Through the Past, Fondly


I find myself in a reminiscent mood at the moment. This post is all about my genesis as the creator of the Wall Street Journal “hedcut” portrait style, still in service, after all these years!!

In my experience as an employe [official Dow Jones / WSJ term for what you might call an employee), I had “on-again, off-again” luck with the bosses I engaged with. I’ll keep it brief, but the full story is lush, long and rich, Dear Reader ( I should write a book! ). I will interleaf some work I was involved with during this time as the story unfolds…

someone had the idea of a license plate to indicate a region

someone had the idea of a license plate to indicate a target market

After graduating from art school in ’77, I was living off the $500. graduation gift my Godmother bestowed on me through the summer. I tried going back to my previous summer job at the warehouse, but was informed that I was too highly educated. Damn! One day in September, someone called from New York. “Can you bring in your portfolio tomorrow? Oh,… I’m supposed to tell you, ‘Charlie sent me’ “.

Suspecting a college room-mate, I made a call myself. Yeah, my good buddy had recommended me. I said to him, “what do I bring?” —“aw, bring some illustrations, and some proof you can use drafting tools to produce mechanicals.” Well, I created some mock-mechanicals in my basement chambers that very night. Next morning, I was on the train to NYC for a job interview. When I arrived, my grinning colleague was there to make the intro.


my design-- closely-spaced helvetica was all the rage at the time

my design– closely-spaced helvetica was all the rage at the time

A/D #1: Richard, the 1st (not his real name). My all-time favorite art director. This guy was classy, talented, hilarious and irreverent. Among his humorous antics was flicking ficticious nose-dirt over the cubicle walls in the boss’s direction (only when a bad uber-directive was handed down). Aside from his massive Bon-Amie, this man was an awesome design talent. When he was hired away, after 9 months, my roomie and I designed a commemorative port bottle label (to affix to his favorite libation) with our pictures– gleaned from the Century 21 photo-booth– ¬†incorporated.

This is probably getting boring, so I’ll buzz-cut through the rest, Gentle Reader!

an early version of the computer, and one of the rare opportunities I had of drawing at work!

an early version of the computer, and one of the rare opportunities I had of drawing at work!

Richard, the 2nd (not his real name), was a waste of time. His MO was to give us our assignments, with their deadlines, and then spend the rest of his time watching us work. Richard, the 2nd, would pull up a chair next to one or more of us, to kill his boredom and shoot the proverbial excrement. It was enough to make you want to hate your job.

A/D 3 was different. I’ll call him Lancelot. This guy was fairly competent, gentle, extremely accident-prone (he told us young cubs that he once got his tie stuck between the rollers of a photo-processor, and let an ex-acto knife plunge into his thigh, for instance.

My colleague was made an “employe” of the company after 6 months. They didn’t hire me, but kept me on in a freelance capacity for 2 years. It was irksome, you know, to my pride.

Check out the antiquated hands... This is a fading example of print-jobs on the cheap!

Check out the antiquated hands… This is a fading example of print-jobs on the cheap!

Now, let me write like the Dickens, and paint a small cameo of some of the characters I encountered during this period:

Every day, we’d visit the cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, both. behind the counter were Jimmy, and Jimmy. Big Jimmy: “Love you to Death!” (we knew he meant, “feed you to death!”). Little Jimmy faithfully discharged the goods at the counter… great grilled corn-muffins were copiously provided. [an aside: When Dow Jones moved from 22 Cortlandt across the street to the new HQ, around 1984, they hired a sanitized, frivolous food-service company, and we never saw the Jimmy’s again.]

“Hello, Young Man! and what’s new and exciting in your life today?!” was the sibilant cry of an energetic being by the name of Fred (his real name). He was a ball of fire, always drawing us into higher realms of achievement. I guess Fred performed promotional services for the company, but I could not tell you more.

Tim Ogden (not his real name) was our big boss. Not a bad guy— my only beef with him was that, at a Christmas party, he said I was getting a significant promotion— which never came. I waited 2 months for that raise. Finally, I entered his office to remind him of his promise. I think he made good, but it’s a long time ago. More in the memory is the recollection of listening, after-hours (we had to be there to get stuff done) to him having his heart broken, and pleading on the phone with his girlfriend. Lord, Have Mercy!

2 thoughts on “Through the Past, Fondly

  1. One day Jimmie did feed me to death with a tainted burger. Very fine memories. I love the synopsis of the two (Richards). (R#1) actually tried to hire me at Time (where he landed). While returning from the interview with Gil Lesser (his boss) carrying my huge portfolio that I had hidden in a DJ closet prior to the lunchtime interview, (Tim Ogden) got on the same downtown train I was aboard and sat directly across from me. Karma? Kismet? Frickin’ bad luck? I’m guessing he is your Ogden in the story. He always promised great things but seldom came through.

  2. Great stuff, Roomie. I owe you, big time, for getting me that job! (I had to edit your comment to keep things on the anon… hope you understand. Your stories are news to me. I hope you’ll keep putting your oar in on this blog. Big Thanks from the Admin.

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