Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hail to the New York Coffee Cup!





(Please click on the photos to enlarge)



I’ve mentioned before that I love reading New York Times obituaries, because I keep finding out about wonderful people I’ve never heard of (like the man who invented the Frisbee) who have led remarkable lives.

Imagine my delight when I saw on the FRONT PAGE of The New York Times on April 30 a photo of the wonderful “We are happy to serve you” blue-and-white paper cup with the Greek design that is so familiar to New Yorkers. The headline was: “Thank Leslie Buck, Dead at 87, For the Black, No Sugar, to Go”.

I read it and learned that the man who designed the cup, Leslie Buck was not a designer and not Greek, but was a survivor of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald. His parents were killed by the Nazis. He came to the U.S. after the war and with his brother, who also survived the camps, started a paper cup manufacturing company in Mount Vernon, NY in the late 1950’s.

Leslie Buck joined the Sherri Cup Company in Kensington, Conn. in the mid-‘60’s and eventually became its director of marketing. According to the Times, “Since many of the city’s diners were owned by Greeks, Mr. Buck hit on the idea of a Classical cup in the colors of the Greek flag. Though he had no formal training in art, he executed the design himself. It was an instant success.”

He named the cup “The Anthora”, which his son said was taken from “Amphora” as filtered through Mr. Buck’s Eastern European accent.

The design of the coffee cup became an instant New York icon, eventually as famous as the Statue of Liberty, and spawned many knock-offs. The Times obit waxed rhapsodic: “A pop-culture totem, the Anthora has been enshrined in museums; its likeness has adorned tourist memorabilia like T-shirts and ceramic mugs.”

Well, back when I lived in New York in the sixties and seventies I fell in love with the Greek coffee cups found in virtually every diner, and I started collecting the different designs. (Okay, I have a little problem with collecting EVERYTHING. Just don’t tell the people who run that reality show ”Hoarders” who keep having interventions with people like me.)

In honor of Mr. Buck, who designed the Anthora, I have dug out and photographed a few of my collection above—showing both the front and back of the four designs. (The cup in the middle, holding pencils, is ceramic and I use it in my studio. It shows the original design. ) I also have a soft, flat coin purse bought by my daughter from MOMA which looks like one of these cups—a NYC in-joke referencing the paper cups held by street beggars in Manhattan to collect coins.

Now I wish I’d collected more of the fabulous blue and white cups, because the Times said that they “may now be endangered, the victim of urban gentrification.”

Collect them while you can—just imagine what they’ll sell for someday on Ebay!

And while we’re on the subject of coffee cups, I’m throwing in a photo of two charming prints of watercolors that I bought a couple days ago. The watercolors are the work of artist John Gaston, who runs Gastonart & Frame, where I get my paintings framed. It’s on the Boston Turnpike in Shrewsbury, MA, and I think that Gaston’s watercolors of his humble coffee and pie are just as good, if not better than, the famous food paintings of Wayne Thiebaud, (and a lot cheaper.)

4 comments:

dan said...

the times obit was not correct see here

email for trutH; danbloom at gmail dot com

http://northwardho.blogspot.com/2010/05/interview-with-professional-obituary.html

> Interview with a Professional Obituary Writer On How the New York
> Times Might Have Got the Leslie Buck Obit Wrong Despite the Best of
> Intentions on Frontpaging the Story of New York's Iconic Anthora (sic)
> Coffee Cup
>
>
> QUESTION: Dr Obit, did you read the recent obit for Leslie Buck, the
> alleged designer of the iconic New York coffee cup dubbed the Anthora
> (sic), written by Margalit Fox? I think it appeared on April 28.
>
> ANSWER: Yes, I read it the day it came out.
>
> QUESTION: Did you have any reservations about Margalit's obit of Mr Buck?
>
>
> ANSWER: None at all. I loved the piece, front page at all!
>
> QUESTION: It was a lovely piece, true, a very well written. A classic,
> almost. But I was wondering if you
> swalloed the bit about Mr Buck being the designer of the famous cup
> back in 1963, as the obit stated as "fact", based on his son's claims,
> and that the obit writer took as truthiness.
>
> ANSWER: Seemed true to me then and seems true to me now. What's your
> question, pesky man?
>
>

dan said...

But I was wondering if you
> swallowed the bit about Mr Buck being the designer of the famous cup
> back in 1963, as the obit stated as "fact", based on his son's claims,
> and that the obit writer took as truthiness.
>
> ANSWER: Seemed true to me then and seems true to me now. What's your
> question, pesky man?
>
> QUESTION: Well, Dr Obit, I am just wondering if it is possible the the
> "facts" might be otherwise....
>
> ANSWER: Such as....
>
>
> QUESTION: Well, I wrote an email to Ms Fox at the Times using the
> Times reader mail contact form, and I know she received it, because I
> have contacted Times reporters many times before using this form and
> they always replied. But Ms Fox did not reply to me, not once, and she
> apparently complained and sicked the Times legal department on me.
>
> ANSWER: Really? Why? Were you threatening her or threatening a lawsuit
> against the Times? Or were you asking for a correction or a
> retraction? Why would she refuse to answer a fellow reporter's polite
> emails and sick the Times lawyer on you?
>
> QUESTION: I have no idea.
>
> ANSWER: Seems strange to me. But let me tell you a few things,
> Grasshopper. First of all, the few people I know who have written to
> Margalit Fox have never received replies from her. A lot of reporters,
> editors and publishers receive so many emails that they don't answer
> many of them. So don't take it personally.
>
> QUESTION: Okay, I won't. The lawyer's letter was friendly at any rate,
> and he even signed the letter with his first name and addressed me by
> my nickname. So I am not worried about the Times suing me.
>
> ANSWER: Who said the New York Times is going to sue you? You mean
> ''NYTIMES VS PERSKY MAN''?
>
> QUESTION: Nobody's suing anybody, Dr Obit. We are just chatting. The
> legal guy's been very sweet. And the public editor, the ombudsman, at
> the Times, also sent me a nice email saying he would look into my
> pesky questions to see if there is anything to them. Just a routine
> form letter. And then he sent me a more personal letter.
>
> ANSWER: Well, Pesky Man, pay attention, because it does appear that M.
> Fox probably maybe might have forwarded your note to her to her
> superiors. Otherwise, how would a NY Times lawyer in Legal know about
> this? Also, unless you wrote directly to NYTimes Public Editor Michael
> McElroy, it would seem reasonable that Margalit or her superiors
> forwarded your message to McElroy.
>
> QUESTION: McElroy in his personal note to me asked me to back up my
> line of questioning.

dan said...

http://northwardho.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-i-am-droping-leslie-buck-margalit.html

I am droppin my case now with this mea gulpa

Anonymous said...

Hi I love these cups too I have lived in NYC all my life and grow up with them I wanted to ask you if you have seen the red ones ? yes they had them there looked the same just red and white you can see two of them in the 1980 movie fame. Now I want to find a red one lol thank you