Monday, March 3, 2014

Frazetta and the Brooklyn Accent




I was asked the interesting question of what happened to Frazetta's Brooklyn accent. Every borough of New York City has its' own distinctive language pattern. Staten Island residents speak differently from people in Queens; the Bronx is different from Manhattan. Historically, the most extreme accent is spoken by the Brooklynites. Brooklyn was nationally famous for its' accent and distinctive linguistic patterns. Many many famous celebrities, scientists, and athletes all started in Brooklyn, e.g. Jackie Gleason, Michael Jordan, Barbra Streisand, Sandy Koufax, Jerry Seinfeld, Bobby Fischer, and thousands more.  Ellie and the kids still had their New York accents in varying degrees. Of course, it's only natural that kids would emulate their mother. Yes, I did specifically ask Frank about this. Frank spoke very clear unaffected English the whole time I knew him. Here is the short explanation:

"While I was growing up I noticed that all the people on television and in the movies spoke a certain way. They spoke differently from everyone I knew.  While I was in grade school some of the kids starting calling some of the other kids 'Brooklyn Hillbillies'. Minga. They teased them because of the way they talked. Some of the kids had heavy accents. It never used to bother me. I really didn't pay attention, but then I started to think about it. It did sound kind of ignorant and lower class. It was a harsh sound to my ear. Sinatra didn't sound like that, and he was from Jersey. We hated most people from Jersey, looked down on them. I don't know why, we just did.  I started to really get bothered. Did I sound like that? I asked my mom. She thought I was nuts. I started to listen more closely to the TV shows and movies. One of the movies had a guy saying 'get rid of that accent or you'll never be a success'. FucnnnnnnAaaaaaay! A light went on...I never thought about just changing how I talked. I wanted a taste of success. I wanted that sweet smell of success in my life. I was surrounded by losers. I didn't want that. I despised those guys. Real lowlifes. The next day I went to see the speech therapist at school. She was a nice old lady who no one really noticed. We thought anyone who saw her was a retard. She helped kids who had bad stutters or other problems. She was very kind and met me after school. I was scared that someone would see me. It would have led to a fight for sure. She gave me a sheet of words to practice with. She told me to look into the mirror and slowly pronounce the words. Speak everything clearly, dont drag out the syllables. She said people in Brooklyn are lazy speakers. I didnt know what she meant.
She said I had to build new mouth habits. Repetition. Practice it, just like someone would practice pitching or hitting. I did it. Actually, it wasn't easy. Very frustrating. I had to stay with it.  For weeks I stared into the mirror and kept saying that whole list of words over and over. I made sentences. It took me a few months, but I got rid of it. I can still talk Brooklyn if I need to. Why would I need to? Minghia!  Fuggettaboutit, eh?  [Frank laughs and blasts out a fusillade of choice Brooklynisms. Funny as hell. ]

(C) 2014 DocDave Winiewicz


47 comments:

  1. I thought he still sounded a bit like Jackie Gleason, to be honest. Not the Ralph Kramden "Honeymooners" character, but one of Gleason's more thoughtful, erudite roles, like that of Master Sgt. Maxwell Slaughter in "Soldier in the Rain" (1963).

    Alec

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  2. The post-stroke Frazetta brought a little more New York into his speech.

    By the way, Frank met Gleason at a golf outing. He loved Gleason!!

    Dave

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  3. That's an interesting story and I can see Frank being that insightful (however, I doubt he needed a speech therapist). My wife is from Alabama and the accents there are VERY heavy. The thing that attracted me to her was how mild her accent was. Now, no one hears it, though she reverts a little when visiting her family there.

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  4. Frank was quite young and needed guidance. It goes to show how serious and motivated he was.

    Dave

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    1. Dave, I don't disagree. There are depths to Frank (and I'm sure Ellie too) that are being revealed now that he's passed. It's just too bad we didn't see more of this depth and complexity in the reports and interviews. He seemed to eschew his own intelligence sometimes. Perhaps that man's man persona was a defense mechanism to keep the bad taste of the snobby art world at bay, and not just his Italian machismo on display? He used to deliver some incredible and insightful gems from time to time when we talked. I'm guilty of thinking at the time that I was just exaggerating his wit and wisdom in my mind when he really was that bright and even sensitive. We were never friends so it's not like I have to build him up, but that pot in his noggin seemed to simmering a lot.

