Two successful cartoonists and possibly the most profound construction worker on earth share a birthday today. The creator of Andy Capp cartoons, Reginald Smyth was born in 1917, fought in North Africa during the Second World War and based his cartoons strip on his parents. The Andy Capp cartoons first appeared in 1957 and continue to be a staple in many newspapers around the globe.
I was always disturbed by the alcoholism and the nature of the relationship between Andy Capp and his unhappy wife, Flo. They seemed to encapsulate a particular type of relationship that alcoholics have. The Flo character waiting at the front door, rolling pin in hand as Andy Capp stumbles in from a night out at the pub, characterizes the one set type of alcoholic relationship. The barman who listens wryly to Andy Capp’s complaints and troubles, captures the other set type of alcoholic relationship. Both are co-dependents and players in the Alcoholic game. A game in which the drunk always loses. A bronze statue of Andy Capp was erected outside Reg Smyth’s local pub in Hartlepool in 2007, nine years after Andy Capp’s creator’s death.
Successful cartoons are some of the few things that can outlive their creators. Another disturbing cartoon is the Smiley face. You know that yellow big smiley face often seen on button badges and sent in text messages? Well it was created by our other birthday boy, Harvey Ross Ball. Harvey was born in 1921 and also fought in the Second World War, winning the bronze star for heroism at the Battle of Okinawa.
Harvey was asked in 1963 by the State Mutual Life Assurance Company to create a morale-boosting friendship campaign for staff. He drew the iconic smiley face in less than 15 minutes and was paid 45 dollars for his efforts. He never claimed his creation as intellectual property saying:”I can only eat one steak at a time and drive one car at a time”
A construction worker who shares Harvey Ball’s lack of interest in wealth is Sixto Rodrigues who was born today in 1942 and achieved fame in South Africa and now globally as a deeply cynical and poetic singer.
I started listening to Rodriguez at the age of 14 when Ursula, the blonde girl who was the object of my desire, rejected my advances with the immortal words: “you are more like a brother to me..” The pain of rejection was somehow assuaged by Rodriguez songs. His music touched a whole generation of white South Africans and in many ways. Rodriguez’s Nietzschian approach to life formed us.
That the man and his music remained unknown outside white South Africa and especially in his homeland, does not seem odd to me. The popular music world struggles with depth and it seems curiously apt and fitting that perhaps the greatest living poet of the age should have worked on construction sites in Detroit, Motown which is crumbling and dying faster than a Ford can rust its fender.
Posted by Douglas Racionzer