Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packages collectors all gathered recently for the Philly Non-Sport card show. Held twice a year in Allentown, PA, this year’s spring show was themed GPK/Wacky Packages. Part of the festivities included a limited dinner Saturday night at the host hotel. During the evening was a tribute to artist Jay Lynch. Led by Jeff Zapata, many of the artists and attendees shared their memories and stories of their time with Jay. Attending the dinner were collectors Steve Sodergren and Erica Fox who were kind enough to transcribe the tribute for us. If you missed it, be sure to check out Steve and Erica’s great write-up on their experiences at the show.
April 22, 2017 Dinner
Jeff Zapata: Jay was someone I could really gravitate to right away. He was a person that you could talk about pop culture, you could talk about the old artists of TOPPS. And to us TOPPS had these ideas, these toys, these things. It was almost like an old car that was locked in the garage and we could just take off that tarp and turn on that engine and it would still sound the same. And when we came to this show, that car was always there. It always sounded the same. And you can’t have that car sounding the same without people who all believe in the same thing, who really love what they do, who really love what they collect.
Jay really appreciated that. He treated everyone as an equal. It didn’t matter who you were. It didn’t matter what type of artist you were. He felt as an equal with the person, and that was really a special thing – and also I think about this show -it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter where you come from, we’re all the same. We all love the same thing. And a lot of that could not happen if not [gestures to Tosers]. So thanks to Tosers, and especially Roxanne who organizes such things and takes a lot of patience, organization, and a lot of love. Jay recognized that love and I would like to give a hand to the Tosers at least [applause] who continue to bring new friendships like that. I probably would not have had the friendship I had with Jay if it wasn’t for shows like this.
One of the ways that Jay and I started becoming friends was non-sports – new product development was talking about stuff but eventually he had a divorce which happened to each of us – or each year talk about divorces, or our marriages, or our kids – how they’re growing up and everything, and Jay had a divorce and he needed friends and I know some of us here helped him out when he was doing that. Matt and Greg are a few over there, or New York city friends who helped, and Art – and because of that I got to know even more people – Art Spiegelman and other people intimately. But it was because of a belief, it wasn’t because we got to just meet each other – it was about cards, always was about cards. It was always about cards – about prosperity, not to give up and denounce, to prosper, not to starve, to achieve, not to plunder ideas. And Jay always was with that – to constantly keep doing stuff. And when I see everyone today, right now, looking at everyone, I still – I see him in a lot of you guys and he would be very proud that we’re having this moment to think about him, to think about the hobby, think about the Tosers, and I’m just very proud of everybody here today and I’m proud that we’re thinking about Jay. I just hope there are other Jay Lynches still here – and I know there are – but I hope we still always take a moment to remember him when we do something in the way that he would like to have it done- with honesty of who are – who you really are – not who you’re working for. I see it in all here today, so God bless you all and I hope to see you more throughout the years and remember times such as these, and future things.
And if anybody else would like to get up and talk about Jay and have things to say – I know Mike Jaspersen might have a really funny anecdote that I thought was great and any other friends, please join in as part of it. I would like to also mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Wacky Packages and everyone who supported it throughout the years especially when it was dead [laughter] [applause]. I thank you guys for acknowledging the work of Jay Lynch, Norm Saunders, Art Spiegelman, my good friend Len Brown, and others. And I hope you give each other a hand for coming here and taking long journeys – I know some of you come really far and I would like to [clapping] I would also like to thank Joe Simko, Layron DeJarnette for coming, a lot of the other artists who work for GPK and TOPPS, for coming and taking their time to celebrate this moment. Enjoy your dinner! [applause].