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  5. Rick, most interviewers had their own axes to grind. Frank and I spoke as friends without all the usual safeguards Frank would employ with most others. I instigated most of the serious topics. Frank was a delight to spend a day with.

    Dave

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    1. …Lucky you. Thanks for continuing to shine the light. Frank and his work certainly deserve the attention you give it, and hopefully, as time passes, others will see that more poignantly.

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  6. To me, all the evidence we need to know just how intelligent and sensitive and cultured Frazetta was, is in the work itself.

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  7. No question about that, Kev! An artist's work is his autobiography.

    Dave

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  8. Hi Dave,

    Thank you so much for all the information in this website...it´s great to get better insight on the man´s career (so many details that only you know, after being so close to him), and it seems like you really helped him out too.

    Needless to say, he is amazing.

    Regards

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  9. Many thanks for the input.

    Dave

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  10. Hi Dave,

    I don't know if you remember me, hopefully you do, I'm Sara, Franks first granddaughter. I love the honesty of your blog. I posted it on my Frazetta girls Facebook page. I would love to chat with you more about your memories and would love to see pictures that you rescued. Please email me Sarafrazettataylor@gmail.com looking forward to chatting

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  11. Doc Dave,

    I really appreciate your efforts on this blog. I was pleased and surprised you resumed your blog. If the time allows and you publish your book I will go to whatever lengths possible to get a copy. Your re-collections and insight into the man FRAZETTA are unmatched. I am anxiously awaiting your next installment. Thank you again for resuming this blog.
    Sincerely
    Steve

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  12. I appreciate your comments, Steve!!

    DAVE

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  13. Howdy Doc Dave,

    It's great to have you back! I apologize for going off on a tangent on this thread but a topic came up recently in a Frazetta discussion and I thought you were my reference so please allow me to clear that up. Did you say that there was a sketch that Frank had done of J. R. R. Tolkien's Smaug, perhaps a prelim while he was thinking about The Lord of the Rings portfolio? I am getting older and sometimes I'm surprised by things I remember (or more often remember incorrectly). I thought you might have mentioned it here in regards to the book that you'd like to write someday.

    It is great to hear your stories and insights. Please know that discussions around Frazetta and his work continue to go on among those of us who love his work.
    I was talking with another friend about the top ten celebrations in history we wished we could have attended. Near the top of my list was the opening of the Frazetta museum.

    Best wishes,
    Aaron

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  14. Yes, he had a sketchbook filled with Lord of Rings pencil studies. No one knows who has it.

    Dave

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  15. Thank you, Dave. Did you post a rough sketch of Smaug sitting on his gold once? Again, my memory may be getting faulty.
    I was talking to a friend and I mentioned that Frazetta's reptiles just didn't seem to have the same spark that many of his animals do. There are exceptions, but even Frank's dinosaurs seem slow, and lumbering. I've seen some prelim sketches that he did where the monsters look much more lively but the paintings generally have them fairly static, majestic maybe, but filled with vitality. Did Frank ever say anything about this?
    It's summer and us Frazetta fans are gathered round the campfire. Tell us some stories, Doc. Please.

    Best wishes,
    Aaron

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  16. No, Aaron, I never published a shot of that sketch. I'm not sure if I took a shot of it.

    As for dinos, we never talked about that. Frank's dinos were pretty conventional and lacked that wild idiosyncracy that charaterizes his best aniimal work.

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  17. Pardon the typos in the previous post. The blog would not allow me to correct them. Annoying.

    All the best!

    Dave

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  18. Dave could you please try to get your book on Frazetta published? Some of us aren't getting any younger, you know, LOL.

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  19. I need time!! I am judt too busy having fun.

