A Loving Dedication to Myron Strauss
Sure, he went through all the usual projects - lessons in lettering, the three panel comic strip, the full page color spread and my first introduction to zip-a-tone, the now out-dated method of comic-art screen tone application. But he knew that if he let his students draw as much as they wanted, whatever they wanted, that they'd eventually find their own signature styles - and when he saw something you did that he particularly liked he'd look you straight in the eye and say "...you're a genius." When someone else within earshot asked "what about me, Strauss?" he'd say "You?... I'm not so sure." He was one funny guy.
On occasion he'd bring in something he did during his days as an advertising illustrator, and you'd be reminded quickly that despite his apparent lackadaisical attitude toward his somewhat of a sham teaching job, that he was once a man whose talents could quickly put most swarmy-assed art students back in their place. He knew his stuff. But more than that, Strauss showed through daily example that a sense of humor was everything. Without it you might as well just call it a day and go home.
I can recall one time in the late 80s, for one reason or the other, I revisited Strauss in his classroom. He was still there, wearing his cowboy boots and thumbing through a magazine as his students sat drawing. I was wondering if he was going to remember me. I'm not really sure if he did, although after I introduced myself he studied my face and said "yes... yes..." and then kept repeating my last name like a mantra. "Jefferes... Jefferes... I remember you!" He might've just been trying to be polite, I'm not certain.
Anyway, just to give you an idea of what kind of funny and influential man he was - here are a few of my favorite Mr Strauss memories, and even MORE memories of others who, after reading mine, wrote in with rememberances of their own! Wouldn't this be nice if it carried on and on - that one Strauss memory sparked another? Strauss, wherever you are - I'm hoping you'd get a big kick out of this, as we've also enjoyed knowing you!
My favorite Strauss memory... #1
One day Mr. Strauss gave a drawing assignment that had the class pretty deep in thought - so it was very quiet while everyone's heads were down, drawing attentively. Christian de Mesones (a fellow classmate who others might remember as the guy who dressed up as Gene Simmons of KISS at Halloween) was sitting right in front of Strauss. Strauss put him there as a punishment of some type or so that he could keep a closer eye on him. Anyway, Strauss always liked to suck on sucking candies and he must've accidentally swallowed one - or it went down his windpipe... so he began to suffocate. However, he calmly passed a note to Chris which read "I'M CHOKING!" and Chris read it, said "Oh shit!" and jumped up.
Then he grabbed Strauss from behind and gave him one of those Heimlich maneuvers and the candy came shooting out across the room. After that life-saving incident Chris felt Strauss owed him and he could goof off as much as possible and still not get a failing mark. A few weeks later, the test results were handed out from some recent art test Strauss had given - and Chris saw he failed it. He said to Strauss "Hey man, you can't fail me! I saved your LIFE!" and Strauss said, "That's why I failed you - WHO WANTS TO LIVE?" - - True story!!
My favorite Strauss memory... #2
Strauss would often sing or hum during class - and on occasion he would say things (to no one in particular, just any recipient within earshot)... one thing he did cracked me up during another quiet moment. He said (again to no one in particular) "You know when you know YOU'VE MADE IT?" I looked up from my drawing as most of the other students did, as if to inquire "no, ...when?" Then he swung his legs up over the desk and let them land on top of it with a loud THUD THUD!!! causing pencils to roll off the table and a paper to flutter to the floor - - and said "When you can afford to buy boots like THESE!!!!
Incidentally, as a follow-up story to that first Strauss memory... another A&D classmate of mine, Guy Gonzales remembers, "Chris couldn't draw to save his life, but the way he tells it, Strauss did pass him, but they kept it secret, since Chris failed miserably. I heard that candy incident so many times form Chris himself, and he always emerges the hero, the big lug (he's a phenomenal bass player though; he even played with Roberta Flack)."
Well, now the secret is out, Strauss! God bless you and THANKS for the memories...
The following memory is brought to you by James Palmiotti, graduating class of '79
Added May 19, 2020 - used with permission.
Oh, ...it's YOU!
