My fantastic, long Q & A with Bunny Hoest, the current and longest writer for the international comic strip “The Lockhorns”.
This interview was conducted at her mansion which is found down a long and tree-lined road in a very private cul-de-sac. The mansion is down a hill which overlooks the Long Island Sound on a cliff. These pictures were from one of Bunny Hoest’s annual luncheon celebration at her house where I was invited to attend.
*Bloggers Note: Although one tries to be objective, I have to say that Bunny Hoest is both highly-intelligent and is a gracious and kind person.
BH-the boy who works with me has a favorite teacher he went to visit last week.
RP-The boy, now that’s your animator?
BH-no, we don’t have an animator we have an illustrator. His name is John Reiner. John has been working with Bill and me since before Bill died. He was sick, he didn’t die suddenly he had cancer so we had a lot of chemo and he was not well. Another cartoonist recommended an assistant that he had, because his strip was going down-it was just not successful and he said I have a great kid working with me-he’s twenty something years old and he has been cartooning since he was three. He worked for Captain America when he was a teenager-inking or whatever they do.
BH-And he said he’s great, and maybe Bill could use some help. Bill Hoest was my husband, who really was a genius.
BH-But unfortunately very sick. And this kid came and he was so obviously gifted, head and shoulders above everybody else who volunteered to help us. And believe me the cartoon community was wonderful, they offered to ghost my strip for nothing and not sign it, just to keep me going, to tide me over while Bill was not well. And even after he died-two guys called me up and said…but by that time we had this guy John Reiner. He went to Stony Brook, local long Island kid, born and raised, went to Smithtown High School, and he was so clearly gifted head and shoulders above the others. He had the concept that Bill and I wanted, you know, the loving couple but they squabble. The design, we have a very designee comic panel. It’s called a panel, its one box not a strip with many panels.
BH-And we like to keep it gorgeous-you know-I love good art, and it’s very black and white-you know-it’s very designy. We have it balanced, you can turn it upside down and it’s still great.
BH-And John got that concept in no time and he was literate. He was the editor of the Stony Brook undergraduate newspaper. He wasn’t just, what we call a “wrist”, in the trade. He really knew his English and his grammar…
RP-Transcended an Illustrator…
BH-Yes. And he was also a fan of Bill’s, he was devoted to my husband-a kid born on Long Island-who read the LOCKHORNS his entire life, he was ecstatic to be in the studio in our presence and he couldn’t believe his good fortune. And Bill adored him, it was wonderful and he stuck with me-oh gosh-this is almost 2012, he came in 1986.
BH-Long time ago and Bill died in 1988 and I said to John, do you think we can go on? I mean I was pretty broken up and I said do you think we can continue? And John said let’s give it a shot. And at that point we didn’t just have the LOCKHORNS. Bill and I had started other strips. Bill had started the LOCHORNS before I married him, but we had built up six other strips in the interim. Five I did with Bill and I did one after he died. I started one called HUNNY-BUNNY’S SHORT TALES. IT was a one-minute bedtime story for kids. It was darling, but we had a lot that John had to do. Doing one week, that’s 6dailys and 5on Sunday, that is an enormous amount of work, and that is the LOCKHORNS alone. We were also doing strips, three panels, one was called AGATHA CRUM. We were doing another feature for KING called WHAT A GUY. We were doing BUMPER SINCKERS for the National Enquirer, which was a panel about vehicle car bumpers; we were doing a column in Parade magazine, which was called LAUGH PARADE, which featured three cartoons plus one a week called HOWARD HUGE. Which was my feature, it’s copyrighted. And that was a monumental amount of work. And John just took it on and did all the finishes. I did the layouts, wrote them, and handled business. He did all of the gorgeous, beautiful drawings up to a standard that is still talked about today. He is just wonderful.
BH-Now, the interesting thing is that he works at night- by choice. He has a sleeping disorder he says, but he just doesn’t like to work during the daytime. He has an apartment in downtown Huntington and he comes here late afternoon-evening-around diner time and he works all night and he leaves 4 to 5 a.m. in the morning when I am asleep.
BH-So, literally, you’re in the studio now; it’s used 24/7. We work every day.
BH-It couldn’t be maximized any more than it is. I am very lucky.
RP-So, you do your thing and you’re asleep and he’s up all hours, then…
BH-I get up very early, 5 or 6 a.m., when I get up, he is still here. But I get up very early because I feel most creative and fresh in the morning and he feels great at midnight (laughs). I can’t even write a check after diner; I make mistakes and I discover them in the morning. I am a morning person and he is a night person, and it couldn’t be a better fit.
