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Al Hirschfeld
An Interview with Ric Burns
New York City, 2003

 


 


"The interview was conducted on Wednesday, January 8, 2003, in the late morning, on the top floor of Al’s house on east 95th Street. Present were Arthur and Barbara Gelb, Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, myself, a producer named Steve Rivo, and a cameraman named Peter Nelson. At his drafting table, with winter light coming in a north facing window to his left, Al sat as per usual on an ancient dentist’s chair, which I understand was his preferred drafting perch. A cat was also in attendance, intermittently curled under Al’s arm as he worked. It was a cold day, and Al wore a shawl. No one ever had bluer eyes, or clearer ones. His 99 year old hand never shook. He was working from a drawing of O’Neill done decades earlier – a notably Nina-less caricature, with arms folded. Al happily added Ninas when prompted by onlookers, making the picture unique. He died 12 days later on Monday, January 20th, 2003. What an extraordinary life."   – Ric Burns

"I persuaded Al (my very dear friend) and Louise to agree to Al drawing O'Neill just for our documentary, and I participated in the interview, partly as he drew, asking Al questions about his going with O'Neill to the six-day bike races at the old Madison Square Garden, his love of the jazz joints on 52nd Street, etc. When the interview and drawing were finished, I asked Al if he'd be willing to give Ric the drawing, Al's last completed one."   – Arthur Gelb


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