I was honored to be asked to draw the Gelbs. My friend and former professor Jeff Kennedy commissioned the piece on behalf of the O'Neill Society for presentation at an event that also included Tony Kushner, Jeanine Tesori, and Louise Kerz Hirschfeld. My head was spinning. Truly a lovely honor.
In my brief encounter with the Gelbs, Arthur was incredibly gracious. I hope it's not tacky to post, but I was so honored to receive the following e-mail after the presentation. It's a lovely glimpse into his kindness. And as one who greatly admires Al Hirschfeld, you'll see why I happily freaked out:
Thanks a million for your witty drawing of Barbara and me. It will hang in a proper place beside our cherished Hirschfeld collection on the wall of my study. Al was my friend for decades; when I was a member of the theater department of The Times in the 1950s he'd deliver his drawing to me each week and I'd unwrap the brown paper covering the white slab of cardboard on which Al had inked his amazing caricature. The brown paper, incidentally, always carried Al's hand-printed warning: "Handle With Care and Don't Dip In Chicken Fat." Then my Times colleagues would gather around and we'd proceed to search for the "Ninas" hidden among what Al had just wrought. What a great weekly treat that was for all of us! (And Nina, of course, was his daughter's name.)
With appreciation and with Barbara's and my warmest wishes,
My best wishes go out to Barbara and the family, and those who valued friendship with this fellow. Rest well, good sir. Thank you.