RP-Good, Good at least you’re not bumping into each other.
BH-And yet we meet every Monday night-we have an arrangement-a diner meeting together-a business meeting. Because there are things, we need to catch up on with each other. You know-somebody called and wants a special feature, or there is an advertising campaign we have to contribute something too-you know that kind of thing-we discuss on Monday night. Also, we have great dinners-a lot of laughs.
RP-Do you have your meetings here mostly?
BH-All over Huntington. I am a big supporter of the local restaurants. Well, Huntington has become such a destination.
RP-Yes it has. It’s like a mini-Manhattan and every year they just get better.
BH-And now they opened this big Paramount theater, have you seen it?
RP-Yes, I saw it. It used to be called the IMAX?
BH-In my day it used to be called the Huntington movies-it was a one movie theater.
RP-Yes, Yes the Paramount Theater and they have some very interesting acts there as well.
BH-Amazing. And the restaurants have responded accordingly. They have some really fantastic eateries, all price ranges. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that Bill’s son owns Canterbury Ales which is a hotspot.
RP-Sure, sure does he own the one in Nassau as well?
BH-Not any more. He just has the one here in Huntington. He concentrates on this one. It’s super. He has beer tastings and specials and its right across from The Book Revue-which has all the guest stars.
RP-I am glad they are still around, especially since Boarders started closing stores. The Book Revue has the little café. I love books, with everything going digital, as you know, I am not happy about all the trees being cut down of course, but I love the smell, the feel of pages, the feel of newspaper in my hands-I love books.
BH-I think some people are just book people. I have grandchildren and one of them has been reading since before she started school, and she is only eleven years old now, and she is a book person. And she is super on the computer. You know-these kids are brought up with texting-but she still prefers a book and I think to myself-she is out of her generation. And she collects them and has places where she puts her favorites, and I think how did she happen? She just loves the printed page, and turning the pages-not that she’s not great on the iPad-so, I think maybe in the future there will be people reading books. I am an English teacher by profession.
RP-I think that’s the only thing Wikipedia got right. I read it some place on line-there were a couple of articles on you. I may finish out my career in English. I am taking communications, media, and journalism but English has always been important to me. Recently I scored very highly on an on-line English usage test.
BH-Great! We are very careful in our captions. As an English teacher I am specifically careful and John was an editor of a newspaper. We really are so very careful about using proper vocabulary. We don’t do what we call “dumbing it down”. Al Cap, who did LIL ABNER years ago, had given some rules, like bible rules for the cartoonist and he said “dumb it down” do not expect your audience to understand big words, keep it simple. I can’t do that. First of all, my readers, if you’re reading LOCKHORNS, you’re not reading Mickey Mouse, you’re not a kid you are reading an adult situation. Although I have a lot of kid readers who say that’s my mother, my father, grandmother. I definitely keep the vocabulary proper and appropriate, picking the right word for the right situation. I don’t try to dumb it down, if I can help it. I hope I never use bad grammar. We check and double check. I edit it and John edits it and we have an editor at King Features-we really double, triple check.
RP-I can tell you, that in my college experience, especially with poetry is that you are taught to write what you feel and let the reader come up to your level. Much the same way Shakespeare is taught as written even thou they could use simple language for any level reader.
BH-Well, you have to keep the integrity and it expands your horizons. You’re enriching the reader; you’re creating another dimension. You’re showing them the art. This grandchild of mine, the one who reads books, loves to hear where words come from. We discuss words. Where words have originated, the origin of the word-what language it came from. I love English and I think it’s a great major for you. It’s such a background. I never dreamed I would be doing cartoons when I majored in English, cause I was a little kid with glasses who read a lot but it has been such an advantage for me in every field that I entered. I taught, I substituted, I taught English as a second language when it was getting beginning, I’m old, so this program that was just starting after world war two, when the refugees were coming.
BH-Ah that was a thrill even thou English is hard to teach because it has no rules, and it’s a very exciting language. I was always apologizing to the students who came from languages with rules-but now I have a daughter who teaches English as a second language in a medical school. Where all the foreign doctors want to pass the American boards, and she’s teaching English at this very high level to educated scientists who probably speak 6 or 7 languages and she’s having the time of her life teaching them. She was an English major too, so, you get-it’s a wonderful major. I appreciate that you love it.
RP-Oh yes, I do love it.
