When I was a boy my ambition was to be a cartoonist. I wrote fan letters to some of my heroes and got wonderful, encouraging replies from the likes of Charles M. Schulz, Chic Young, Jules Feiffer, and even Rube Goldberg, whom I interviewed in his Manhattan studio one memorable afternoon. But the only one I got to know was Roger Price, who was famous for his ingeniously captioned drawings called Droodles. I avidly collected his books, including a volume of humorous prose titled In One Head and Out the Other. Roger had many careers: as a radio actor, nightclub performer, and TV personality, among others. For a time he was one of Bob Hope’s writers, and in years to come created Mad Libs with his friend Leonard Stern.
Little did I dream that more than fifty years later I would be asked to write a foreword to a collection of Roger’s work. It’s called The Ultimate Droodles Compendium: The Absurdly Complete Collection of All the Classic Zany Creations of Roger Price.
How this came about, and how I caught up with Roger after moving to Los Angeles in the 1980s, is a story I don’t want to reveal here. It’s part and parcel of my essay. I’m grateful to my friend Claudia Sloan, who runs Tallfellow Press, for giving me the opportunity to revisit a meaningful chapter from my youth and dig out some fancifully illustrated letters Roger wrote to me when I was 13 years old.
I’m sorry he’s no longer alive to see his drawings back in circulation, but I’m encouraged by the positive response I’ve heard from friends who remain fans of Roger’s to this very day. If the idea of a rich sardine with a private can makes you smile, I urge you to check out the new Droodles collection. It’s available at your local bookstore—if you still have one—or online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.