    Dave

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  20. Hey Sir, I have a question I've always wondered about but forgot to ask. Frazetta did, as you know, the covers to several EC paperbacks. But two in particular, The Vault of Horror and Tales of the Incredible, have not just a main Frazetta illustration, but cropped bits of a second image as tall as the main image, and a small upper corner image of a gravestone and a rocketship respectively. Did Frazetta create those side and corner images too? If so, do you know if the cropped ones are full illustrations, or just make-believe crops (in other words, Frazetta just did a thin wedge of a panel.)

    Thanks so much,
    kev ferrara

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  21. Hi Kev,

    Yes, Frank drew those little slices as published. That's what they wanted.

    Sorry for the delay. I was on vacation.

    Best!

    DAVE

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  22. Thanks Dave. Hope you had a great vacation. Just a minor follow up... Do you know if those little slices still exist? Or whether they were originally part of the same piece of art and then were cut away? I ask because in Graphic Gallery 6, Tales of the Incredible (spaceman sees many-legged big-cranium weird monster) is sold without any side panels and no mention of cropping.

    Thanks so much. You're the best.
    kev

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  23. Sadly, none of those pieces have ever surfaced.

    Dave

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  24. Took my Kubert School students to the NYC comicon yesterday. When I stopped by the Vanguard booth I saw an unfinished Frazetta which was new to me (apparently it saw print in the hardcover edition of the Frazetta Sketchbook): the subject matter was a female nude in a contrapposto stance with a leopard at one side and a black panther at the other. The background was dark green, and in pencil one could see some curtains were intended to be painted in, creating a triangular shape of negative space above and at her sides. I was told this was the earliest known figurative oil painting of Frank's, and that it was done in the '50s.

    Speaking of figures, I'm still somewhat stunned to see that unsigned Frazetta life drawings from the '50s are for sale as low as $900. These are large pencil drawings on newsprint, 14" x 17." Some of these saw print in the FRAZETTA SKETCHBOOK. One drawing that interested me was a pencil drawing of Ellie in a dark leotard, reclining. It looked like a mirror image of this unpublished drawing from his E.C. PictoFiction story, "Came the Dawn":

    http://tinyurl.com/k5agzmv

    I should have taken a cell phone pic of it to compare the two, as it appears the one may have been a study for the other. They're not identical, but similar.

    Best regards,

    Alec

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  25. Alec,

    I found that oil in Frank's garage in the mid-80's. It had two cans of point on it and was covered with oil rings. Frank used it to block a broken window. I guess I'll have to write a short explanatory essay about it.

    Frank never used the Came the Dawn pieces as studies. Most of the life nudes were drawn much later circa 57 and after.

    Always good to see new Fraz, eh? All that stuff should have been published decades ago. Ellie kept getting in the way. And Frank let her. Curious.

    DAVE

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  26. Thanks for clarification re: Came the Dawn. Probably coincidence.

    Yes, it is odd that Ellie didn't let a lot of the other stuff see print. I enjoyed toalking to her, but she was 'persnickety' about peculiar things. For example, she wouldn't allow anyone to purchase Frazetta books or posters via credit card, only cash or check. I asked her, and she claimed, "I don't want to see people go into debt who really can't afford to buy these things," implying that if they had the cash then they could indeed afford it. Strange rationale, and one that doubtless curtailed many a sale. Amazing that painting was found in the garage in such a state! At least those rings are no longer visible on it.

    Back to "Came the Dawn." It would interesting to see someone topnotch ink the rest of it (via blueline copies, of course, or digitally) and perhaps even letter it in comics style rather than the Pictofiction approach....though there may need to be expositional text between occasional panels to bridge the gaps in the visuals. Someone like Mark Schultz, Gary Gianni, Frank Cho, or William Stout would be ideal, or even Arthur Suydam (just don't let him go near the faces). If the family funded it, the project might generate even more interest than the unfinished pieces (spectacular as they are).

    Best regards,

    Alec

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  27. I haven't checked in in a while and am so happy to see the new comments. Tell us a story please?

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  28. I hope to have something new for next week.

    Dave

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  29. I remember seeing this in black-and-white in THE LIVING LEGEND book, but not in color:

    http://tinyurl.com/lqfjnsm

    Word has it that Sondra Locke was in the photo, too, but was subsequently cropped. The story goes that Clint bought the original painting for "The Gauntlet" in 1977. Is that correct?

