Here is my mini-interview as Mike Dobbs' proxy in Prague:

Me: My friend Mike Dobbs is an animation buff who grew up in Springfield Massachusetts, and he was always WOWed as a young boy when Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog would say "HOLY OKE MASSACHUSETTS!" What's the story behind that?

Gene D: Oh gosh, yeah, Holy Oke, you know, Tom Terrific was actually based on Terr'ble Thompson, did you know that? (I did NOT! - me) I was friends with Bob Keeshan back then, we knew each other, so when he called me up and said they needed a cartoon and they needed it fast I just re-worked Terr'ble Thompson and turned him into Tom Terrific. I had a hell of a time getting the animators to stay on model with that thing. It's a terribly simple cartoon but you still have to stay on model you know. Somebody gave me a DVD recently with all those old Tom Terrifics on it! I didn't even have them all before that. You know the studio owns all that stuff, that's the sad thing about creating stuff for a studio. Viacom bought the whole Terry Toons catalog and they don't have any interest in Tom Terrific because it's black and white, can't do anything with it, they can't see any value in it because it's black and white. All these big conglomerates gobbling everything up, all this crap from China. You wanta support your local economy whatever it is and just buy local, just try it! You can't buy anything that's not made in China. Now Mattell's gonna take a huge hit with that stuff from China, HUGE! Huge multinational corporation's not even immune, Mattell's got Barbie and all that shit, now look at 'em!

Me: So "Holy Oke Massachusetts", where did that come from?

Gene D: Well, it's just like "Holy Smokes" with a twist. He said all kinds of things like that! What were they? I can't remember them now, but it's like saying "Cheese and Crackers!" instead of "Jesus Christ!" Manfred had a whole arsenal of sayings like that.

That's the end of the mini-interview. I had a second question but I never got it in there before it was time for Gene to head off for his noon meeting.

This entire mini-interview is paraphrased from memory. I did not record it, and I did not nag Mr. Deitch for a photo, although I'm sure he was actually dying for me to ask for one. He's a bundle of energy and a tireless self-promoter and an inspiration! He never stops smiling! I'm glad I got to meet him when I visited Prague.

Brigham liked him too! Sorry this all sounds so ME ME ME! Brigham and Gene talked about saw blades and China and how much Gene LOVES to go to "Home Depot", which is a store just like Home Depot but with a Czech name that I can't remember. He really does, and I mean REALLY! That man loves hardware!!!

9 comments:

eeTeeD said...

color me green...

with envy.

SRBissette said...

Oh, shit, I have no idea what hotel room I left that Christmas gift in for you, Mark. Oh, wait, there it is. No, it isn't -- that's Mike's Christmas gift. Oh, well, there's always your birthday -- oh, no, wait, that's for Mike. Sorry.

Holy Oke!

Mike Dobbs said...

Thanks for asking that question. The other one...in case anyone is interested and I doubt it...is that I wanted Mark is ask him about the climate of taking over Terrytoons for CBS.

Terrytoons was the lowest of the animation studios in terms of budget and finished products. Paul Terry, in many ways, was the father of limited animation as he was notorious for re-using walking cycles, etc.

Deitch brought in a whole new approach to animation when Terry sold the operation to CBS. it must have been a hell of culture shock to go from Mighty Mouse to Tom Terrific.

I guess it's all in that book, which I guess I'm getting instead of Steve. Sorry Steve. I'll share. Honest.

You didn't get a photo of him but you got the photo of the guy eating the sausage?

dogboy443 said...

I was just excited about the Gringhouse flyer pasted on the light pole. I can appreciate the animation from that era, my faves at the time were MIghty Mouse and then later on Speed Racer, KImba and then anything Toth designed, but it's not my bag now.

The Other Mark M

slatts said...

Very COOL!

And I wondered where I "knew" the Deitch name...from his son Kim and his underground comic stuff...

But to find out Gene was the creator of Tom Terrific is VERY VERY cool! One of my favs as a Capt. Kangaroo-oholic!

and the "Holy Oke.." thing was always entertaining as we folk who live next door (Easthampton) "know" that it's pronounced Holyoke (hole-yoke) but fast like one word...taking a three syllable name turning it to two spitting out like one...

Cool! very cool and informative travelogue, Mark!

BonzoGal said...

Speaking of "oke", in some of the Dashiell Hammett books he has characters answering people in the affirmative by saying "Oke." I always wondered if that was an older spelling for "Okay", or if it was pronounced "Oak."

Anonymous said...

There's an interesting man named Thomas who works in my building as the mail runner. He was displaced from New Orleans due to Katrina. I recently called him "Tom Terrific" and he spontaneously sang the whole opening song for the cartoon! I didn't remember it at all and was sure impressed!

HemlockMan said...

Let's unilaterally invade the place and fix their health care system!

Why did you have to go to Prague to visit an American animator? (Or is he American? I haven't clicked on the link.)

I recall TOM TERRIFIC. I remember that he had a disturbing voice, and as a little kid I didn't care much for the way he said "Mighty Manfred, the Wonder Dog".

HemlockMan said...

Oh. I forgot to mention Brigham's injury. Those soft tissue injuries suck ass. I've had more than my share as a mailman--my old route had me walking over ten miles a day. Just take it easy and everything should heal up fine.