BH-I would advise you to stick with it.
RP-This has been a great conversation. I would like to ask a few specific questions with your permission.
RP-Where did you grow up?
BH-I’m from Brooklyn. I was born in Brooklyn and moved when I was 16 to Garden City which is where I finished school. I then went to Adelphi University. And I had many majors before I finally settled on English. I was just diverse-doing a lot of things in those days-I majored in foreign languages first-because I loved-I spoke French, Spanish, and Italian-I don’t speak them anymore, but I studied them and I loved them, so I thought I’d be a foreign language major, but I kept coming back to reading and English which is what I really wanted to do. And I was a music major briefly. I still have music in my life; it’s an enormous part of my life. I sing in the Huntington Choral Society. I can sell you tickets to our concert; December 10th is our winter concert. But I’ve been there for 50 years and it’s been a joy. So, music was a part of my life but I didn’t want to major in it, I wanted it to be a hobby and some place I could go when I wanted to relax not work at it. Also, I don’t think I was gifted enough actually. People in the music department were performers, they were already acting on Broadway and doing opera or they wanted to be music teachers and I didn’t, so I left the music department and ended up in English barely eking out enough credits to graduate. I was thrilled to find where I was supposed to be. From there I went on to get my master of education at Post Collage. So I have an MSED from Post. Many years later Adelphi my old school gave me an honorary PHD. That was a tremendous thrill. It was really very nice to go back and be honored for my work. At that point I had been cartooning for 30years and they honored me for the achievement.
RP-So, at what point did you marry?
BH-You want to hear about the marriages? (Laughs).
RP-I just wanted to work up to your working in cartooning.
BH-I finished collage, married and had 3 children and I was married for 20years and that husband is deceased now but I actually divorced him before he died, obviously, and married a cartoonist and that was Bill Hoest. And Bill was, he had only the LOCKHORNS when I married him, he was kind of doing submissions to magazines. We started by going around freelancing cartoons. He was published, God, published everywhere. There were magazines then like Look, True Magazine, cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Family Circle, and they all took cartoons and they were all weekly and they published them. And we went around selling cartoons on a motorcycle; it was a lot of fun.
RP-so you lived in Manhattan?
BH-No, I always lived here, I always lived in Huntington. After I left Brooklyn, sometime later, my parents left too and I never went back. I stayed on Long Island the rest of my life. We would drive into New York City from Huntington and drive around from one magazine to another.
RP-So you literally knocked on doors and met with editors?
BH-They had a Wednesday look day. And all the cartoonists, I met a world of cartoonists, who are still my very good friends, the cartoon community is super. I have a party here every June, where all of the cartoonists come for a picnic out on the lawn. We have New Yorker cartoonist Mort Gruber, Sam Gross, George Booth, and Charles Saxon used to come, he is dead now, just a lot of New Yorker cartoonists plus all the syndicated guys that I work with at King Features and other places. People like Jeff Keen who does FAMILY CIRCUS for King Features, Mort Walker and his sons Greg Walker, Brian Walker, and Neil Walker they come from Connecticut by boat and they do BEATLE BAILEY and HI & LOIS, you know a bunch of strips. And they all gather; I have a picture here I can show you. It’s a great gathering and these people all have been my friends from the beginning. It’s really a great community….what was I talking about?
RP-You were telling me about riding around on the motorcycle and going to look day on Wednesdays.
BH-Oh yes…And we realized it was not cost effective. The best thing to do was have more strips with King Features because the LOCKHORNS was steady income, was under contract with King Features. So, we started, we were at my mothers in Florida, my parents retired to Florida and we saw all these feisty old ladies who were still very much aware and running businesses and we started a script called AGATHA CRUM which you might have seen on line. It was about a tough old business woman who ran an empire; it was cast like a sitcom. It was a strip, it had three panels and King Features took it and sold it to a couple of hundred papers, that was good. Then we thought if that was good, let’s try …by then my daughter had a baby and she and her husband went to work and the little kid was a latch key kid. So we started a little cartoon called WHAT A GUY about a little boy who was very independent and he thought he was a business man. He went to school in a suit and a little briefcase and King Features took that and sold it.
RP-So you had three strips at that point?
