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The Comic Art of Lynn Johnston Part XIII – The Negligees, No Alan, and the Death of Farley (the dog)

To recap, the chronology as I understand it is this:

1968 – Lynn and Doug move to Dundas, Ontario. Doug works at CHCH-TV. Lynn fails to get a job in animation, but instead takes a job at McMaster University and does freelance work on the side.
1970 – Rod Johnston graduates from Ryerson with his degree in Radio/TV and begins work as a props guy at CHCH-TV. Lynn admits she likes Rod. Lynn also admits that she hangs around CHCH-TV to help out, which would give her time to meet Rod.
1972 – Farley is purchased. Lynn wants a baby. Doug does not. They fight about having the baby. After Lynn leaves for Vancouver, finds an apartment and a job, Doug brings her home after agreeing to be a good father. Thanks to the trip to Vancouver, Lynn loses her job at McMaster. (In the meantime, Rod Johnston leaves CHCH-TV and goes back to school at no less than McMaster University to get his Bachelor of Science degree that will allow him to apply to dental school.)
1973 – Aaron is born in April. Doug departs in October to move in with another woman. Marjorie Baskin drops a major clue that Doug’s departure had something to do with Lynn being seen out with another man (most likely Rod).

We will discuss what happens next after the cut.



Lynn:

My freelance business was generating about $7,000 a year, and I was thrust [into] a stage of adulthood I have never experienced before – complete independence. […]With a baby on my back, I peddled my folio from ad agency to ad agency, getting small jobs here and there. I did posters, billboards, television graphics, medical illustrations. […]It felt good to joke about divorce and being single. It felt good to joke about feeling ugly and inadequate and unloved. It felt good to joke about the burdens of parenthood. I went back to the old family trait of, “If you can’t say it right out – joke about it.”

Me:

This pretty much is taken from the 10th anniversary collection. I don’t know why we have “[into]” because the original text also had the word “into”. The next […] was “I wondered could I really depend on … me?” The next [...] is “I even sent a series of caustic feminist cartoons to Ms. Magazine. (They were never acknowledged.)"

Katie:

It wasn’t long before Lynn realized she couldn’t survive on freelance wages alone, and she was forced to find full-time work.

Through friends at an advertising agency, she got a job at Standard Engravers, a packaging firm in the industrial part of Hamilton. Here her education as a graphic artist continued. For the two years she worked there, she learned about typesetting, packaging, printing, photography, and line quality. She learned to use brushes, set squares, French curves, and technical pens on all kinds of different surfaces. Despite enjoying the camaraderie and the challenge of working at Standard Engravers, it wasn’t long before she was playing the fool and risking her job.

Me:

Whoa Katie! “playing the fool” is a little harsh. The phrase "risking her job" makes me wonder if Lynn's departure from Standard Engravers was for a different reason than "my book started to make money".

Katie says Lynn kept the job at Standard Engravers for two years, but Lynn has often maintained that she took the job after living off nothing but her freelance work for a year and then quit the job as soon as her book started making money in 1975. It sounds like Lynn has decided to ease off on the idea that her freelance money was so great.

Lynn:

I finally landed a full-time job in the layout department of a packaging firm. Welfare covered Aaron’s daycare costs – I’ll be forever grateful for that. I was not the best of employees. I hated being at work by 8:30. I found the endless stream of cereal boxes, fertilizer and medicine packages, and sketches of farm machinery a tiresome chore. I clowned around a lot. If the place (a factory, actually) could not have a colorful décor and cheerful surroundings then, by golly, they had me! My supervisor put up with a great deal. I was a comic and a nuisance, but he cared for me enough to keep me on.

Me: Quoted directly from the 10th Anniversary collection.

Picture:

(above right) Lynn at a friend’s home studio, catching up on what couldn’t be done on the job. She often put in unpaid overtime.
(left) A sample product from Standard Engraver’s: a cereal box featuring a finger puppet cut-out Lynn designed.

Me:

It's not unpaid overtime if you are goofing off at work and don't get the job done when you had the time to do it.

Katie:

Privately Lynn recalls, she was lonely, overworked, and unhappy. Her saving grace was a friendship she had made with a single mother of three, who was also on welfare. Adrienne “Andie” Parton offered the support Lynn needed, and Lynn was there for Andie just the same.

Me:

Katie says mother of three. As the story goes on, I will only count two.

Lynn:

When we needed a friend most, it was often at 3:00 in the morning, when most people are asleep. Andie could call me anytime, and I could call her. We didn’t use this safety net often, but when we did, the conversation was always loving and understanding.

