Thursday, March 28, 2002
THURSDAY, MARCH 28 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE 2002
So I've Heard Column
My wife placed the mail on our kitchen table. A Lands' End magazine was there, face up.
"Loof Lirpa," I murmured, joking about the dumb looking cover photo. "I don't think so," Jeanne responded. Examining the catalog, she pointed to a line at the bottom of the cover: "Alfred E. Neuman, MAD Magazine's Gap-Toothed Idiot."
I couldn't respond, but I reexamined the catalogue cover and thought: "Sure looks like the art Larry Daly used on his Loof Lirpa pages." To explain, the late Mr. Daly was editor of the Webster Times when I got my cub reporter's badge in the late 1940s.
He ran a whole page of absurdities, such as national meetings on geographically mismatched Webster street corners, like Main Street at Klebart Avenue. Loof Lirpa--April Fool spelled backward--was always involved. Loof Lirpa managed all kinds of crazy things, like raising the water in Webster Lake on sky hooks to whitewash the bottom.
MAD, said to be "America's foremost magazine of humor, satire and dumbness," is celebrating its 50th anniversary, Lands' End says, explaining its cover treatment. This means the magazine's dumbness started in 1952. Lawrence J. Daly battled cancer through a good part of that year and died Nov. 7, 1952.
Yet, he used a photograph of an Alfred E. Neumann type years earlier and identified his character as Loof Lirpa. Okay, I was just a young fellow, writing a Webster Times sports column for $7 a week, and catching a few assignments with the Worcester Telegram or The Evening Gazette, separate newspapers in those days, but I knew Larry Daly.
He was a veteran newspaper editor by the time I made his acquaintance. Loof Lirpa had long been an annual contributor to Webster Times pages on or about April 1. L.L. arrived without an image for many years.
I haven't any idea where Larry Daly finally got art for his Loof Lirpa fables, but his late 1940s great-one looked a lot like the future Alfred E. Neuman. I checked some of the Historical Society microfilm in the public library, looking for a pre-1952 likeness of Loof Lirpa. Unfortunately, the low-bidder for 1940s copies of the Webster Times ran things backward, possibly for the whole decade. The microfilm is white on black, difficult to read and hard to reproduce.
Still, Loof Lirpa is there, prominently featured in editions published on or before April 1--April Fool's Day--in 1947 and 1948. He may not be an absolute match, but he looks enough like Alfred E. Neuman to be his twin brother, even in white on black.
Had the April 1 series continued from 1947, Loof Lirpa would be measured this coming Monday by a string of 55 April Fool's Days. He'd be some five or so years older than fellow idiot Alfred E. Neuman. This isn't to suggest anything. While I can trace Loof Lirpa's image to the late 1940s, it's probable Alfred E. Neuman had a pre-MAD Magazine form with the people who gave him standing. Anything is possible when it comes to Larry Daly's old April Fool's day joke.
We sit in different parts of St. Louis Church for the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturdays, but M. Pearl DiDonato's path generally converges near mine by the time we exit the edifice. We usually exchange greetings but Ms. DiDonato had a question last week. She wondered whether a recent segment about James A. Chauvin, the public library custodian, had a miscalculation.
Mr. Chauvin remembered weekend visits to a Pleasant Street restaurant when he was a child. He'd tarry behind his father, carrying a kettle, and they'd get spaghetti and meatballs to go. I guessed visits were to Bastolla's Beer Gardem. Ms. DiDonato is too polite to say I was mistaken, but she mentioned Arthur's Restaurant, which was also on Webster's Pleasant Street, and run by her daughter-in-law, Ginny (Tanko) DiDonato's paremts.
Joseph A. Borski Jr., the former School Committee member and town Moderator, lived on Pleasant Street as a kid
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