If you ever read newspaper funny pages, you’ll recognize many of the doodles on this grand piano.
The instrument belonged to Mell Lazarus, who created two syndicated comic strips — Momma, about a woman and her grown children, and Miss Peach, named for a schoolteacher but concerned mainly with her class of wisecracking students.
Lazarus sold his first cartoon at age 16 and never looked back. The Miss Peach series ran in hundreds of newspapers from 1957 until 2002. Momma started in 1970 and ended after Lazarus’ death in May. He must have prepared his strips well ahead of time; what finally killed him, which is reflected slightly in the above, was Alzheimer’s. He was 89.
Cartoon artists are a small community who keep in touch. Many visited Lazarus at his home in Southern California, and he invited them to leave their marks on his piano. Their drawings and signatures, collected over years, turned the thing into an interesting tour of comic strip history.
Another cartoonist, Rick Detorie, whose One Big Happy comic strip has run since 1988, visited Lazarus three years ago and spent an afternoon taking video footage and talking with Lazarus about his piano. Detorie released the result on YouTube this week.
In the video, Lazarus mentions that he is loaning the piano to Ohio State University (referred to in Ohio as The Ohio State University.) The school is home to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.