BH-We had three strips with King Features then we got the call from Parade magazine. They were starting with a new editor, and they wanted a page of cartoons, in a row-in a column, and they called it LAUGH PARADE. And so they wanted Bill to do the LAUGH PARADE column. And he had the idea of putting a steady feature called HOWARD HUGE in the center to anchor the column. And HOWARD HUGE is modeled after our dog. We had a big Saint Bernard who was very cute and funny. And when he died, we were miserable when he died, but he was funny, so Bill said if we can get over the hump here, we can make this into a very funny cartoon. And we did and of course that was very successful, HOWARD HUGE went on for 25years. And the column did too.
RP-The Parade column was separate from HOWARD HUGE?
BH-That was with HOWARD HUGE in it. It’s part of the column. Parade magazine is a supplement that was in many, many newspapers.
RP-I don’t think it’s around anymore, is it?
BH-It’s still around but, as many published papers are, its taking its lumps.
RP-Its becoming limited-yes.
BH-At one point they announced they had an 80-million circulation. You measure circulation by the number of subscribers to a paper. And you figure 1.6 people in the house read the paper. There is some formula the newspapers use. When they say the LOCKHORNS have a hundred million readers, they feel, I am in 500 papers, so they feel that these papers, there is a circulation of so many million, and if 1.6 people in a subscriber’s household read it, that’s how many people read it.
RP-So you’re in 500 papers currently?
BH-Yes, that’s right. Some have a lot of readership, you know, Newsday has, I don’t know how many readers and a little paper out west in a small town in Idaho has say 50,000 readers and yet another has 50million readers. And they pay by circulation, so the papers certainly know how much circulation they have. And that’s how they measure readership of your feature. It’s not accurate, but it’s damn close. You don’t exactly know if everybody who buys the paper reads LOCKHORNS but on the other hand, one person buys the paper and 10 guys in the house read the LOCKHORNS. So, there is some kind of average they have come out with.
RP-Has that changed thru the years, the average they use?
BH-I think they still use 1.6. I should talk to the controller of King Features and ask them if they are still measuring that way. But that’s how they told it to me and it made a lot of sense. And so that’s how many readers we have. Parade at that point had 80million readers and the LOCKHORNS had a hundred million readers as well as WHAT A GUY, you feel you’re really out there, I felt I had to perform. (laughs).
RP-After HOWARD HUGE was there or the comic strips or panel that you created?
BH-Yes. BUMPER SINCKERS. Bill and I did BUMPER SNICKERS for the National Enquirer. They were looking for cartoons, they always looked for cartoons the way other magazines did. They just had submissions every week, it was freelance. But we offered it as a steady anchor, it would be in it every week, so they took a BUMPER SNICKERS every week and we did BUMPER SNICKERS for the National Enquirer through the years.
RP-Did it reach its run?
BH-What happened was, I did it for about 10 years, I did everything after Bill died-very young, I continued doing all of the features. I even started another feature called HUNNY BUNNY’S SHORT TALES. I wrote a bedtime story for children, which was a one page with an illustration and my daughter ended up writing it, she’s an English teacher, she wrote the story and another artist was doing the drawings and King Features that too. It sold badly. We really didn’t know how to market it. It was a one-minute bedtime story that a kid could cut out and put in a scrapbook but newspapers didn’t know how to use it. Some of them put it on the radio; they didn’t know with to do with it. So it sold briefly. I did all of this for about 10 years after Bill died. And then I remarried and I decided to downsize a lot and spend some time with my husband. I stopped everything except the LOCKHORNS. That’s what I’m doing now the LOCKHORNS. I’m still working my tail off but it’s joyous after everything else. (Laughs).
RP-Tell me about the writing process.
BH-I have a lot of gag writers who submit gags to me. I have legions of them over the years-I started this in the 70’s, almost 40 years. The gag writers had been working with Bill and me and stayed on and I have new ones, young writers, coming up from television or writers like you who freelance to make a living. I look at everything that comes in and I literally hand pick the one or two I will use from the ideas people send in. If I use the idea, even if I have to do a lot of editing, we used to say it comes in as gem or a germ. If it’s a germ of an idea it means I can rework it so that it’s perfect for the LOCKHORNS. If it’s a gem of an idea means it comes in perfect and I burst out laughing-this is it. So, we pay 10 dollars for every idea used. It’s not a living, I have 100 gag writers and I use 11 ideas a week, 6 daily and 5 on Sunday. So if a gag writer gets a couple in a month, he makes twenty dollars.
RP-I understand 6 as dailies for Monday to Saturday, can you explain five for Sunday?
