I developed a drive to show-off very early. By the time I was 8 years old we were living in the legendary Somerset Arms Apartments on Cheremoya street in Hollywood. My toys of choice centered on simple printing presses and toy typewriters, and I discovered something called Hektograph gelatin, with which I could make about 50 decent copies from a drawing or typed original. It required so-called “indelible” pencils, ink, and typewriter ribbons. When I made the drawings or typed stories on a sheet of paper with indelible pencil or ink, they took on the quality of permanent images when the paper was laid onto the surface of the wetted hectograph gel. My father Joe was a good typist, and we had a real typewriter in our apartment. He helped me with my spelling, and added juicier tidbits to my weekly “Somerset Scandals” newspaper, which I slipped under every door in the vast apartment house. That was my very first step into building a fan base! I had already developed a passion for publishing, and was soon able to get permission from my grade-school teachers to allow me to pass out copies of later versions of my hectographed newspapers and crude little magazines. I was a “boy publisher!” I carried this on all the way into high school with ever more ambitious versions of my kid journal, with the rudimentary tools of the time – the mid 1930’s. By this time we had moved into a smaller apartment house. I discovered other kids who were into amateur journalism. Another same-age boy amateur publisher was Louis Desser, the son of a wealthy doctor, who lived in an elegant home at 222 South Plymouth Boulevard, a walking distance from our poorer-class district.
Louis had a real mimeograph to print his paper, THE STAR NEWS. In the large back garden of his house was a tiny two-room building that was once a servant’s quarters. Louis set it up with a desk, an old Underwood typewriter and his mimeograph, and called it “THE STAR NEWS BUILDING”. It was a rather drab paper, with no illustrations and rather bland writing, but set up with a location, equipment and financial support I could not match. Still, he was impressed with the jazzier journal that I was turning out on a shoestring. We decided to merge forces, with my ability to add visual and textual pizzazz. The new joint journal was dubbed, The Hollywood STAR-NEWS. We reformatted it as a magazine, with center stapling, a fold-out page, advertising, and three-color mimeograph printing (not easy – we had to clean the drum and change the ink pad for each color!). We developed a wide U.S. circulation, got an addressing machine, created a national youth-publishing syndicate, and as 16-year-old hot-shot boy publishers began to get publicity in the grown-up media of the time. We were interviewed in the press and on national radio shows.
I gained great experience in drawing with a metal stylus, scratching through a wax mimeo stencil. And there was also the writing, journalism, technology and business in this boyhood enterprise. One of the continuing features that I introduced into that intense afternoon hobby effort was a series on the various Hollywood animation film studios. With our handmade “Press” passes, and the use of the Desser family car, we were able to gain access to the Disney, Warner Bros, and MGM cartoon studio lots. We ran elaborate double-page spread stories, and thus my other boyhood passion, cartoon animation was fired up. Louis Desser went on to become a feature editor on The Los Angeles Times, while I was heading for a career in animation.