Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ray Prohaska and Friends, Part 1

* I asked Tony Prohaska if his dad socialized much with any other big name illustrators and - wow! - the stories! As well as being immensely entertaining, these anecdotes shed some light on the status enjoyed by illustrators of that time as legitimate celebrities in their own right.

From Ray Prohaska's son, Tony:

"When Ray first came to New York he became friends with James Montgomery Flagg, who took him on as kind of a protégé.

My parents met at a party at Flagg’s house, in 1935. Several other illustrators were at this party, as well as members of the press, both radio and print. Most of the revelers belonged to one, if not all, of the following clubs; The Society of Illustrators, Artists and Writers, and The Dutch Treat Club."

"Carolyn, who knew many of the revelers, told it to me this way: There was a guy named Jimmy Stranahan, who was always in the picture. He had a girlfriend, and they were draped over a sofa."

"Ray was in the kitchen and everyone was jumping with the red wine, and suddenly he, Ray, emerged from his labors. He was doing the cooking. He said to Carolyn, “What are you, the intellectual type?” No, [ she said, ] she wasn’t going to play that game. Instead, she countered with, “Read any good books lately?” and Ray started telling her about The Natives Return, Louis Adamic’s book. Carolyn said, “Well, I’ve read The Return of the Native,” but Ray brushed that aside. “ I am a peasant! I’m going back!” he exclaimed. He was going back to Yugoslavia. They must have hit it off, because the rest of the party they both remembered as boring."

"Carolyn later remembered Carl Muller’s girlfriend, Ruth, complaining because Merrill, Carl’s son, who was all of eighteen then, had run up a $15 dollar a month dry cleaning bill! She always remembered that every time, years later, she watched Merrill on the news. ( By the time of J.F.K.’s presidency, he had become an anchor for NBC News.)”

"After Ray and Carolyn met, they sort of went steady for a few years, before getting married, and they “partied” a lot. Ray had a cast iron stomach, and never became an alcoholic (at least as I understand the term, clinically)."

"Another 'drunk vs. cast iron stomach' was Ray’s friend Bob Fawcett. Fawcett got drunk at our house in Amagansett a few times, and once, when I was about six or seven, took me into the studio and gave me a drunken lecture about what an obnoxious brat I was. I might have been, but he’s the only one who ever told me I was."

* Tony has put together an extensive website devoted to his dad's life, where you can read a very thorough biography and see many more examples of the artist's work. Go to The Art of Ray Prohaska for more.

* My Ray Prohaska Flickr set.

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