BH-The Sunday LOCKHORNS is a 5 panel and the daily are single, so eleven a week. And each panel is a separate idea. Every week there are no vacations we work 52 weeks. (laughs). Some editors try to run them vertically and use 4 and try to fill the space but I make five every Sunday and they have to decide if they want to print them all or not. Most of them just take it as is. King Features just sends them a bunch of proof sheets, so they can just put them in. In fact, I think it’s done by American Color, the color people. We don’t do color in the studio we assign numbers. There is a color chart and so the color is added by computer. It changed where the color was added by the syndicate.
RP-So John just draws them? He scans them? How does he send them in?
BH-People scan them we don’t do that. We actually mail original art work. We send it to Orlando where King Feature’s headquarters is. I feel I get better reproduction that way.
RP-So do you actually send the words on the comic strip or separately as part of the package?
BH-They are on. We have now come this far with technology; we have someone who has my font. The Hoest font is a certain kind of lettering-it’s extremely legible. He actually types in the font over our captions and we just tape them on the bottom. We used to hand letter every caption-John just pencils them in and the other person types it out.
RP-That person is in Florida?
BH-No that person is here in Huntington and his name is Andrian Sinnott and he does all the fan mail as well. He teaches computer graphics at Farmingdale University. He is a brilliant cartoonist. He was the artist who illustrated HUNNY BUNNY’S SHORT TALES.
RP-You and John send him everything?
BH-We send him the captions and he types and sends us the tape ones in our font.
RP-How far in front of the newspapers are you?
BH-Oh I’m way ahead. I just finished January, that’s what I mailed in yesterday. I mailed the Sundays of January. We did New Years, January 1st, 8th, and daily almost up to that. The Sundays have to be ahead because they have to go through a coloring process. I told you we don’t do the color in the studio.
RP-So when John sends them the black and whites does he put the color name or code on?
BH-Yes they gave us a color code-chart-you know her hair is always 32 and the rest is done with an overlay with the color numbers.
RP-The synergy between you and John-now would you hand him a piece of paper with 6 panels on it?
BH-No. We work from 3×5 cards. I’m still an old-fashion English teacher. I have 3×5 filling cards and I work from them. I have the scene; I have a card that says at the dining room table and then Loretta says and then I have the dialogue. We have sets like a sitcom would have-he knows what the front of the house looks like. Leroy comes home or walks in front of the TV. Set-these are well set up. So, if I just give him a short hand like at the kitchen table or at the refrigerator he knows what the kitchen looks like and he does the drawing. And then the caption he blue pencils in –on the bottom and then Adrian does the font. So, John does a tracing of the set and the expressions which John is excellent at drawing, wonderful expressions. We have to do everything in one panel; we don’t have a second chance, another panel, it has to be right on. You have to be able to look at it and immediately grab what’s happening. She’s angry or she’s laughing or whatever, he’s drunk or whatever it is. O, John does the tracing-on-tracing paper and we double check it and then he does the penciling and double checks it and then he does the inking.
RP-Now you said you get together every Monday night for dinner…
BH-I see him in between.
RP-You see him in the evenings?
BH-I see him all the time. If he comes in early to get a head start on something, you know, I live here this is my home as well as my studio. So I’m here all the time. And if I go away, I went away this weekend, and then he is here. So, we are basically interacting a lot. He’s wonderful, he’s a great kid, and he’s younger than my son-sweet as sugar.
RP-Does he work on anything other than the LOCKHORNS?
BH-No he doesn’t-LOCKHORNS. He helps other cartoonists, he’s just a sweetheart. But he doesn’t have another job if that’s what you mean. This is his main job. It’s not like he has a day job. This is his day job even thou he does it at night. (laughs) And that, as I said, he loves it, he couldn’t be happier. Because there are very few bosses that would let him come in these hours (laughs), I don’t pay him by the hour, and he is a professional I pay him by the work. He’s not on my staff. He gets paid when he finishes four weeks, I don’t care if it takes him two hours or two weeks or even the whole four weeks.
RP-Do you get paid from King Features or do you pay yourself from your business?
BH-The syndicate pays me once a month. They pay the corporation-I’m incorporated-William Hoest Enterprises. And they do their collections, which is a wonderful part of the syndicate. And I should say something wonderful about King Features because they have been great. I have been with them for almost 40 years. They never missed a month in 40 years, they print out papers I have, and they are just delightful.
RP-Is that a current contact agreement, paying once a month or has that changed?
BH-I hate to say I have no idea. I’ve had a great relationship. I know some cartoonists have sued their syndicates-not mine-but they sued their own. Others have left King and gone to some other syndicate-had their disagreements-but I have had the best relationship and they have been supportive and wonderful.
