20 Years Ago – A Wick(ed) Loss

RandyIt’s hard to believe that 20 years ago today we lost our treasured friend and editorial cartoonist, Randy Wicks. Say what you will about Saturday Night Live having a field day with politics and the humor promised by the upcoming election, Randy’s simple drawings of the circus around us brought home the irony, the reality and sometimes the comedy of politics.

Can you just imagine what he’d be drawing now? He’d need to be published three times a day, seven days a week to get them all out.

Only 41 when he abruptly shuffled off this mortal coil, Randy was a local hero who touched the hearts and minds of so many people, especially those of us who worked with him at The Signal. He knew exactly how to zing – gently when appropriate – those whose deeds were questionable or frustrating or just plain ridiculous.

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He brought us the heartbreak of starving children in Africa, a look at gun worshipers, the dangers of our own prejudices and the resilience of our community in a crisis, along with a plethora of other local and national issues, depicted perfectly with his “poison pen.”

 

 

RWGunsThere wasn’t a situation that escaped his attention. He skewered Presidents and Councilmembers alike, was an observer of local politics and a visitor to the Oval Office and he loved without bounds his beloved Santa Clarita Valley.

A Distinguished Alumni of CalArts, over the 15-plus years that he spent here, his talents were evident in floats he designed for the Fourth of July parade (there was a paper mache Statue of Liberty in the newspaper’s pressroom for a long time, a bit beaten and worn from riding in the back of someone’s pickup truck a few Independence Days prior) and in the countless flyers and programs graced with his quirky and character-driven drawings.

RWRentersHe designed logos for nonprofit organizations, personal friends and the City of Santa Clarita. His was the first Pride Week design, the first River Rally T-shirt, the popular Signal Newshound. He traveled to charity luncheons and school assemblies and gave tours of the newsroom and production area, always bringing along a newsprint pad and Sharpie for on-the-spot creativity.
                           

Sometimes he even drew his co-workers when things were slow. (It’s the most treasured piece of art in my office.)

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His office walls were covered with awards from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, the National Cartoonists Society, the National Newspaper Association, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Greater Los Angeles Press Club. I’m convinced the lack of a Pulitzer is only because he left us far too soon.

There wasn’t a kid he didn’t have time for during his visits and tours, or a community leader who didn’t appreciate his contributions (auctions always featured some of his original works) or his political nudges. Randy’s whole purpose in life was to make people think, even if it pissed them off.

No wonder we had to hold his memorial in the gallery at CalArts. The front walk to the Signal was covered in candles and flowers and tributes to this fine young friend to all. The funeral was packed, several speakers, hundreds of tributes from those he touched with his rapier wit and soothed with his compassion. And all for a kid from Iowa who always credited his parents for letting him “follow his cartoon dreams.”

RWApartTogetherThere was a fundraiser shortly after his passing to support a special collection of his cartoons, books that catalogued and contained his published work so that future generations could enjoy them. There was also artwork framed that hung for a while in the Valencia Library, a tribute to Randy’s support of the Friends of the Library. Somewhere in the transition from County to City, those all disappeared, and with them, the memory of Randy’s work and his contributions to our community is beginning to fade as new generations fill our classrooms and libraries. (He would have been thrilled with the Old Town Newhall Library and its homage to history).

The SCV Press Club was also formed in his memory with the purpose of raising scholarship money for students studying First Amendment courses such as journalism. Haven’t heard much of that lately. I’m sure he would have been amused at many of the previous years’ honorees. He and Ruth Newhall are probably still chuckling at her christening of one of the awards the “Ass Kisser Award.” I know someone who is proud to have won it more than once.

Randy would find that funny. And his body-convulsing laugh always made all of us smile, no matter how dangerously close deadline loomed.

A lot has happened in the last two decades. I’m determined to make sure we never forget the Wicked Wicks of the West. Here’s to the memory of a friend whose take on life made the ‘80s and ‘90s a lot more tolerable, brushed with his insights and humor.