It was Andie’s idea to go to bed “beautiful.” When you’re lonely and along, you look in the mirror after you’ve been crying and your first thought is, “Who would want me? Look at how ugly I am!” We went to the Salvation Army Store – Andie pushing baby Christopher and toddler Stephen in a stroller, and I carried little Aaron on my back. We bought the slinkiest and most outrageous nightwear we could find, the kind a new bride might get as a gag gift for her wedding night. We agreed to do our hair and our makeup, put on the gowns, and phone one another before we went to bed.

Andie would call me and say, “Are you gorgeous babe? Me too! We might be going to bed alone, but we’re the best on the planet, right? Aren’t we beautiful?!” We didn’t feel so lonely; we had each other.

Picture:

(left) Lynn and Andie, here in the late ‘90s, have maintained an incredibly close relationship over the years – they are like family.

Me:

First of all, I am greatly amused that Lynn has managed to strap Aaron on her back for Salvation Army shopping, while Andie was pushing her baby in a stroller. This is one of Lynn’s favorite stories and one of her most obvious lies (Salvation Army negligees and full makeup at 3 am is just silly) and for the first time she tells us that it was Andie Parton instead of some anonymous or mysterious German woman who was her partner in this activity. This is the version she told to Anne Kingston in Maclean’s Magazine:

Q: This is your second divorce. The terrain must be so different at this stage; you were a young mother of one son the first time; now you have two grown children.
A: Well, thank goodness they’re adult children. It was terribly hard on them anyway. My heart goes out to the younger moms who have children at home who are thrown between the two and have to spend time between two families. It’s so difficult. But [my husband and I] had very individual lives. He had lots of hobbies, and I spent a lot of time on my own, and so being on my own is not something that I’m uncomfortable with. I think I’ve coped really, really well. When I was divorced the first time, I met another young woman who was also divorced. Actually, what happened with her was her husband took her to the hospital as she was having her second baby and she never saw him again.
Q: Wow. Really?
A: Yeah, and the two of us were looking at each other saying, “You know what? We’re really fine people, we’re worth keeping,” and we supported each other through being brand-new moms with new babies and on our own. We were hoping to help other people through this once we’d survived. We had our survival mechanism, which we thought was superb. And the first thing was never go to bed ugly, because if you look in the mirror at three in the morning and you’ve been crying all night and you’re saying, “Well, no wonder he left me. Look at you!”
Q: That’s such a female response, to blame yourselves.
A: Yeah. We had no money, so we went to the Salvation Army and we bought the best negligees. I mean, who wears a negligee? You wear it one night, it goes to the Salvation Army, so that’s the best place to go to buy a fancy, swanky negligee. So we would go to bed and we would do our hair, our makeup. We’d call each other at 11 o’clock at night: “Hey, babe, you look good?” “Oh, I look great. Did you do your nails?” “Yeah, I did my nails.” “Great.” Then we’d go to bed looking great, feeling good, and we’d call each other in the morning.


Aside from being Lynn’s companion during her infamous Lunch with Jan Wong in 1999, Lynn did a bunch of books with Andie Parton and fails to mention this relationship at all (from Wikipedia):

Little books

These "little books" combine character illustrations from the strip with inspirational text or verse.
• Isn't He Beautiful? (text by Andie Parton) (2000)
• Isn't She Beautiful? (text by Andie Parton) (2000)
• Wags and Kisses (text by Andie Parton) (2001)
• A Perfect Christmas (text by Andie Parton) (2001)
• Graduation: Just the Beginning! (text by Andie Parton) (2003)

Gift books
Gift books are similar to little books, but are in a larger format.
• So You're Going to Be a Grandma! (text by Andie Parton) (2005) ISBN 0-7407-5049-6
• I Love My Grandpa! (text by Andie Parton) (2006) ISBN 0-7407-5679-6


Me:

I notice the last book was in 2006, so I wonder if Andie was on Team Rod in the divorce. I also notice that in her bibliography in the book not all these books are mentioned, nor are all of them listed with Andie Parton as a co-author.

Lynn:

It was Marjorie’s common sense and Andie’s upbeat personality that kept me both sane and stable during a pretty awful time in my life.

Me:

Poor Lynn. All alone with only Marjorie and Andie to support her. Something is missing here. What can it be? Oh right, Lynn has completely failed to mention that her brother came to live with her.

20th Anniversary Collection:

I was living in southern Ontario as a single mom when Alan decided to leave Vancouver and seek his musical fortunes in the great East. He arrived on the doorstep of my tiny house carrying his suitcase, his trumpet, a music stand, and laundry.

Over a shared beer, we discussed his evident state of lost. The house had two bedrooms and Aaron, just a baby, needed one of them. There was no basement, so when Alan moved in he accepted the garage as his headquarters. In the beginning he worked at a screen door factory during the day and as a musician at night, coming home to a folding bed next to the lawnmower. He was the kind of guy who could make do and did.

