Friday, January 23, 2009
News of Yore 1968: Privette Self-Syndicates
Brainy cartoonist offers ‘Mini-Boppers’
By Don Maley (E&P, 11/23/1968)
Many cartoonists have better- than-average education, some holding college degrees in a variety of subjects. The latest cartoonist to offer a strip goes them all one better, holding a Master’s Degree in Cartoon Humor awarded him by Boston University.
Although Harry K. Privette has had academic laurels heaped all over him he’s a bit shy in business arithmetic credits, a fact which makes him a natural candidate for entrance to the elite world of cartoondom for most cartoonists—despite their educations—need a computer to figure anything over three digits.
The balding artist with the Irish mug and French-sounding name was born and raised in North Carolina—but was educated in Latin America (he holds a B.A. degree from La Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City) and he’s a specialist in Yiddish humor.
As Privette tells it: “My counselor at Boston U. was Dr. David Manning White, an expert on the field of cartooning. He was then—and still is—a personal friend and was influential in getting my strip started.”
But the strip—”Mini-Boppers”—was a long time coming. “After graduation in 1956,” says Privette, “I entered Boston advertising as a copy writer. During that time I did free-lance cartooning for many publications. Later I went into the greeting card business, becoming Studio/Humor Editor for Rust Craft Greeting Cards of Dedham, Mass.”
Privette went on to learn both humor writing and cartooning. He picked up enough knowledge of the publishing field to start his own company, specializing in a line of die-cut studio cards called “Dollettes.”
Another Privette specialty is Jewish humor (“an acquired taste— like oysters”) and, he says, several studio card companies put out lines of Jewish gag cards that originated with him.
It was during his early days in the publishing field that the idea for “Mini-Boppers” developed. But gradually. “I felt,” explains Privette, “there was a place for such a modern, sophisticated, and truly humorous strip based on the somewhat exaggerated antics of the four year-old crowd. I didn’t have in mind another ‘Nancy’ character, nor one as psychologically-motivated as ‘Peanuts’ entourage. But rather, just a pleasant, warm and funny bunch of cute little creatures saying and doing funny little things. I discussed the idea with several editors, other cartoonists, and with Dr. White. They were all quite excited by the whole thing and liked the sample strips that I showed them. At the time I called the strip ‘The Mini-World of Mitzi,’ and used a slightly different cast of characters.” (his characters now appear to be a gaggle of little girls and a talking pussy cat.)
After re-naming the strip and having it self-syndicated Privette had a brochure made up showing samples of the feature “one that also includes a strong ‘sales pitch’ and a price list.”
“It was on this last point that I goofed,” he woefully admits.
“By some unfathomable way, by some crazy error, I let the wrong rate list get printed. The rates were way out of line— and I had already done a 1,000- plus mailing before I realized my mistake.”
“Even so,” he adds, “the response was amazing. I didn’t have any takers at the inflated rates (in many cases the prices were tripled), but quite a few people wrote in and expressed serious interest and asked if I hadn’t sent them the wrong price information.”
After correcting his unfunny goof, Privette signed up a half-dozen “charter members” for his six-a-week feature.
Meanwhile, back at Privette’s Boston Features Syndicate office (41 Eugenia St., Randolph, Mass. 02368), the cartoonist with the Master’s Degree is readying his cartoon strip for it’s shakedown cruise, while answering callers inquiring about his help wanted ad for a business manager who is familiar with newspaper syndicate operations—and rates.
Labels: News of Yore