Pulitzer winner returns to regale BGR
Saturday, November 20, 2010
By John Pope
Times-Picayune Staff writer
Walt Handelsman, The Times-Picayune's editorial cartoonist for 12 years before he moved to New York's Long Island, turned a Friday lunchtime speech into a valentine to New Orleans, praising the city's vitality and quirks and its citizens' unabashed love of a good time.
"I don't live in New Orleans, but New Orleans lives in me," said Handelsman, Newsday's cartoonist since 2001, at the Bureau of Governmental Research's annual luncheon at the Marriott Hotel.
Handelsman, 53, who regaled his audience with slides of cartoons from The Times-Picayune and Newsday, has won Pulitzer Prizes for his work at both newspapers, in 1997 and 2007. He also has won two National Headliner Awards, the Society of Professional Journalists Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the Scripps Howard National Journalism Award.
A Baltimore native, Handelsman came to New Orleans in 1989 from a cartooning job at The Scranton Times.The city won him over, Handelsman said, at his first Mardi Gras, where he heard a woman at a parade tell her husband to "put the kids on top of the ladder, where they'll be safe." During that season, Handelsman heard someone else offer a friend a piece of cake -- and warn him not to swallow the baby.
"I knew this was my kind of town," he said to loud laughter from about 900 people in the hotel ballroom.
In his introduction, Times-Picayune Managing Editor Peter Kovacs described Handelsman as "more of a New Orleanian than people who've been here their whole lives."
"Only a New Orleanian could move to New York and complain about how boring it is," Kovacs said. "Only a New Orleanian would come back to the city after Hurricane Katrina without really having a place to stay. Only a New Orleanian would celebrate the Super Bowl by dancing in the street on Long Island, while the neighbors peeked out their windows, wondering whether to call the police or the asylum."
Handelsman, who said he was a "class clown and misbehaver" when growing up, described his workday: See what's in the news, figure out a distinctive twist that will go over in a cartoon, figure out an illustration, draw it and get an editor's approval.
"Then I have to do it all over again the next day," he said.
Handelsman's cartoon show touched on such subjects as the 1991 gubernatorial runoff between Edwin Edwards and David Duke; Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama; Tiger Woods' extramarital dalliances; aging baby boomers; and the sour economy.
At Newsday, Handelsman has branched out into animation.