Mike Jaspersen: I was at TOPPS for a number of years and had a lot of phone conversations with Jay. Jay did a lot of sketch cards for the- especially the Old School Series 1. And you know, I said “Jay can you do 5,000 sketch cards?” “Sure!” “By Monday.” [laughter]. So, I mean, he actually did 5,000 sketch cards for Series 1. There wasn’t anything Jay couldn’t do. Um, so during these phone conversations you know I would have to call him and say you know “You gotta stick to the schedule Jay, gotta stick to the schedule” and he would go off on these tangents and just tell these stories. One that really interested me, or stuck with all these years, was uh, he said “Did you know I invented rap music?” [laughter]. I said, “What?!” He said, “Yeah, I invented rap music.” And I said, “Jay, uhhh…” and he said “Yeah, during the Vietnam war I was a conscientious objector and I wanted to serve my country but I didn’t want to go to war. So I went to the north side of Chicago and did community service.”
I said, “Really?” and he said, “Yes.” So I said, “Well what did you do?” He said, “I worked with underprivileged kids. So I’d have them in the room and I wanted to communicate with them but I didn’t know how to do it. So I started rapping, and they would rap back to me. So I invented rap.” I said, “That’s a great story.” He said, “Yeah, there’s a guy who’s doing a book – he did a book on the history of rap and devoted a whole chapter to me. I said, “Wow, I gotta get this book, Jay.” He said “Oh there’s only one thing….umm…. the author died before it was published [laughter].” So, I don’t know if it’s true or not true! But, that’s just the kind of stuff Jay would do. I didn’t know him as long as some other people- maybe only eight or nine years, 10 years maybe, but I really liked the guy and he was good to everybody and I’m gonna miss him [applause].
Jeff Zapata: Anyone else who has a story to share of Jay?
Roxanne Toser: I always knew Jay – [unintelligible] – when we were in Chicago with Jay’s friends. I guess we were there for a national baseball card convention. And so we had stopped in the hotel with Jay, and Carol, his ex-wife, who he would always blame Marlin for marrying her. They lived together for quite a while and Marlin would day, “Why don’t you two get married?” So, they finally got married and then he’d blame Marlin [laughter]. But anyway, we were in the lobby of the hotel and some people came in that knew Carol. They talked to her and they were very enthusiastic and finally they looked at Jay and they did not know him. They said “Um, and what do you do?” And Jay said, “I work for Non-Sport Update magazine.” That was his claim to fame. I said, “Jay, if that’s your claim to fame then that’s pretty pathetic” [laughter].
That was Jay. He was always very unassuming, and he did not say I’m a great artist from the underground days or anything like that. Just, you know, he worked for Non-Sport Update. So that’s one of the many, many memories I have of Jay.
Marlin Toser: Jay would call Roxanne up on the phone. I’d answer the phone and he’d say “I’m Jay” or “This is Jay.” So there was an artist around who did work for us on Non-Sport Update. His name was Grass Green – don’t ask me how he got the first name [laughter]. But Grass Green told me, “I’m going to Chicago, and I’m going to meet Jay Lynch! I’m so, so – I’m really so happy.” So he gets to Chicago and he meets Jay Lynch. “I’m Grass Green.” “I’m Jay.” You know, Jay was so unassuming that no matter what he did he never bragged about anything he ever did, you know? And sometimes I would talk to Jay and it would be Monday and I thought it was Tuesday or Wednesday because he would go in such detail I wouldn’t even know whether I asked him on Monday… I’m like, “Jay what are you talking about?” [laughter]. You know it was really delightful and I really miss him.
Jeff Zapata: Anyone else with any stories to share on Jay…?
Mark Shoemaker: I will Jeff. My two greatest memories of Jeff -er Jay – Jeff you’re good –
Jeff Zapata: I’m not dead yet! [laughter]
Mark Shoemaker: No [laughing]! My two greatest memories of Jay are- I had the honor of going to two Chicago shows back during the late 90s – the only two that I’ve ever attended out in the Midwest. Everything else has been in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, and I’ve enjoyed all those as well. But I got the honor to go to Jay’s apartment in Chicago with a few of the guys mostly from California- like Scott Roberg and John Millard and Tom Tyson from Wisconsin, and a couple of others. And we were at Jay’s apartment one night and all the guys were looking at me like “Shoe, why are you falling asleep in such a great apartment tonight?” [laughter]. I said, “I’m just tired! It’s been a long trip.” But the man – I mean – as soon as he put pen to paper- he was incredible. He was the grandfather of all Wacky guys to us and we’ll miss him and we love him dearly.