Me:

And let’s not forget Lynn’s friend Fran who was also living there, taking care of Aaron, doing the cooking and paying rent (and providing a more reasonable excuse for why Lynn cruelly forced Alan to stay in the garage).

Lynn’s Treasury #2:

Before Alan came to live with me, I was learning to be a single mom and homeowner. We had a little to live on, but I was determined to carry my own load. I had a very tight budget; if I spend more than $20 a week on groceries; I’d be unable to pay the mortgage. Along with the mortgage came the taxes, repairs, maintenance, and other bills – all of which meant that I really needed another source of income. My friend, Fran, was renting our spare room, which helped a lot. She also took care of Aaron and did much of the cooking.

Having my brother come to stay seemed like a good solution, but I had to find a space for him. My house was a tiny two-bedroom bungalow with no basement, so the plan was for Alan to live in the garage. It wasn’t a great space, but it was winterized and the doors could be boarded over. I moved my car outside, cleaned and organized, and made it as habitable as possible. This was going to be an experiment and we all hoped it would work out well.

Alan was leaving Vancouver and moving to Ontario. He was and still is a professional musician: a trumpet player. At the time, he was looking for work as an electrician while he scoped out possibilities in the Ontario music scene. The garage gave him a place to live and to practice.

Aaron was just a baby when Alan became a roommate. Aaron was thrilled to have a man around; one with a sense of humour and the time to play rough and tumble with him. It was surprising to see how well they got along together. Today, Aaron and Alan are still the best of friends.

Me:

I have mentioned this before, but Alan’s biography says he moved to Vancouver to study with Ron Romm of the Canadian Brass. My suspicion is that Alan was an emissary from her parents to help out Lynn, who very likely would not have accepted help from her parents, but I have no proof of this. The timing of his arrival with the departure of Doug seems a little too coincidental to me.

Katie:

Lynn continued to work full-time and freelance on the side – sometimes this meant staying up all night to ensure a client’s job would be done on time. Still, with a mortgage to pay, a car to insure, and groceries to buy, she was finding it hard to manage.

Lynn:

I was beginning to hate my full-time job. I had a folio full of illustrations, some done to accompany a poem I had written for Aaron and others that were done on spec. I took my folio to several children’s book publishers, hoping to find someone who needed an illustrator. I was always turned down.

Me:

In the 10th anniversary, Lynn in retrospect says the book was terrible, but not here.

Katie:

On top of Lynn’s everyday stress of raising and supporting her son on her own, she also had the big dog to contend with.

Lynn:

One day, when Aaron was in the jolly jumper, Farley took a run at him, spinning him around like a top. Aaron was fine, but I could see the dog was jealous, and it wouldn’t be long before this resentment would take a serious tone.

Katie:

Not knowing what to do, Lynn contacted the Old English sheepdog owner’s association and asked for advice. They found a new home for Farley-the-dog, and he was soon en route to a farm in the country. It was the best thing for Farley at the time, which made Lynn’s decision easier.

Me:

First of all, “Farley-the-dog”. I’m so glad Katie made that very Lynn-like distinction. As more proof that this book is the most Farley-positive one we have had, Lynn consults the OES association before she sent him off to “the farm”, i.e., had him put down. Naturally, this contradicts stories she has told before:

10th Anniversary Collection:

Finding it hard to cope with both baby and beast, I eventually gave Farley to a couple who lived on a farm outside of Toronto (his wonderful, bumbling character lives on in the strip).

20th Anniversary Collection:

I soon had to admit that this was not going to result in a friendship between the two. Either the kid or the dog had to go, and choice wasn’t easy!

I didn’t cry when the young couple who responded to my ad in the Spectator came to take Farley away. I put his dish and his toys, his food and his blanket into the back of their station wagon. I gave him one last hug and didn’t look back when they drove away. He had been a lot of work and worry, and it was a relief to see him go to a home in the country where he had more freedom and would be numero uno in the household. But his long hair was in my furniture and his photos were in my drawer, and it’s strange how memories, like seeds, grow and blossom, filling you mind with colorful things. I missed him. I still do. I see his funny face and his bumbling body. I remember the way his mouth made a little o as he howled whenever I played my accordion, and I want him back again.

Bringing Farley the dog into the comic strip allowed me to do just that. I relieved his puppy days and his growing up, and I discovered that cartoon dogs don’t smell as bad, you don’t have to clean up after them, and they are – if you work at it – fairly easy to train.

Me:

Obviously the Hamilton Spectator is not an Old English Sheepdog Association, but I have to admit Lynn has really upped the ante on the idea that she loved Farley and Farley was her dog and not Doug’s for this book. Farley the dog is gone before Lynn’s brother Alan arrives on the scene, so in all likelihood Lynn got rid of Farley shortly after Doug left, because the dog was Doug's.


Next up the books and the mysterious Dennis Weir.

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