Tonight’s seminar was Pat Oliphant, the cartoonist. The evening began with Charles recounting an incident that I guess I can sketch out for you, seeing as how it’s in the public record:
Oliphant came to Wallace House in the first days after it was purchased by the Fellowship (c. 1992), and was invited to draw on the wall. He sketched, with his usual marvelous economy, a picture of Bill Clinton jogging with a cheeseburger in his hand. Oliphant fans know about Puck, the little penguin who makes asides at the bottom of Oliphant cartoons. In this one, Puck asks Socks the cat something like, “Why did they get you and not a dog?” and Socks replies, “Mrs. Clinton said, ‘You like pussy so much, here’s a cat.'”
Well. I guess that, shall we say, tetched it off. A later speaker saw this thing and dropped the dime to the Detroit News, which did a story about it, along with various other publications. The drawing was called the “wall of shame,” and was the center of weeks worth of civil war between the Fellows and others, half of whom wanted it painted over, and others who thought doing so would be nothing short of capitulation to the forces of political correctness.
The drawing was painted over. But not before spirited debate, and lots of archival photographs.
Oliphant still has the touch. His caricatures of American leaders — on paper and in frames, not drawn on the walls — adorn our living room. They’re marvelous pieces; you can get a sense of them in the photo about halfway down this page. I’m no artist, and so the trick of conjuring a human face in just a few strokes of charcoal amazes me.
The conversation, and the drawing, went elsewhere, and I’m sorry I can’t talk about it, because there were some good ones.