Tagged: Steve Goodman

Mike Gold: Jay Lynch – Um Tut Sut!

Every town must have a place / Where phony hippies meet / Psychedelic dungeons / Popping up on every street • Frank Zappa, “Who Needs The Peace Corps?”

The late Sixties really did live up to its reputation. In my home town of Chicago hippie central was the Lincoln Park neighborhood around the iconic Biograph Theater, where, 34 years earlier, the FBI allegedly shot John Dillinger to death. Today, hippies can’t even afford to drive down Lincoln Avenue.

The area sported many blues and folk bars, giving such local talent as Steve Goodman, John Prine, Hound Dog Taylor and Harvey Mandel a place to strut their stuff. It was Mecca to the storefront theater movement, creating world-renown companies such as the Steppenwolf and the Organic Theater a home for newcomer writers and actors like David Mamet, Joe Mantegna, Laurie Metcalf, John Malkovich, and John Ostrander. A mile down the street was The Second City, then-home to John Belushi, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and dozens of other people who would draw a multicolored mustache on the face of comedy.

A mile further south found you at the office of the underground newspaper the Chicago Seed, a paper so underground it sported a circulation as high as 48,000 copies. I was fortunate to be part of that outfit, initially working under the brilliant editor Abe Peck, who taught me more than any credentialed teacher ever could. Wonderfully, The Seed was across the street from the gargantuan Moody Bible Institute, although I spent more time at the Saucy Weenie scarfing down some great Italian beef and hot dogs.

Creativity flowed down Lincoln Avenue and if you weren’t swimming with that flow you were bathed in amazement. This, in January 1969, is where I first met a one-time Second City employee named Jay Lynch.

Most certainly, cartoonists benefited from the freedom and opportunity that brazenly replaced oxygen. The Chicago Mirror, a black-and-white “counter-culture” magazine that debuted in 1967 and was mostly sold at “head shops” (Google it) such as the Mole Hole. Less than a year later, editor/publisher Lynch turned it into an all-comix publication called Bijou Funnies. It featured the work of Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton, Jay Kinney, Justin Green, Kim Deitch, Ralph Reese, Denis Kitchen and his forever pal, Skip Williamson… it, like Zap Comix that premiered shortly before Bijou, was a who’s who of the comix movement.

As the hippie crusade started to age out, Jay – often known as Jayzey – expanded his horizons. He did color separations and 3-D adaptations for Fred Eychaner, then a printer, a major hippie employer and a contributor to The Seed. Jay was among the many underground artists recruited to write and draw for Topps Inc., contributing to the iconic Bazooka Joe and engaging in a life-long relationship with Wacky Packs and Garbage Pail Kids. In 1976 he created Phoebe and the Pigeon People with Gary Whitney for the Chicago Reader and syndicated to alt-weeklies all over. Several reprint books were published by Kitchen Sink Press; the feature ran for the better part of two decades.

I worked with Jayzey and his BFF Skip Williamson off and on for years, and we saw each other at comics conventions, stockholders’ meetings (that one’s a long and litigious story), and, well, memorials to fallen friends. When FM rock radio and poetry slam pioneer Bob Rudnick died in 1995, a wake was held at Mike James’ famed Heartland Café. It was a wonderful reunion of long-haired gray hairs, and, sadly, was the last time I saw such wonderful people as Marshall Rosenthal and Eliot Wald. Jay was still living in Chicago but I had moved to the New York area nearly ten years previous; we talked for more than an hour catching up and pontificating on the status of the comic art medium and what we should be doing about it. We continued that conversation for 20 years, mostly in bits and pieces at conventions but also through the modern miracle of the Internet.

Jay Lynch died of cancer last Sunday at the age of 72. These days, that’s young enough to be thought of as dying too young. Of course, for vital creators such as Jayzey no age could be too old. Unlike many of us hippies Jayzey eschewed drugs – Denis Kitchen pointed out that was true only if you didn’t count nicotine – but he got chopped down early nonetheless.

Jay Lynch was a quite pioneer. His work speaks for itself; his work screams for itself. A much-loved man, he leaves friends stunned and saddened all over the world.

Eras end all the time. Jay Lynch’s work will endure.

Mike Gold: The Real Fan


While watching the baseball game Saturday night, it occurred to me that the difference between pop culture and geek culture is sports. Sports are part of our pop culture but not generally thought of as a component of geek culture.

Our cohort Martha Thomases might say (I haven’t asked, but this seems to follow her logic) this is because when we were in high school the cool kids were into sports and the uncool kids were into comic books and science-fiction stuff, and we, the latter, were the ones who were called geeks. In recent years that line has been blurred significantly.

For example, take the ComicMix crew. Adriane Nash and I are hockey fans. Adriane and Robert Greenberger are New York Mets fans. Mindy Newell is a fan of the New York Giants football team and she is tired of my proselytizing that since they play in the Meadowlands they really should be called the New Jersey Giants. Marc Alan Fishman is a WWE fan, as is Mike Raub. Arthur Tebbel is a Yankees fan, or at least he used to be the last time the subject came up – which was about 15 years ago. Bob Ingersoll is a Cleveland Indians fan. John Ostrander and I are Chicago Cubs fans.

albert-spalding-premiumOh, oh. Well, it looks like Mr. Ingersoll, Mr. Ostrander and I will minimize our conversation for the next week or so… election notwithstanding. Then again, John and I were raised in an environment where politics and sports were indistinguishable.

John Ostrander and I are both Chicagoans, as is Marc Alan Fishman. John and I were raised on the north side, which means that being a Cubs fan is a matter of birthright as well as choice. And we both had a hell of a Saturday night, watching the Cubs win the National League pennant for the first time since, as Steve Goodman sang, “You know the law of averages says anything will happen that can… but the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.”

Not only did our beleaguered Cubbies win, but they won on a double-play and shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers with five runs. That’s the way to do it.

I’ve waited 71 years for this moment, which is five years longer than I’ve been alive. The only people who can readily appreciate that logic are comic book and Doctor Who fans (and John and I are both), scientists with degrees in theoretical physics, and Cubs fans.

As the game started the ninth inning, the cameras caught quite a number of people in the stands who were crying. Adriane later told me she was as well, and she’d only been to Wrigley Field two or three times – and one of them was to see a New Year’s Day hockey game (for which I shall remain forever grateful, but that’s an entirely different story). My own thoughts drifted over to my late aunt, Francis Goldberg.

Fran GoldbergAAunt Fran was born about a year after the Cubs had last won the world series; she lived 94 years. We were close, as everybody who knew her was close. She was smart, funny, and affable; the most worthy of role models. She was also the greatest Cubs fan I had ever met, and that says a lot. The last time I saw her was at a family function perhaps a year or so before her death. By this time she had succumbed to Alzheimer’s and she didn’t really recognize anybody in the room. However, she was no less intelligent, funny or affable

So I tried something. I asked her if she still followed the Cubbies. Aunt Fran took mock umbrage, as if I had asked her if she were still a woman. She began to rattle off how the Cubs did that season, proud that they had won the won the National League Central Division championship. And she went back through Cubs history, comparing contemporary events to earlier happenstance. I distinctly remember that if I had more time, she would probably take me back to the days of Albert Spalding, Cubs pitcher / manager / co-owner and sporting goods macher, circa 1876.

That, my friends, is a fan.

The story of the Chicago Cubs is the story of hope and promise. That’s always a vital story, that’s always a saga for our time, no matter when that time might be. I infuse that story with the spirit of my Aunt Francis Goldberg, who missed seeing the Cubs clench the pennant by a dozen years but never, ever had any doubt they would do just that.