Obscurity of the Day: Hollywood Husband (+ a Phantom Feature)





Considered one of the premier newspaper cheesecake artists of the 1930s, Jefferson Machamer suffered the fate of many who were stars in that genre. Charles Dana Gibson, John Held Jr. and others found that the public’s taste for pretty girl drawings was fickle. After years at the top of the heap, each would abruptly discover that their particular brand of cheesecake had been branded obsolete.

Machamer’s Gags And Gals page, a staple of the New York Mirror‘s Sunday comic section, ended in 1938 after a seven year run, but Machamer evidently saw the writing on the wall. He took a cue from the experiences of his predecessors and tried to branch out. In 1936-38 he wrote and acted in a series of Hollywood short comedy films. Unfortunately this new career fizzled along with Gags and Gals, and Machamer was left looking for a new assignment.

That came at the beginning of 1940 when McNaught Syndicate began distributing his last comic strip, Hollywood Husband. This tale of a star-struck woman who drags her husband to Hollywood was a slice of life for Machamer, who was married to movie actress Pauline Moore. The story plays out as a light-hearted version of A Star Is Born, but you can see an undercurrent of Machamer’s distaste for Hollywood glitz in the story.

The strip began as a daily-only on January 29 1940, and a Sunday seems to have been added starting April 28. The art often seemed a bit rushed, and Machamer couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether he wanted to play the story for comedy or drama — not a good start for a new feature. The strip ended up lasting less than a year, ending on October 27.

PS — the bane of website cross-pollination will have you assuming that Machamer did a feature called The Baffles for the Los Angeles Times in the early 40s. I was able to trace this factoid back as far as Maurice Horn’s World Enyclopedia of Cartoons, in an entry credited to Rick Marschall. The description there, “a small-town family in Hollywood”, sounds to me suspiciously like Hollywood Husband with a different title applied. The fact that the essay makes no mention of Hollywood Husband is another tell-tale.

I checked Dave Strickler’s Los Angeles Times index and found no mention of The Baffles, but he does show that Hollywood Husband did indeed run in that paper.

Until evidence to the contrary shows up, I’m going to put Machamer’s The Baffles down as another phantom feature.

Phantom Features: Norman by Bushmiller

This is the first installment of a new series I’ll do as opportunities appear.

Yesterday I received an email from an ardent Ernie Bushmiller fan. He was having conniptions because he couldn’t find any examples of the strip Norman by his favorite cartoonist. Why did he think such a strip existed? Only because several websites refer to it.

Lambiek: “In 1971, Bushmiller produced a shortlived feature called ‘Norman’.”

AllExperts: “He [Bushmiller] also created a very short-lived strip named Norman, which was syndicated in 1971.”

Oddball Comics: “In 1971, Bushmiller created another strip, but unlike NANCY, the new strip, NORMAN was short-lived.”

I had to break it to our Bushmiller devotee that he never did a strip titled Norman. So where did these websites get their information? We can trace the problem to Dave Strickler’s reference Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists 1924-1995. This book, which does not purport to be anything more authoritative than a transcription of the annual Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directories, says that Bushmiller did a strip called Norman. Why? Because the 1971 E&P yearbook simply has a typo. Instead of crediting Eli Bauer, who really did do a strip by that name, they duplicated the credit from the previous entry in the list, which is, of course, Nancy. Here’s the actual E&P entry:
Dave Strickler is not to blame here. He makes no claim that all the features he lists are real ones. His work is just a transcription of what was reported in E&P. The problem is with people who apparently have never heard of the saying “take it with a grain of salt”, the imprudence of blindly trusting secondary sources. With no corroborating information, they could have said “it has been reported that Bushmiller did a strip called Norman in 1971”. But no, instead they report it as a fact with no caveats.

Just in case you think just maybe Ernie really did do such a strip and I’m just blowin’ smoke, here is E&P giving the information correctly in the alphabetical listing of features in the same directory:

I discover misinformation like this all too often on the web. After the first website comes up with one of these whoppers, the misinformation immediately starts working its way onto other sites like a virus. Soon there are so many websites parroting the same BS that readers, like our Bushmiller fan, quite reasonably assume it MUST be true.

Poor Eli Bauer. Since his creation has been so unfairly appropriated from him, let’s end this post with a sample of his brainchild:


Hey kids! Know of a phantom feature you’d like to see busted on Stripper’s Guide? Drop me a line!