Thursday, February 18, 2010

Revisiting “Blondiegate,” 1982, at Heritage Auctions

Feb. 18, 2010
Written by Barry Sandoval

Blondiegate: The day America lost its innocence, or an event of no consequence whatsoever?

You be the judge.

It was June 20, 1982, when the Associated Press wrote:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A recent Blondie comic strip showing two husbands sneaking out on a lecture was a slightly altered version of a Blondie strip published 19 years ago, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported Sunday.

From the article, readers also learned:

- The strips were virtually identical except for the final panel, where a quip by Blondie was replaced by a funnier quip by Herb (hmm, 75% repetition!).
- Chic Young’s real name was Murat Young (who knew?).

- Dean Young, who took over writing the strip in 1973, could not be reached because his phone was knocked out by severe weather (suspicious!).

- King Features said “We are very concerned and surprised about this.” (Why, 28 years later, have no heads rolled yet?)

A follow-up story a couple of days later quoted Dean Young as saying: “Who cares?... I mean, golly, give me a break.”

I agree with Dean Young, but King Features obviously didn’t, as I learned from this lot to be auctioned Feb. 27, three boxes full of correspondence from the files of King Features editor Bill Yates.

The documents therein show that King Features launched into damage-control mode, demanding that Young re-do from scratch any strips with partially re-used gags, with the exception of those that had already been published or were too far along in the process to stop.

From handwritten notes, presumably by Yates:

"TOO LATE TO STOP: 6/7/82 redo of 3/10/63
any more?
anything we can pull, we must
Sunday holds (KILL) Aug. 15 + 22"

A few thoughts here:

- Writing a comic strip is one of those things lots of people think they could do well. Many probably could come up with a week’s worth of funny gags. Maybe a month’s worth. Perhaps even a year’s. Dean Young, though, had thought of about 4,000 gags by 1982, the vast majority funny. Try that sometime.

- If someone reminded me of something today that made me smile or laugh in 1991, I would thank him, not criticize him.

- If re-using premises was a crime in 1982, the makers of Three’s Company, the Dukes of Hazzard, and Love Boat should have all been sent to San Quentin.

In closing I quote a King Features memo from June 21, 1982, also part of this auction lot:

“With the exception of the Sioux Falls paper, reporters’ approach to the situation has been casual. The AP writer told Dean, ‘I feel silly calling you.’”

- Barry Sandoval

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