downtown. The agent from New York rattled off an A-list of stars who would be there
but finished saying, "I can't let you into the party, but you're welcome to stand outside
the hotel and write about the celebrities you see."I'm sorry I missed that. Nothing like
standing outside of a party yelling, "Over here, Charlize!"

The party was in a North Park warehouse that newscaster Jack White owns. White
performs magic and has his space set up with a stage and curtains for his magic
shows. The walls are filled with magic posters and props, some dating back a century.
There were movie posters from westerns and display cases filled with old cars, toys,
and soldiers.

The smell of popcorn was in the air from an old-fashioned machine that was cranking
it out. Several appetizers were set up on a countertop.
They had a contest involving the invitations sent out by LeCrone. He had drawn
several cartoon characters on the invites, and you had to name them. I got excited,
having flashbacks to when I won a contest naming most of the people on the Sgt.
Pepper album. However, I recognized less than ten of LeCrone's characters. The guy
that won named 55 of the characters.

I don't read many comics and wasn't familiar with a few of the people there -- Andrew
Feinstein, who does the strip Girls and Sports , and Michael Jantze, who does a strip
called The Norm . An older cartoonist named Brian Walker draws for Hi and Lois, and
he is now the guy behind Beetle Bailey , which his dad created.

I knew of Greg Evans, who draws the Luanna strip. I figured he was a local resident,
since he often does promotions with the San Diego Blood Bank, the one where
cartoonists do caricatures for blood donors. And Jack White's wife of many years
works at the blood bank, which is how, I suppose, they all tie in together.

I was telling a woman named Vikki that I'd donated over 13 gallons to the blood bank
over the years. She pointed to a guy named Greg, a retired CHP, and said, "He's
donated over 50 gallons."

Evans was handing out a postcard he had drawn of an American family and how they
look to others...and how they think they look.

I noticed that nametags were creative when you throw a party for cartoonists. A few
did self-portraits next to their names.

One kid wore a white T-shirt and had everyone draw something on it. Dean said, "He
wanted tattoos, and his mom said, 'No, but you can get your shirt tattooed.'"

Another guy asked the kid, "Do you have any hobbies? What sports teams do you
like? Are you a Lakers fan?" The boy finally mentioned liking badminton, and that
gave the artist an idea of what to draw on his shirt.

One cartoonist looked a bit like Elvis Costello, and I asked him who he was. I freaked
when I found out it was Dan Piraro, who does Bizarro . I told him I loved his strip, and
that I think he's funnier than Gary Larson ( The Far Side ). I said I thought Larson was
overrated, and he replied, "I agree with you. I enjoy reading his stuff, but it just seems
like a lot of it just has...mass appeal."

But Larson has millions. We don't.

Piraro got up to speak and said, "I didn't even know I was going to be a guest speaker
until I saw it listed on the program." He talked about marrying his wife after only dating
for three months. When I saw her arms had tattoos, I asked if Piraro drew any of them.
She pointed to two that he did (one being a heart, a real heart, which looked freaky). I
said, "Your parents must love the fact that you married a cartoonist." She laughed and
said, "My dad is a cartoonist -- Ralph Smith, who does Through Thick and Thin . And
my stepfather [Chris Browne] does Hagar the Horrible [his late father Dik Browne's
creation]. I was always around people in this business, so it was no surprise I married
a cartoonist."

When Piraro was drawing on the kid's shirt, I asked what the weirdest thing was he's
ever drawn on. "A pregnant woman's belly."

One amateur cartoonist was asking a few of the pros for advice. I heard her get
excited when she recognized one guy and said, "I finished second place in a contest
back in high school. And he was the judge!"

There was a woman who was eating peanuts (not the comic strip), and she told me
about putting two of the white, packaging peanuts in her eyes once to be funny. While
running around for laughs she said, "I ran into a stool and fell. I still have the dent in
my leg."

I responded, "If you would've died, they could've left them on your eyes...kind of like

We joked about incidents like that being the reason warning labels are on everything.

I listened as cartoonists talked to each other about their creative processes. Piraro
said friends often give him ideas that he rarely uses. A few cartoonists were trading
sketches with each other.

People were excited that Jeff Keane, who does The Family Circus, was there. I wasn't
familiar with that strip. Nor did I know Stuart Rees, who does a law cartoon called
Stews Views .

Raffle tickets were given out, and there was an opportunity to buy more of the tickets. I
overheard Jack White telling someone, "When they announced you could buy more
tickets, one guy said, 'I'll sell mine to someone.'"

When Dean started giving away prizes, he proved to be a funny and entertaining host.
And 75 percent of the attendees walked away with something. Two people claimed to
have ticket number 909, and a controversy ensued.

A guy named Matt Lorentz, who does artwork for No Fear, showed me his portfolio. He
did a cool graphic that had the name written in barbed wire.

I got into an interesting conversation with one guy about street signs. I told him I saw
Penny Lane in Liverpool, and that they stopped printing the sign after hundreds of
thefts. They now paint the street name on various walls. He said, "I live on Good
Karma Lane. That sign has been stolen three times."

I asked him if he thought the person who stole it realized he was risking bad karma.

I debated having a piece of cake. I saw about eight flies land on it. I did some fuzzy
math, involving the area of the frosting with the dimensions of a fly and calculated the
odds of me getting a tainted piece.

It was delicious.

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