RP-I thought their offices were in Manhattan.
BH-They are. Their offices are in Manhattan. The Orlando location…
BH-Yes I guess you would say production. The offices are in Manhattan they own a big office building on 57th and 7th avenue, the Hearst building. All of the people there have been super. The comics editor, the president comes to my party-comes by boat across the water. His name is Rocky Shepard. His comptroller lives on Long Island and has been the comptroller for years and his name is Keith McCloat, super great guy. All are hardworking and trying to get into the swing of this new medium, putting cartoons on line. I have been very lucky the LOCKHORNS as a single panel translates to on line easily. You can read the caption it’s big, good font, one panel, and it’s black& white and designy, it’s just made the transition from paper to electronics.
RP-You’re in 500 paper, now is that just in the United States?
BH-500papers is throughout the world. It’s been translated into 18 languages-I have some in Chinese I can show you-that might be fun for you to take pictures. (laughs) The LOCKHORNS are universal-you as an English major- you know- when you read something that is a metaphor for the whole universe. And they really are any 2 people living together and having disagreements. We have a gay community of fans in San Francisco, you know, a community of partners who have the same problems the LOCKHORNS have. That’s comforting. Also, they are kind of timeless. We don’t do anything political, don’t touch political. I love the political cartoonist some of my best friends are political cartoonists, Mike Duckowich is a prize winner. But they are brilliant. They have to work at the newspaper; they have to be aware of the latest, what’s happening in the news and politics, and I just can’t do that, I’m not that smart. I do things way ahead and its universal situations. It’s talking about she spends too much, he doesn’t earn enough, he drinks too much, she wants to go out more, you know its universal problems that are institutional not political. And so I’ve avoided the pitfall of being just timely in one point in time and then falling out-I’m not timely at all, I try to be timeless.
RP-Do you know if new cartoonists coming up now would need an agent?
BH-I do not know the answer about whether or not you need an agent but I do know how to get syndicated with King Features if they are taking any new comics. They must get thousands of submissions and if they launch a new one it’s a miracle. They did launch a new one last year-I can give you the name of the comic editor and he is a lovely person-his name is Brendon Brewford, also a local guy. And they launched this new one but the people didn’t get paid they actually gave it away for free to see if they could get a readership so then they could charge. I think that’s the way it’s done now. I didn’t have that kind of contract, they paid me.
RP-So do you feel there are few and far between new comics?
BH-Absolutely, papers are cutting out pages of comics, comics cost money. You’re in journalism you know that. They have to pay the cartoonist to be in the paper. So, A) you’re laying out money for the page, and B) you’re not getting advertising, you’re wasting paper.
RP-Do you feel the opposite may be true, that being on line is saving the comics because you don’t have to pay for them?
BH-I think it’s good for the paper but I am not sure that the paper is not cutting its own throat; people buy the paper because of the comics. A lot of people turn to the comics first thing and the sports. You know you buy the paper to read certain things and things that you love. I’m not sure the paper is not making a bad decision on cutting out comics to save money. I think they are going to lose readership. And why should people buy a paper to read the comics when they can go on line for free. We are in a state of flux, I’m not sure, I would call up Brendon Burford –I can give you his number-I will-he is very honest and he’s a cartoon editor at King. I think King is probably still the biggest syndicate. There are other syndicates; there is Untied, Universal, and Creators syndicate in California. And they are all run by friends of mine in the business who are super.
RP-Do cartoonists work with more than one syndicate?
BH-No, they don’t usually. I think if you come up with a 2and comic it says in the contract that they have the right of first look. I know we always gave King first look and they took it. When we went on with three more strips, they were the ones who looked and took them. And the Parade column we did outside of King and HOWARD HUGE we did outside of King. They do have black outs like if the New York Post has you the Daily News can’t. There were like two papers in every city-they would pay you enough to keep you out of the other.
RP-To keep you out of the market.
BH-Yes, right. They had territories, that was the old days. I don’t know how the heck they are doing it today.
RP-LOCKHORNS is in the Newsday is it in the Daily News?
BH- No it used to be in the Daily News now it’s in the Daily News online and Newsday online.
RP-Has your contract or finances changed because it’s online?
BH-Yes it’s changed. Online is less, I get less. Unless King Features suddenly finds that we are getting so many hits that advertisers are coming on strong, and then the ad agency will pay them but not the Daily News. There is gonna be an extra source of income from advertising that comes from online that doesn’t come from the newspaper. King Features is still working this out. There is an ad agency working with them.
