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This is news you may not want to hear

Published August 8, 2004

If you are a Don Addis fan, I am about to ruin your day. After 40 years at the drawing board, Don is retiring.

His final editorial cartoon for the Times will appear on Friday, Aug. 13. The following day, we will devote our op-ed page to a sample of his work. Unfortunately, we don't have the full collection to draw from, because Don, being the soft touch he is, would give an original cartoon to anyone who asked for it, and many people did just that over the years.

Going cold turkey won't be easy for Don's fans who can't imagine facing the day without their Addis fix. His cartoons, which he calls "funny pictures," made it a little easier for readers to open the paper and face the news. At least they could count on Don to make them smile, chuckle, shed a tear or think. Occasionally his cartoons would provoke some of you to let out a curse word, but most of you would be back the next day for more.

We know there will be withdrawal pains among the faithful, but this is a time to celebrate Don's long and successful career as an editorial cartoonist, first at the old Independent and since 1986 at the Times, and his contributions to the life of this newspaper and this community.

Don, of course, is more than a editorial cartoonist. He is a humorist. For years, he wrote a monthly humor column in the Sunday Perspective section where he delivered zany one-liners such as "Where do card-carrying nudists carry their cards?" He also did cartoons for Playboy and other national magazines and, until a few years ago, a syndicated comics page panel called Bent Offerings, which Don described as a "commentary on the universal human condition."

Donald Gordon Addis was born in Hollywood, Calif., and grew up in Hollywood, Fla. He was born on a Friday the 13th, so naturally he decided to retire on a Friday the 13th. He is an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Florida, where he was editor of the campus humor magazine the Orange Peel.

When I became editor of editorials in 1991, I wanted to know more about this funny man who sat behind the drawing board in a nearby office, so I went to the library to see what we had in the files.

A 1988 feature began by telling readers some things they probably didn't know about Don: "He paints faces on rocks. He collects stuffed gorillas. He keeps a false nose in his work drawer. One of his ancestors invented the toothbrush (maybe). He likes chess, crossword puzzles and palindromes. He juggles. He paints. He makes home movies (or used to). He mumbles, he paces and sometimes stares out of the window. He listens to Mozart and Beethoven . . . He doesn't care for politicians or Bucs football. Gun fetishists, creationists and bathroom humor are not high on his list, either."

I got the picture. This guy is an original, a little strange in some ways, but one of a kind. Nothing phony about him. He was never very good at playing the role of a curmudgeon, though he tried. He has no use for political correctness and poseurs. Unlike other cartoonists I have known, Don doesn't have an ego problem. Can you imagine an editorial cartoonist using his talent - and a Magic Marker - to illustrate the menu board in the company cafeteria? Don has been doing that for years, getting free meals for his work.

At the editorial board's morning meetings, Don was our closing act. Sitting at the head of the big table, he would bring up the weirdest news item of the day and ask us to take an editorial position on it. The other day, for example, he mentioned a brief story about an Arkansas farmer who got into trouble with the law for spreading three tons of manure along the route of a gay pride parade. The farmer pleaded innocent, saying he was exercising his right to free speech. Don wanted to know if people have a First Amendment right to spread manure in public places? My answer, only in politics.

Our board meetings will be a little more serious but not nearly as much fun without Don, who gave us what opinion pages are short on - a light touch. We will miss him a lot, and he leaves with our great affection and respect and gratitude. I don't know exactly what Don has in mind for his retirement years, but I have a feeling he is not about to stop making people smile.

Philip Gailey's e-mail address is

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