I met pop artist Tom Wesselmann in the army in 1953, and we remained friends until his untimely death in December 2004. What bound us together were 1) our similar senses of humor, 2) our love of "classic" country music and 3) our ambitions to be New Yorker cartoonists. Tom was from Cincinnati, Ohio, and after his two years of army service, he and his wife moved to NYC, more specifically to Brooklyn, where I was still living with my parents. The above photo, taken in my bedroom/studio in Brooklyn around 1956, shows me (left) with Tom sitting in my seat at the drawing table. We were either discussing gags, cartooning or country music.
Tom went on to become one of the pioneer "Pop Artists" in America and his work now sells at auction for about a million dollars apiece. But the desire to be a New Yorker cartoonist never left him. Over the years, he submitted many, many batches to The New Yorker (in the later years under a nom de plume), with no success. A couple of times in the fifties or sixties the editor offered to buy his gag only (they did that at The New Yorker in the good old days, but don't do it any more). The editor said he would assign the gag to one of their "regulars". Tom didn't like the idea, but caved in, thinking it might help his cause. It didn't. I remember that one of the gags was eventually drawn by Otto Soglow. I kind of lost track of the other one, but can probably track it down somewhere.