"THE NOW SOCIETY"
by Lenora Williamson
Editor & Publisher, April 7 1973
How and why did William Hamilton, whose magazine cartoons
have been appearing regularly for almost a decade in that repository of clean,
sophisticated wit, the New Yorker Magazine (and in others too) also become a
syndicated newspaper cartoonist with an impressive list of major papers signed
up in his first few weeks?
Asked that question, Hamilton
can't suppress a gleam in his eyes. "I don't know if I should tell,"
he answers. The tall, rangy cartoonist who resembles a post-graduate about to
end a teaching fellowship, leans forward and smiles. It all started, he
explains, after he told a Washington Post writer doing a story on cartoonists
that he, Hamilton, took his drawings rejected by various editors, thought up
"something dirty" as captions and sent them off to Playboy—and
Playboy bought them.
But after that remark appeared in print, no more "Wm.
Hamilton" signatures in Playboy.
So, continues Hamilton,
needing another cartoon market to take up the income slack, he tried a couple
of New York
syndicates which couldn't make up their minds. When Hamilton and his wife went
back to his parent's home in the Napa Valley of California so that their first
child would be born in that state, the cartoonist went to see Stanleigh Arnold,
general manager of Chronicle Features and Sunday editor of the San Francisco
Chronicle. Arnold had followed Hamilton cartoons for some time, but wondered
whether they might be too sophisticated for general newspaper readership.
Leaving some drawings on Arnold's desk, Hamilton went home.
By the time he got there—about an hour and a half—the phone
was ringing and Arnold
was saying yes. The cartoons lying on the editor's desk attracted several
staffers who reacted with laughter. That was last August and after a couple of
months working on the feature titled "The Now Society", it was
introduced early in the year.
Drawing Since Childhood
Hamilton, born in Palo Alto, went to Phillips
Academy in Andover,
Massachusetts before entering Yale University
in 1958 as an English major. His drawing dates back to childhood and didn't
cease in college—although he was leaning toward being a movie director. Hamilton also had a year at the University
of Veracruz in Mexico and then
was drafted. He spent Army time in Port Richardson, Alaska— was there for the
big earthquake, wrote press releases, shined shoes, cleaned bathrooms and
washed a lot of dishes. He has told his wife, the former Candida Darci Vargas
of Rio de Janeiro,
that he has already washed a lifetime quota of dishes, and now it's up to her.
While in Alaska, Hamilton had begun submitting work to national magazines
and once out of the Army came to New
York where magazine credits soon began appearing. He
met film director John Huston and went off to Rome as Huston's assistant in 1966 on the
film "Reflections in a Golden Eye."
The cartoonist has written a couple of novels and a screenplay
along the way and doesn't intend to give up writing. He finds fiction writing
and cartooning compatible with "one a relief from the other."
However, writing in his opinion is taxing —"more like work." It's not
the fun that cartooning is, but he's determined to keep at it.
Drawing, he says, is genuine fun when going well. "You
do not involve yourself as much when drawing. Some distance is required from
drawing," meaning that any self-consciousness ' can interfere.
"Cartoons demand relaxation and ease; you can't dredge them out or they
Well into the newspaper syndication routine, the artist has
discovered he likes to work for newspapers. He explains that he can do what he
wants and have the cartoons used, but with magazines, editors may not take the
ones Wm. Hamilton likes best.
Another nice thing about drawing cartoons, "The Now
Society" creator adds is that he can pretty much get up when he wants to
and go to bed when he wants to, although granted a routine is settling over his
schedule since arrival of his baby daughter. "She's gorgeous," father
summarizes and writes out her name in full: Alexandra Manuela Vargas Hamilton.
"The Now Society" is available five times a week in 2-column and one
cartoon in a weekend panel in 3 or 4 column width.
Labels: News of Yore