George Booth

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George Booth was born in Missouri 92 years ago.  He grew up in Fairfax with two brothers, Gaylord and Jim.  His father was the superintendent of the local schools and his mother was  a school teacher as well as an artist. She made theater scenery and clothes.  At three years old George began to draw; one of his first drawings was of a race car stuck in the mud; the paradox seemed hilarious to him.  His mother encouraged his drawing; in fact the whole town encouraged him – his family, his classmates and even the local newspaper called the Fairfax Forum.  It was in the Forum that George published his first drawings while working on the linotype machine there. After high school,World War II claimed him. His brother went into the Air Corp and served heroically, becoming a flight leader at age 19.  George enlisted in the Marines and is surely one of the few people who admired his drill sergeant. He never saw combat but rather began making cartoons for Leatherneck Magazine. He was again unique in reenlisting after VJ day to continue his work at that magazine.  His work there brought him notice and led to him going to New York as a freelancer. Eventually he became art director at Bill Communications with six art directors under him each in charge of sending George's work to different publications. This work did not pay well and eventually he gave it up so he could concentrate on cartooning.  That was facilitated by writing books. The most recent was “Here, George” with Sandra Boynton. In addition to working with authors George has put out numerous collections of his work. That work has appeared in many publications but he is perhaps most identified with the New Yorker where he is active to this day. George married his wife Dione after meeting her in Cold Spring Harbor in the 1950's where she was doing a play.  Like his mother, she was involved in the theater. The two hit it off at once and soon married. They eventually had a daughter Sarah with whom George lives on Lincoln Place. His wife is still active in Stony Brook but is a constant visitor in Brooklyn. George has come to know many cartoonists – he especially likes the work of George Price which is often compared to his. And he was great friends with Charles Addams. Roz Chast is a special favorite.  George tells how the first time he saw her he recognized her type and fell into his father's personality. He snapped his fingers at her and pointed to the corner where she was to stand with her face to the wall. Roz recognized him as well and immediately obeyed. Command is not what one first notices about Goerge, rather it is humor – he finds virtually everything funny – and he also conveys the sense that everything is fine. Talking to him for ten minutes banishes anxiety and worry as one listens to his polished stories, worth listening to repeatedly for the fresh nuances he adds each time.  More than one person has wondered if George might be a Zen master. George loves Brooklyn which he says “works;” all kinds of people live here and they by and large get along in a thriving, vibrant community assembled from all over the world, and George seems to know all of them, and they obviously like him. When he recently fell down and hurt his finger, everyone knew in a matter of hours and pursued the matter until they knew he was all right. The wounded finger soon became one more funny story.