I’ll be raising a glass in his honor today. Won’t you join me? Randy was a funny old raccoon that we miss dearly.

 

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

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We’ve got to be carefully teaching…

IMG_0065I have a granddaughter. She has two parents, four grandparents, two great-grandmothers, two uncles, one aunt, seven great-aunts, four great uncles, many cousins and a whole village of friends. She’s pretty well-protected. Lots of support, lots of playmates, lots of role models.

She will want for nothing.

I look forward to the days that she and I will talk about art and music and books and why that pesky little kid on the playground pulls her hair or is always there to push her on the swing. I’ll listen to her highs and lows of school life, take her out for ice cream and mani-pedis, be her confidante when her parents just don’t understand. And when she’s old enough, hopefully we’ll pick up each other’s bar tabs.

I can draw on my own experience from raising her mother and aunt and uncle and helping a whole slew of theater and choir kids who depended on me one way or another, whether it was to get a ride home, sew a costume, run lines, figure out a homework assignment or simply sit down at our table for a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Most of that experience helped me hone my compassion, patience, tolerance and of course, my wicked sense of humor.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.44.34 PMAround our house, freak flags flew freely. Language could be appropriately salty, as long as it was in moderation, but there were no fears of reprisal. Above all, there was respect for every person’s opinion, question, feelings and values. There wasn’t always agreement, but everyone got to have their say as long as they were respectful of that right across the board. We made it a point to surround our kids – all of them – with like-minded grownups who set good examples.

I’m worried, though, about the world in which Sadie is growing up. Respect, hard work and tolerance all seem to be going by the wayside, replaced by bigotry, intolerance, racism, hatred and disrespect.

How do we teach the little ones that it’s not nice to call someone names when our presumptive “leaders” are slinging insults around the airwaves to thunderous applause? How do we teach them to share and compromise when the people we elect stomp their feet and refuse to do their jobs because they don’t like someone or their beliefs? How can we imbue them with tolerance and patience when so many people openly embrace discrimination? People cheer the concept of building a wall to keep out immigrants instead of taking that energy and reforming our immigration system – why? How do we teach them to look at the bigger picture, to make the world a better place for everyone when so many focus on one or two insignificant issues that hurt others, while ignoring the critical problems around them?

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.59.53 PMWhen did the sense of entitlement take over, pushing aside the needs or acknowledgement of others to favor one person’s mean spirit? When did we pick the “right” side of town? How did we develop a “give it to me, even when I haven’t earned it” attitude, eschewing hard work or service?

What do we tell these precious little ones? How do we tell them all that their lives matter, that there is a level playing field somewhere, that they are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity and that they are responsible to reflect that in their treatment of others?

What happened to punishing bad behavior instead of rewarding it?

And how are our leaders continually getting away with hate?

One of the things I plan on doing with Sadie is taking her to the theater. I am going to make sure one of the shows we see is “South Pacific,” a classic piece by Rodgers and Hammerstein that features a slice of life during World War II. I will tell her about her great-grandfathers who served in the Pacific and we will listen to one of the “controversial” songs from that show that we should probably put on the Billboard charts again. It’s called “You Have To Be Carefully Taught” and the lyrics go like this:

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught from year to year.

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight

To hate all the people your relatives hate

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.55.08 PMRespect. It’s being kind when being rude or mean is easier. It’s caring for the feelings of everyone affected by a situation. Sometimes it means biting your tongue until it bleeds. It’s loving someone when they least deserve it. It’s being competitive without being hateful or violent; there is no excuse for hurting someone who roots for the opposing team.

I refuse to teach Sadie hate. I refuse to accept it from people wanting my vote or worse, those who are already in office. I will teach her to take action and defend herself when someone wants to take away her rights or the rights of others. I will teach her to listen, to consider, to weigh the pros and cons and be tolerant and patient. I will help her believe that she deserves dignity, but above all, to treat others as she would like to be treated and to be true to herself. Despite the crazy world she lives in, I will teach her that love is much stronger than hate.

Of those things, I will make sure she is carefully taught.

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Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”