RP-Do you have an idea of what kind of compensation a new cartoonist might hope to make?
BH-I think you’re not going to get any money at all. I feel terrible saying that but that’s what they did with this new couple, these two people, a writer and an artist in King. They launched the strip with no guarantee daily and Sunday and they are not getting paid. They are taking a chance, taking a shot at it. And I haven’t a clue how this business is going to shake down. I know there will always be room, there will always be ideas, people will always need art-artists-but it has to be a different delivery system. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out. I know that Dan’s is an example of what somebody says is going to happen, that people are going to get their big news on their iPad but your gonna want local news and that little papers like Dan’s and the Long Islander, you call Peter Sloggett at the Long Islander. That paper is doing very well they charge 50bucks for an ad they get all the local people advertising all these restaurants. And so that paper should be thriving. And so I think there is going to be a transition, for a while anyway to small local papers and maybe they will pay for comics. They are struggling-call Peter about that-you might have, as long as it’s a local comic, you have RALPH THE CLAMER, clamming is big I see out the window there are clammers here all the time, you might really have a shot if Dan’s doesn’t mind and I don’t think he black out Huntington…..what you’re doing is self-syndicating-you’re gonna send-take your comic to a lot of local papers that do clamming-travel up to Boston and sell RALPH THE CLAMMER. And there were people who self-syndicated; I don’t know how well they did. But um……
RP-Cause you and Bill started that way but…..
BH-We didn’t start self-syndicating, we were very lucky King took us but they have a million salesmen out in the field who can get entrée to every editor. It’s very difficult to get an appointment with an editor of a strange paper, you go with portfolio in hand, but you never know-there is email now –email the person-show them a sample-tell them you work cheap……
RP-Do you have someone in line to take over the LOCKHORNS?
BH-You know, I’ve been very lax and haven’t made arrangements. My kids don’t want any part of it. John really is the big- he’s much younger than I, so he has to make the decision, does he want to work with somebody else and who would that be, so he has to make these decisions. I imagine John will have to make some decision if anything were to happen to me. I’m not planning to retire because I can’t imagine how I’m gonna do that but, I’m so caught up in this now. In fact, we are starting a new project. A writer who has been working with me for years, worked for Bob Hope, who was an old-style comedian, and she now is doing a libretto for a musical play and she called and said how would I like to have the LOCKHORNS become a musical comedy. Not on Broadway, but she’s working a regional theater system, like Northport, you know there is a Northport theater on Long Island……
BH-Apparently all across America there are regional that want to put on productions and….
RP-Yes, they don’t have those huge licensing fees…
BH-and so forth. She wanted to know if I would like the LOCKHORNS to be a musical and I said of course. We have been trying to do that for years on and off. We had people asking about it, so she is coming here next week, and she’s written a treatment they call it, you know it’s an outline of the plot, it’s a real plot not just one-liners- it’s a wonderful story that she’s written and I have been writing music all my life, as I said it’s my hobby.
RP-So you want to be able to write all the music?
BH-Yes I’ve written all the music and she wants to do the lyrics and the libretto and she has a production person who has just been very successful with his last production, called Confession, and they both visited and we kinda made a deal, they are gonna go ahead and try and get the LOCKHORNS into some kind of regional production and sell it to the regional theaters.
BH-So we are working on that now. It’s very exciting-I love her plot, you know it’s a mystery, it’s very exciting.
RP-What are some of the comics you enjoy?
BH-Well, I love HAGAR THE HORRIBLE that was done by a friend of mine Dik Brown and now his kids and family are doing it, he passed away, and that was one of my favorites. And I used to love, I have 2 girlfriend cartoonists, one was Cathy Guisewite and she wrote CATHY, and she just retired. I’m horrified she’s younger than I am, and then I loved FOR BETTER OR WORSE, which was done by another friend of mine, Lynn Johnson, who is a Canadian, she’s been here and spent time with me in the house.
RP-That’s similar, a married couple….
BH-CATHY is about a single girl.
RP-Yes I meant FOR BETTER OR WORSE.
