"Getting up mad and staying mad all day certainly describes Paul Conrad"
September 4, 2010 1:45 PM   Subscribe

The acclaimed Los Angeles Times political cartoonist Paul Conrad is dead.

Paul Conrad was 86. He's perhaps best known for his cartoons mercilessly attacking Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, both as governor and president (for which the LA Times' publisher received repeated complaining phone calls from both Ronald and Nancy). Conrad was also sued for libel by LA Mayor Sam Yorty in 1968.

Conrad's iconoclasm was part of an all-out effort by Otis Chandler to push the stature of the Los Angeles Times forward, helping to move it from what the paper in its own obit article describes as "a laughingstock in most of the country, because of its mediocre journalism and blatant Republican boosterism" to a nationally known, award-winning presence. Conrad himself won the Pulitzer three times.

A gallery of some of Conrad's work (from an exhibit at the College of the Canyons) is here (has a skippable Flash intro). Although he retired from the Times in 1993, he was working till near the end of his life; some of his recent cartoons are here.

Doug Marlette, another great political cartoonist, put it best: "He lifts the skirts of the powerful over their heads and shows their asses to the world." Pat Oliphant said that Conrad was "the grandest example of consistently A-grade, blue ribbon, USDA-prime righteous anger that I can ever remember seeing in a cartoonist's work in the 50-plus years that I have been doing this sort of thing."

(It should be noted that although the obit articles are saying that Conrad wound up on one of Nixon's many political enemies lists, he actually appeared on a list of George McGovern staffers and campaign contributors drawn up in 1972 by White House Counsel John Dean and submitted for investigation to the IRS Commissioner. Dean's claim to the IRS Commissioner was that Nixon had nothing to do with this separate list being drawn up, which claim may or may not have stood up to subsequent scrutiny.)
posted by blucevalo (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Conrad was a great cartoonist.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:52 PM on September 4, 2010

I liked the documentary Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire. It's available online.

This is my favorite of his. Timely and powerful.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:07 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

I looked for his cartoons every day, after reading the sports pages, this
went on for over 30 years.Rest In Peace Sir Conrad.
posted by tustinrick at 2:21 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by jquinby at 2:44 PM on September 4, 2010

Masterful work. RIP.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:48 PM on September 4, 2010

posted by spitefulcrow at 3:36 PM on September 4, 2010

I grew up in a literate Los Angeles household where the Times was delivered daily whether my parents liked the content or not. I recall how Conrad's main deviation from a "liberal" agenda was his opposition to abortion, and his stark, merciless style resulted in quite a few fetuses looking like sad children in the '70s when the "pro-life" concept was very new (so that later cartoon in the Drawing Fire gallery with GHWBush and the symbolic coat-hanger was a surprise to me). He also drew devastating symbolic portraits of starving African children... when he wanted to depict anyone or anything as a victim, it was guaranteed to break your heart, whether you agreed with it or not.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:37 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by TNLNYC at 9:11 PM on September 4, 2010

Well, this is a shame. He was one of the greats.
Thank you, blucevalo, for your post. Nicely done.

posted by SLC Mom at 9:28 PM on September 4, 2010

Onefellswoop, he later changed his mind about abortion.

I remember the cartoon he did about Princess Diana's death:

her reflection in a camera with a gunsight lens

... and the one he did after Mark Willes let him go and the Staples scandal broke:

The LA Times logo made out of guess what?
posted by brujita at 12:00 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favorite political cartoonist. Rest in peace Conrad.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:19 AM on September 5, 2010

"mercilessly attacking Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan"

Couldn't have happened to two nicer guys. To get paid to do that would be Nirvana. RIP Paul.

PBS Paul Conrad: Drawing Fire
posted by Twang at 4:55 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of the first freelance articles I ever wrote was about political cartooning, in conjunction with a conference at the University of Iowa journalism school where Conrad was the keynote speaker. He was wonderful and old and crabby and hilarious and will be missed.
posted by newrambler at 1:17 PM on September 7, 2010

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