Tuesday, October 02, 2007


...watch me pull an Old Story out of my hat.

A recent post over at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear reminded me of a brief brush I once had with Cartoon Royalty.

It was the summer of 1974 and I was newly graduated from college. My friend Virginia Steve and I were each headed to our separate destinies: me to a job with the Great Corporate Salt Mine in Texas, he to law school at the University of Virginia. And so we decided to spend the last summer before the Shit-Hammer of Adulthood descended upon us in a frantic, Hunter S. Thompson-inspired cross-country trek, a trek that would take us from northern Virginia through Denver, the Rockies, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Las Vegas, San Diego, Tijuana, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Spokane, Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, Chicago, and back home. Ten thousand miles in one month.

While we were in Los Angeles, we spent innumerable hours cruising up and down Sunset Boulevard. And one of the attractions we happened upon was Dudley Do-Right’s Emporium, right across the street from the Chateau Marmont hotel.

Dudley Do-Right’s Emporium.

We spent some time looking at the various tchotchkes and cartoon-related swag in the Emporium - all Rocky and Bullwinkle-related merchandise, of course - and then noticed that adjacent to the Emporium sat Jay Ward Productions, the actual studio where Rocky and Bullwinkle and all Jay Ward’s other animated productions were created. Of course we had to knock on the door.

The gentleman who greeted us introduced himself as one Bill Hurtz. Steve and I knew that Hurtz was one of the directors of the Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show, but at the time we didn’t know that Hurtz’s animation pedigree extended all the way back to Disney’s Fantasia and Pinocchio...and included the animated titles for the original Ocean’s Eleven and Vertigo.

It was after hours at the studio, and rather than simply sending us off with a handshake, Bill was gracious enough to give these two scruffy-looking young men a guided tour of the entire Jay Ward operation. Much of their work these days, he explained, was in commercials: Cap’n Crunch, for example. Modeled on Jay Ward, the Cap’n was, with that distinctive walrus moustache.

After we said our adieux, Steve and I walked back towards Sunset Boulevard to retrieve our car...and who should we encounter but an immediately recognizable portly redheaded gentleman with a walrus moustache: Jay Ward hizzownself. We introduced ourselves, thanked him for the studio’s kind hospitality, and then went our separate way.

Jay Ward, alas, is gone now, having passed on to the Animation Studio in the Sky back in 1989.

And, sadly, Dudley Do-Right’s Emporium is also no more, having been demolished in 2004. When I was in Los Angeles last, back in the summer of 2005, there was no evidence of its existence save for the statue of Rocky and Bullwinkle that still stands in its old spot in front of where the shop once was.

Gone...but never to be forgotten.

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