WEISS ON HEARST
Morris Weiss wrote and drew Mickey Finn in its final years (1970-77) and also wrote Joe Palooka in its last years (ending 1984). I interviewed him several years before he died last May (an article based upon the interview appeared in an issue of Cartoonist Profiles and in Opus 325 of Rants & Raves at the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com), and among the things he said was the following about William Randolph Hearst:
The most benevolent man ever to head a syndicate or magazines was William Randolph Hearst. There wasn't a more generous and more appreciative publisher than was William Randolph Hearst. I'll tell you a story about Hearst that was told to me by Harry Hershfield.
I was sitting in Hershfield's office on the top floor of the Channing Building on 42nd Street. He had sued the Hearst Syndicate for the rights to Abie the Agent, the character Abe Kabbibble that he had created. And the case had dragged out in the courts for about a year or two. The ruling eventually went against him because — I think the ruling was that if he was that concerned about the ownership of the character, it was behoven (that was the legal term, I think) upon him to have it registered before he signed it away to the syndicate. So he lost the case.
And Harry Hershfield is telling me this story, and he's pointing to this antique French phone on his desk, and he said, "So now it was over, and I didn't have any money. I'm broke. I haven't had any income."
This was before he did the radio show, "Can You Top This." And he said, "I haven't earned a dime now in this year-and-a-half or two years, and now I'm looking at all the bills: I have to pay court costs and lawyer's fees." And he said, "I didn't know where the money was coming from."
And then he pointed to the phone, and he said, "So this phone rang, and I picked it up, and a voice said, ‘Mr. Hershfield?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘This is Mr. Hearst's attorney, and he wants you to send him all the bills for court costs and lawyer's fees: he wants to pay them for you.’"
Now, that's a story about Hearst; it's never been published. And it's a story that Harry Hershfield told me when I met him, I would say, around 1934 or 1935.
Hearst respected the talent he bought. And he made stars of his talent. He promoted them. He promoted his writers and his columnists and his artists, and the illustrators.