Sunday, May 9, 2010

MEA GULPA: Why I am Dropping the Leslie Buck Margalit Fox New York Times Obituary Case Since I don't have the smoking gun and it's time to move on and LET IT BE, Rest in Peace, Mr Buck, and apologies to all concerned, especially the Buck family, Margalit Fox, Bill McDonald and the Times LEGAL department and their very good PUBLIC EDITOR office, too. I was wrong. I am eating crow. I apologize.

However, at the same time as I issue the above MEA GULPA, I remain a bit suspicious of "inventors" and others who have claimed to be the
originator of something interesting.

There are those who have investigated a number of purported "inventors,"
some of whom were and some of whom were, on further investigation, probably
not. And these invention detectives always looked for patents, for instance, or design patents. And I could not find any evidence
of that for Leslie Buck. Even the 2002 trademark document from
Chicago does not prove that someone else designed the cup. So I am retiring this "case". I was wrong.

Until someone can prove that someone else designed the cup, as far as I am concerned, Leslie Buck designed it. Period. PERIOD. So what if it is not completely true in fact. It's a good story. That's good enough for me.

In fact, the Internet informs me that the 1996 Sun-Seninel of Fort Lauderdale published this:

"The design has been around since 1963," said Wayne Meadowcroft, Sherri's
vice president of sales and marketing. "At the time, most of the diners and
delis were Greek-owned, so the design, which was by an employee, Leslie
Buck, was a natural."

Also and much more interesting/devastating to my case was an article in the
NY Sun from 1996, about a design exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in

" Good design seems almost effortless, but great design is barely
noticeable. Take the paper clip, Helvetica, or the "Greek" coffee cup that's
a staple of every corner deli. Designed in 1963 by Leslie Buck, a Czech
immigrant and Sherri Cup Co. employee, the cup's familiar Greek motif is
both utterly banal and completely unforgettable."

All in all, Leslie Buck was probably was more responsible
for the creation of the Anthora (sic) design and cup than anybody else.

Is it an airtight case? No. Did he draw it
Probably not.

The Times piece, however, was a bit overwritten. Well-written but over- written. Still, it's a classic already! Bravo! Bravo, Margalit Fox! I really apologize here and now. I hope you are reading this and that you accept my apology.

The editorial play of putting it on the Front Page, A1, was also a bit silly, but the case for Buck as designer of the iconic coffee cup was decent enough on the
face of it. So Bill McDonald, bravo!

And in the end it was a very nice and sweet obit. Case Closed. I apologize for even asking questions. I should have just shut up.

Personally, I would not have used words like "creator" in describing the subject of the story in regard to the product or invention. He was a salesman and marketing person, not an artist or inventor. It's likely and obvious to me that the company designed the product itself. But let it be.
I'm guessing that Leslie came up with the idea, maybe by himself or maybe as part of a team or a group of friends, and may have sketched his notion of what the product should look like, then handed it to an artist who finished the job. Who was that artist if there was one? His or her name ahs been lost in the mists of time. Midst of time, too.

Also I do no tblame the obit writer for the language used in her obit. Often, editors or copy editors will change or drop a word or two from an obit and distort the facts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the Times tends to exotify the parts of New York where older staff don't live, ie anywhere else aside from the Upper West Side.