    Best regards,

    Alec

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  30. Yes indeed, she was cropped. She was awkwardly placed/

    Clint did buy the original for $5,000. He still owns it.

    Best!

    DAVE

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  31. By the way, for years I thought Frank used this photo as reference for "The Gauntlet" movie poster, but apparently it was reference in preparation for a Flashman paperback book cover painting. See for yourself!

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-oC_ipf0qWCU/TV_qs2JDbfI/AAAAAAAABws/NbI05GWtEDY/s1600/Frank+Frazetta+%25281928-2010%2529.jpg

    https://compartsflashman.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/250431.jpg

    Regards,

    Alec

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  32. Or this panel from Frazetta's "Squeeze Play":

    http://illustrationart.blogspot.nl/2013/06/making-peace-with-machine.html

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  33. Nope, that photo of Frank was taken long after that FLASHMEN oil was painted. There is no connection.

    DAVE

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  34. All the Squeeze Play photos were shot by Williamson. It was Al's project at first. Frank did use them to expedite the drawing . These are very well-known swipes and long acknowledged by Frank. I covered this whole issue ad nauseum in many of my essays. The exception does not displace the rule.
    5% reference and 95% pure creativity. It places him in a unique class of artists. Many people have watched him draw and paint right from the imagination. It is well documented by many still living.

    DAVE

    PS: I will be away for the holidays and totally away from my computer. Any questions will have to wait until my return.

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  35. Dear Doc Dave,

    Is there a story behind "Senorita O'Toole?" That is one of my favorite ink drawings by Mr. Frazetta. Is Senorita O'Toole a real woman?

    Thank you for doing this blog. Take care.

    Geoff

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  36. Yes, she was a local girl who "serviced" a lot of the guys. Even Roy Krenkel drew her.

    DAVE

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  37. Hey Dave, I just saw some new Frazetta's figures,I thought it will be of your interest!

    http://www.bigbadtoystore.com/bbts/search.aspx?search=frazetta

    Great blog, I enjoy reading your memories

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  38. Hey Doc Dave,

    Spring is here. I'm sure looking forward to seeing more art and reading your comments. Didn't you mention a Death Dealer and snow queen or Kane and snow queen painting or drawing awhile back? I've been drooling ever since. Also I suppose you saw that some of the iconic Frazetta paintings are now up for sale.
    Best wishes and Happy Easter,
    Aaron

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  39. Hi aaron!

    Well, I have just been so busy doing other things. I WILL get around to some new posts with art.
    All the very best!

    DAVE

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  40. Here's a quick story: years ago, at one of my annual treks to the Frazetta museum with students from the Kubert School, Frank was there, talking with us, and one student remarked, "So many of the heroes in your comics stories and paintings bear a resemblance to you." Frazetta replied that some artists suited the part for their own heroic characters, whereas others did not. "I did, but Al (Williamson) certainly did NOT. He was not the hero type." I recall that Al often modified his appearance in comics, even blending a likeness of himself with photo reference of actor Stewart Granger in a number of stories from the '50s until the '80s.

    Alec S.

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  41. Kaluta once said he went to FF's house in the 1980s. Frank opened the door, but hurried back to his telescope at the window where he was watching Catholic school girls in their plaid skirts coming home in the afternoon. K gave him a porno videocassette and apologized for its content, saying, "It's not very good," to which Frank replied, "It's ALL good!"

    Strange story. I'm sure you could corroborate it with MwK. Probably best kept off the 'net.

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  42. Dave,

    http://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=1056546

    I don't know if you've already been asked about this, but can you confirm whether this is legitimate? I found it while searching for Frazetta's rough sketches. It certainly looks less polished than the other sketches you've posted here, but I don't know his uninked work like you do. It's already been bought by someone in any case, and doesn't seem to have any complaints against it.

    I can't get enough of seeing artists' work in the roughest stages possible, so it would be great for me if this were real and an example of how he plotted out his pictures.

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  43. Yes, indeed, it is legitimate. You are right to be cautious. There are many many forgeries out there.

    Best,

    Dave

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