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"I never asked him to redraw": Eldon Dedini

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: , ,

Eldon Dedini

New Yorker cartoon by Eldon Dedini

Obituary in the Monterey County Herald, by Larry Parsons:

Eldon Dedini, the Monterey Peninsula cartoonist whose artistry and humor graced slick American magazines for a half century, died Thursday of cancer at his Carmel-area home. He was 84.

Well-known for full-page panels depicting saucy satyrs and curvaceous, rosy-cheeked nymphs in Playboy magazine, Dedini was remembered as a top professional who blended his loves of life, art and learning into an immediately recognizable style.

"If 20th century cartooning is ever looked at seriously," said Lee Lorenz, former art director at The New Yorker magazine, "Eldon Dedini will be one of the outstanding figures of American comic art."
A King City native, Dedini was born June 29, 1921. He became infatuated with cartooning as a boy, when he would pore over "comic books" his mother made for him from the Sunday comics section in the newspaper. One of his favorites was Popeye, and he strived to imitate the spinach-fueled sailor.

Dedini studied at Salinas Junior College, as Hartnell College was then known, where an art teacher's encouragement led to his first published cartoon in a Salinas newspaper. It depicted the city's crumbling train depot.

"You've got to start somewhere," Dedini said of that humble beginning. Within a few years, he was a staff cartoonist for Esquire magazine, where he worked from 1942 to 1955.
In Southern California, Dedini worked a couple of years doing storyboards for Walt Disney Studios, while sending off cartoons to magazines. His first cartoon in The New Yorker was published in 1950, the same year he moved to the Monterey Peninsula.
Dedini fashioned his cartooning from serious studies of art and human beings.

"He was kind of a scholar of human nature," Carey said. "All his life he was growing and learning. He was a voracious reader,... always looking for clues."

Dedini's son said his father reveled in life and appreciated "food, wine, people, humor, history, travel, family, sex, beautiful women and the outdoors."
A 1957 collection of cartoons from Esquire carried a blurb about those days by Dedini that still resonates for his son. It seems to sum up the gusto Dedini found in life.

"(He wrote) 'With a small group of paisanos we meet in Doc's old place and study wine, jazz and philosophy,''' his son said, reading from the book. "That really fits. I like that."

Dedini married his wife, painter Virginia Conroy, after they met studying art in Los Angeles. Their marriage lasted more than 60 years.

Dedini may have painted bawdy cartoons for Playboy every month that, as his brother-in-law said, divined the "essence of female femaleness," but he was very much a Tory during the sexual revolution the magazine trumpeted.

"In his own relationships he was very conservative," Carey said.
For nine years, his cartoons were the centerpiece of a campaign for Mann Packing Co.'s broccoli. A retrospective show on his career in Salinas last year was aptly called "From Babes to Broccoli."

Dedini, the hard-working humorist, wasn't thrilled with the show's title, but the professional in him acknowledged: "It's all right. It works."

That's what Dedini did, too. He worked and worked hard. And he always made deadlines.

"He had a heavy work ethic," Carey said. "He knew that was the way things get done."

Said Lorenz of his dealings with Dedini for The New Yorker: "He was tough to edit because he didn't need much editing. I never asked him to redraw, which at The New Yorker is quite unusual."

Dedini once dismissed the illustrative side of his art, saying millions of people can draw but a good gag -- a caption that distills the drawing's humor -- is the elusive side of cartooning.

"That's not true," Lorenz said. "While a million people can draw, very few can cartoon well. To be a cartoonist you have to be a stylist, and that's not easy to come by. It transcends any technique."

Still, Dedini was a very good "idea man," Lorenz said. "He had a wide-ranging imagination."

Urry said one of the joys of her job was looking at Dedini's cartoons that Playboy never published. "He was very funny," she said. "I think it was wonderful he came down to earth for us."

Dedini is survived by his wife, Virginia; his son, Giulio, of San Luis Obispo; his brother, Delwin, of King City; four nieces and one nephew.

Services for Dedini will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 21 at All Saints Episcopal Church, Ninth and Dolores, in Carmel. The Paul Mortuary of Pacific Grove is in charge of arrangements.

Another Playboy/New Yorker career combination, like that of the late Rowland B. Wilson. There aren't a lot of magazines that feature single-panel cartoons anymore, I'm sure, and it must give NYer cartoonists a chance to have a different kind of fun. (Playboy cartoons, like the rest of the magazine, are endearingly tame, don't you think? They never change; they're a fixed art form with infinite small variations.)


Update: Here's the Chicago Tribune obituary.

Photo above is from Christopher Wheeler's pbase, an amazing resource for images of cartoonists that I must return to.

Dedini's New Yorker cartoons [Cartoonbank.com]

Photo of Eldon Dedini [by Michael K. Hemp; Dedini is standing in front of his Cannery Row mural]

Eldon Dedini images [Google Images; includes magazine illustrations, some New Yorker and Playboy cartoons, a mask, photos, etc.]

New Yorker cartoon by Eldon Dedini


Trying to find Playboy issue (Year/Month)
which there was a Dedini cartoon captioned
“When you get too old to hunt, you teach a
course in how to read buffalo shit.” Cartoon
shows two Indian braves on horseback in
left foreground watching old brave, pointing to
pile of said fecal matter, explaining its signifigance to group of teen-age Native
Americans. (Is there a Dedini or Playboy
cartoon bank from which co,lor copy can be obtained?

Kitty C. JagodaOctober 20, 2007

I am trying to figure out who the artist that did those cute little cartoons of round faced, rosy cheeked coeds in Playboy Magazine.

I had thought it was Andy Warhol, but I have been able to find nothing that looks like the girls I saw.

I was writing an email to a friend about my potiential wedding day and what I would look like.

Happy Holidays

Gwen Boucher

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