Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Betty Blurbs
One sure way to tell a dud in the genre of those little one-column pithy saying cartoon panels is this: if the cartoonist doesn't bother to make a drawing that has something to do with the caption, you've got a real stinker on your hands. In the case of Betty Blurbs, of the four samples I got from Mark Johnson (thanks Mark!) not one of them has a cartoon to match the caption. I don't count the one about the lowered necklines because that dress is backless, which seems like a somewhat different thing to me, though I admittedly know nothing about fashion. 0-4, that has to be the worst batting average I've seen since Dean Chance. Looking at quite a few other samples of Betty Blurbs online, I have yet to see one in which the cartoon actually complements the caption -- you would think just by statistical chance the cartoonist would manage it occasionally!
Betty Blurbs was distributed by King Features from sometime in 1929 (Mark's samples from the Altoona Mirror from March of that year are the earliest I've encountered) until January 3 1931 (as per the Lethbridge Herald).The oddly haloed gal drawings were drawn by Jesse Beesley Jr., and that name may give us a clue as to why this stinker was ever marketed by King. If I have the right guy, he was the owner of the struggling Murfreesboro News-Banner newspaper. Maybe he and someone in the Hearst organization were tight, and they tried to help keep his paper afloat with the proceeds from this feature. If that really was the case, it wasn't successful. The News-Banner was shuttered in February 1931, shortly after the demise of Betty Blurbs (but oops -- Mark Johnson says I'm a generation off; see below).
According to the several newspaper articles I've seen, he (Jnr.)'s life began in Murpheesboro in 1901 or 1902, he worked for JB (Pere')'s paper until it bellied up, then left for New York where he toiled as a writer/editor at THIS WEEK for seventeen years, then as an editor for Prentice-Hall. Apparently for kicks he played in Bridge competitions with other semi-celebrities and rich people.
But his real life's inspiration came when he entered an employee art contest at Prentice Hall. From that point on, he retired to become a full time statue maker. Though he never married, his pet subject were children. Kid statues were very popular and he became kitchmiester to deep pocketed, sentimental celebrity patrons like Jim Nabors, Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Minnie Pearl. He was well known for delivering said statuary in his black Rolls-Royce, though he still lived and worked in Murpheesboro as late as 1980.