BH-FOR BETTER OR WORSE is kind of autobiographical. It’s about Lynn she was married to a dentist, so is the character in the strip and she had the two children and that was the characters in the strip, in fact she named the children the middle names of her children, which was kinda personal. I don’t do anything like Lynn or Cathy, my girlfriends, nothing in the LOCKHORNS is about me or Bill or my next husband, it’s strictly based on observations. I’m not doing any kind of autobiography. I’m very private nothing that goes in there is reflective, but it’s based on observations, so I feel it’s more universal. It hits people, you know, I’m getting ideas from all over, all these gag writers that send me ideas, so I’m getting it fresh from all over the place.
RP-Now, about the guild you belong to, how does one become a part of it and what exactly do they do? Do you get insurance from them?
BH-It’s not a guild. It’s called The National Cartoonists Society. It’s also in flux. It used to be just a marching and chowder society. I had a lot of fun; everybody ate and drank and partied. Now they are trying to help cartoonists and have workshops and at the meetings we give out a prize called the REUBEN award. I have a couple of REUBEN awards, we won it a couple of times, and we won it in our category-single panel. What they do is like the Oscars they have different categories like best actor, best actress, you understand.
RP-When do they do this?
BH-We meet once a year in a place to be named, this year is going to be in Las Vegas.
RP-So it’s different cities?
BH-It used to always be in New York City because it was all based in New York then but as cartoonists spread, I’m talking about the old days 40s ,50s, as things spread out to Hollywood-south and north and so forth, we now have chapters in Canada, Minneapolis, we now have a mid-south chapter like North Carolina Raleigh Durham and we have 2 chapters in Florida, 2chapters in California and so we have a lot of chapters and so we pick a city, the president picks a city that’s his job, and we have the REUBEN awards.
RP-Who was REUBEN?
BH-Reuben was Reuben Goldberg who did crazy contraptions. He had a column in the paper. A Rube Goldberg contraption was a household name; it was the most difficult way to accomplish a simple task. You drop a penny in here and a weight picks up and throws something in the air and that sent the balloon up and the balloon falls down and the coffee maker goes on. It was very complicated. The master REUBEN for cartoonist of the year, like picture of the year, is a statue; it’s not a plaque like the other categories. It’s a statue like an Oscar and that’s given to the cartoonist of the year. It looks like a bunch of guys climbing a contraption, a very Rube Goldberg sculptor, and that’s given to the cartoonist of the year like Charles Schulz, somebody who did outstanding work. And the meetings are at a hotel of designation and they have seminars and all kind of discussion groups and stuff. Used to just be parties, then it became a party with a brunch, you slept over and had brunch in the morning. I’ve seen it grow into an event were people go for an entire week to go be with their friends.
RP-To be a member do you have to be published and paid? Can anyone join? How does it work?
BH-You have to be, I may be wrong, you have to be making your living at cartooning. It can’t just be your hobby. You have to be a professional cartoonist I think is the story and doing cartooning as a profession, not a doctor who like to draw, I think that’s it. And certainly, I make my living at cartooning and there are a lot of us and they are very encouraging to young people. You should come; we have our chapter meeting the on last Thursday of every month and that happens to be a week from tomorrow and it’s at Albert’s Mandarin restaurant, it’s a local Long Island chapter and they come from all over Long Island to Albert’s Mandarin on 110 north of main street in Huntington at 12oclock, we have a meeting. Adrian Sinnott, the young man who is part of my team, does all my computer work and takes care of my fan mail, thousands of emails, he does it all on his computer-answers everything-will be there.
RP-So you guys meet for lunch.
BH-Every month on the last Thursday of the month. That party at my house that you saw the photos of, that’s the last Thursday of June, that’s the only month we don’t meet at Albert’s Mandarin, we meet at my house but every other month, 11months, we meet at Albert’s Mandarin last Thursday of the month.
RP-I appreciate that Thank you.
BH-You’re allowed to bring guests. I would love to bring you and there are a lot of people there who know a lot more about the, Adrian is our chapter chairman, and he knows a lot more about membership and that kind of thing.
RP-Now, the LOCKHORNS, you have the rights to it and you simply license it to King Features, is that how it works?
BH-I have a corporation, William Hoest Enterprises, and we own the copyright for all of my comics. I have a lawyer and he said that was important. Anybody who reprints it, I’m in the encyclopedia Britannica, they ask for reprint rights for certain cartoons to illustrate some idea or concept that they are trying to put across. I have the rights to every one of my own cartoons and they have to ask for permission and there is a permission reprint fee. King Features takes my cartoon that I have copyrighted and distributes it. They advertise, distribute, and do the collections and then send me half of the collections.
RP-I think you have answered all of my questions. Thank you for a great interview.