Thursday, 14 July 2011

M E D U S A :

Drawing in hindsight. I took the Murdoch half crown, drawing a weekly portrait for nearly three years in the early nineties for his newspaper Today. It was unusual in that I would be told  it could be Jeffrey Archer one week, Billy Connolly another, Princess Anne and so on. I would be free to interpret the subject, draw the victim how I saw fit. I was free to do what I wanted. On occasions my drawing would appear castrated in print, censored frequently but it was a regular earner. I am a tart. I would often get angry-threaten disembowelment and similar then I'd have a week to get over it til the next time. It always travelled Red Star except during industrial action and then it might get lost in transit by carrier pigeon. Besides I liked my editor Christopher Wilson, who would write the copy for the column Poison Pen. He was a fan of my work. He first clapped eyes on my illustrations as part of a small exhibition in a basement bar at Waterloo Station, a bar that previously had housed the gents toilets, so quite an appropriate setting to hang illustrations and cartoons. He tracked me down phoned me up and told me he had been invited to edit a weekly 8 page insert into the main paper. He would like to run Poison Pen a full page. So that's how it started. It ended abruptly.  I have just googled it, November 1995.  Thursday, the day the last Poison Pen appeared, I have a horrible recollection that the last drawing may have been of David Hockney God knows why he had been selected I love the man personally, so it was impossible to produce a drawing that attacked the subject. I suspect it was a gentle apologetic excuse of a drawing. I know it was a gentle apologetic piece. I couldn't do it. If nothing else a bad drawing serves as a spur to draw a better one next week. I am in my studio. It is nearly 5 o'clock. I have music playing, probably Jeff Buckley or if I was really miserable, Bjork. My daughter walks into shot. My memory makes her about 7 years of age in fact, she must've been thirteen. "Dad," she asks "is it true that tomorrow's edition of Today will be it's last?" I think I hear her right. "Pardon." I say. "Say that again."  "Is it true that tomorrow's edition of Today will be it's last?" She says. "Where did you hear that?" I ask. "It was on John Craven's Newsround, just now." This is 1995 before most of us were getting our instant up to the minute information from the internet. I eject Jeff Buckley. Switch to the BBC Radio 4, just in time for the 5 O'clock news. First headline. The Queen Mother is comfortable after an operation to remove a fish bone from her throat. Second item: Leah Betts's life support machine is switched off.......and in the bronze medal slot: Tomorrow's edition of Today Newspaper will be it's last. I phone Christopher Wilson's direct line. No answer. 
The following week I eventually get a call from Wilson. He was on holiday in Devon apparently unaware of the the sudden closure of the newspaper. When he heard the news he was having lunch with TV chef Keith Floyd. I don't know why I've added that piece of information. It turned out that despite Today having a healthy circulation, it was haemorrhaging  massive sums of money. So Murdoch took the decision to shut it down with immediate effect. According to Wilson there was an enormous swindle being carried out by many of the employees who were bleeding Rupert dry, secretaries, office staff on a major expense scam, on the fiddle. Fuelling luxurious lifestyles. But that is a tradition of the newspaper industry I imagine. Me I did get paid what I was owed, but several original drawings mysteriously went awol, including one of Rolling Stone Keith Richards, it's probably hanging on some journalist's toilet wall who in his spare time is a guitarist in a Rolling Stones tribute band. Helps him memorise guitar licks as he wipe's his arse to Satisfaction..............

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! both the drawing and the story. Could anyone be mean to Mr Hockney???