I had finished High School, and 2 years at NY TECH College and was working in an advertising agency in New York and still living in the Marine Park area of Brooklyn when I picked up a few comics for my comic collection - and one of them was a golden age beauty called Stars and Stripes. I looked inside at the art and it had a familiar look to it - when I remembered I had a comic strip my teacher Myron Strauss gave me as a gift when I was in his cartooning class at Art & Design. I checked the credit in the book, and there it was, signed near the splash. This book came out on the stands in 1942. I went to the phone book and tried to find Mr. Strauss and I not only found out where he lived, but he was about 10 minutes away from my apartment. I called a few times and got nothing. No pick up, no message machine. nothing. Eventually I took the comic and drove to the address and rang the bell. A woman in her late 40's came to the door and I introduced myself and told her about the book. She smiled and told me to wait while she got her dad. Two minutes later, Mr. Strauss came to the door, rolled his eyes and said "Oh, it's YOU" ...and then smiled.
He asked me what I was up to, if I was still drawing, if I made enough money to buy fancy boots like he had and so on. Finally, I handed him the comic and asked if he remembered doing it. He went to sit down, looked slowly through the book, page by page, intense as anything. He smiled again and looked up at me and his daughter and explained that he drew that issue of the book, but because he got drafted into the service to fight in World War 2, he never got to see the book in print before today! He started showing me some of the cool things he did inside and was laughing, saying he thought he would never see this book and how I made him so happy I brought it to him. I told him it was my pleasure and to please keep the book. He told me he couldn't, that anything that old featuring his art must be worth a fortune and gave it to me and explained just that he got to even see it made his year.
We talked some more, he gave me a bunch of old t-squares and rulers and pens as a gift and that was the last I saw of him. I think he passed away years later, but that day was a special one for me for sure. I sure do miss him.
...and in response to reading Jimmy's memory, more contribute their own...
Added throughout May, 2020 - used with permission.
The great Strauss! Draw your ass off on a masterpiece and then he looks at it - flings it away and says "...It's a piece of shhhhit!" Ha! Ha!
- Daniel Banic
(In response to Dan's memory above) Wow, hard to believe he would do that, but on the other hand I could hear his dry, blasé voice in my head saying that! I used to draw cartoons of him in different situations - one, him sitting watching a movie with a box of popcorn not noticing the cockroach he pulled out to put into his mouth... another time did a drawing like he was hanging by the neck of his shirt from a hook - cut it out - and actually hung it from one of the hooks on the corner of his blackboard... then he would say in that same blasé voice, "Duh-gross... you're a genius".
Remember how he'd actually never really instruct a class - just give us assignments, and spend the rest of the period with his feet up on the desk singing some indiscernable tune, dropping his little observations and anecdotes in between, such as the infamous "You know how you know you're successful in the art field? When you can afford a pair of these! (swinging his leg up on the desk to show off a western boot - probably custom made, no doubt!)
- Mark DeGross
(Dan added to that) ...Actually the way Strauss had said "piece of shit" it was pretty hilarious that I would laugh - he did that with MOST of the other artists in the class - I was sitting in the freakin' front so I would hear it all the time! You wouldn't believe this but I showed him my cartoon I did once - and he looked at it and asked what's this? When I told him the character's name was Ka Ka Cat he looked straight at me and started to laugh and gave me an A+ just based on that alone - True Story! Ha! Ha!
He introduced me to egg tempra! I had the pleasure of having Strauss, Ferg and Naegele!
- James Griffith
My memory of Mr. Strauss was when I went into the bathroom to pee and as we both stood there at the end urinals he said "Hey kid, there are eight available urinals to choose from and you picked the one right next to me to use? You're weird. Go away." That was awesome! He avoided me ever since.
- Hector Noel
Mr. Strauss was great. He supervised the A&D Comic Club I was running and he also gave me some signed art. Mr. Strauss, Mr. Ferguson, Ms. Klyde and Mr. Toledo were wonderful and inspirational during my time at A&D.
- Pierre Bernard
I was in that class (the great candy incident of '79) - along with Gene and Donald. I loved that class! I owe a lot to Strauss!
- Ricky Mujica
If YOU have any Strauss stories you'd like to share all you have to do is send it to me and I'll make sure it gets added as soon as I can - - accompanying photos, memory book art, what have you - are always welcome! A Special thanks for everyone who's contributed so far!
This is truly a labor of love!
Got Strauss? Send any rememberances and photographs to Jzero's Sketchbook.