The other memory was in ’05 at Greg’s gathering at his place and he did sketches for us all night and he took photos. Cheryl [Cheryl Sweppy, fellow collector seated next to him] and I were a part of the group and many others. There’s many photos that have been posted lately on the gatherings, like from ’02 and ’05 – and ’99 was a big one with Jeff Weiss for anybody that remembers that one. So, Jay we love you and miss you and thank you for all the memories [applause].
Jeff Zapata: Does anyone else…. I might just have one memory to share just personally- cause that was a general speech but does anyone else – please, speak up..
Smokin’ Joe: [gestures] I have – just – briefly. When I first started doing Wackys I wanted to get in touch with the classic artists and writers and get as much input. Hey, if I’m gonna pick up the mantle I want to know something, I want you to hand it to me. So I reach out and call Jay and talk to him and he gave me some advice and everything. And a couple of years later, out of the blue, he calls me, “Hey I’ve got some ideas on some stuff and I thought maybe you’d work on them with me.” So I go, “What are your ideas?” It was 2008. He goes, “I want to do these – for kids – alright, I want to do these stories. And it starts out – it tells a story and there’s a piece of artwork there and the story starts out in like, 10 point font and a couple of lines tell the story there. And then it moves down to like 6 point font and it gets smaller and smaller and smaller.” And he’s like, “People keep telling me nobody will be able to read it but the kids will be close [laughter] and the kids will be able to see it- [laughter] – it’s for the kids – and they’ll know it’s for them alright? Here’s one of the stories just so you have an idea.” He’s like, “Okay, back in the day, we’d slick our hair back all the time, grease it back, and some of the people would use egg white if they couldn’t buy the grease or whatever. So the story is this kid goes and uses egg white to grease his hair back and he jumps on his bike and he’s riding through the summer, through the town and everything, and it’s a hot day and all of a sudden the egg white starts cooking [laughter] on his head. Pretty soon he’s got like scrambled egg hair. That’s the story!” [laughter] “What do you think?” “Well, ok!” [laughter]. So there you go, phone call with Jay. [applause].
Jeff Zapata: Well, I think a lot of people had like a lot of famous phone calls with Jay. Jay was the type of person you could – he would call you at like three in the morning- and I’m hearing some stories now – and you might see some tears in my eyes only because it reminds me of my interaction with him and everything.
I had a really personal privilege to get to know him as a roommate, a drawing buddy, a convention partner type of thing. I was very proud of that – I was so privileged to be that- it was like I felt like I was in Back to the Future and he was Doc [laughter] and I was like there, “Doc! Where are we going next? What are we going to do?” And he’s like, “We’re going to Pennsylvania … [laughter] to meet the Tosers.” But it would be great. But I got to tell you that it’s almost like a Houdini thing – I want it to be that it’s like legend to see this person – cause I’m gonna tell you like I would – you’re living with a person in an apartment and I would draw some stuff – and I’m a pretty quick drawing type of person, whatever. And I would go out, walk the dog or whatever, and I would come back – and I’m telling you, this is legend – like, I would see something that looked like it took eight hours. And if it’s anything from any artists over here – legends are true – where, like if he was comfortable in a certain situation – and he was in a rhythm – not like convention rhythm- and you would come back and it’s like how did you do that? And sometimes I would just sit there to, you know, watch water boil and I would just see an ancient technology – just – a person that would just do things like a computer. And Art and I talked about this for hours recently, so that’s why I’m also saying it because it was something to see, to behold. It was a marvel. And I just want it stated that like we saw something, you know, that maybe we won’t ever see again. But someone who really knew how to took a rapidograph and take lines and really make them alive.
And not only that, but a person who knew how to make good friends in a secret way and intertwine people. Cause look at us – we’re all intertwined because of Jay, you know. So, Jay, I love you man [applause].
Roxanne Toser: Okay, that was very nice.
Jeff Zapata: ..now Don Rickles! [laughter]
Roxanne Toser: Now we’ll do prizes…..