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Zippy the Pinhead visits Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Campus

Comic strip character Zippy the Pinhead, on his recent visit
to Baltimore, had a few words for
his elected representative.

Standing in front of the Senator Theatre, Zippy is shocked
when he realizes the building’s symbolism.

“So that’s where the senator resides!” Zippy
exclaims when he reads the name above the marquee. “Senator! We need to
talk about pork barrels!”

In the strip’s second panel, an increasingly irate Zippy
demands answers. “How do you justify living in such a palatial mansion at
th’ taxpayers’ expense?”

That and two other strips published in June were the result
of creator Bill Griffith’s April visit to Charm City, when he addressed Tom
Chalkley’s cartooning class at Johns Hopkins University and appeared at a book

“Wherever I go, Zippy goes,” Griffith said in a
phone call from his home in East Haddam, Conn., where he is working on his next
book, “Walk a Mile in My Muu-muu.”

The veteran cartoonist is a pioneer member of San
Francisco’s underground art scene. Griffith first drew his microcephalic alter
ego in 1970.

The cartoonist always takes a camera on his travels, he
said, to record moments and places that might inspire Zippy’s vaguely demented

Senator owner Tom Kiefaber suggested, while the cartoonist
signed copies of “Zippy: Connect the Polka Dots” at Atomic Books,
that Griffith visit the theater.

“We implored him, to the degree that we could,”
said Kiefaber, who admits to being a “huge” Zippy fan. “I told
him it’s always been a dream of mine to have Zippy visit the Senator.”

Kiefaber’s Art Deco theater, built in 1939, is the last
single-screen movie house still operating in Baltimore. He said Griffith
admired his business card, with its faux-silver embossed logo of the
auditorium’s name.

“‘That’s what’s on the building,'” Kiefaber said
he told the cartoonist, whose strip runs in more than 200 newspapers.
“‘You really should see it.'”

That very night, he visited. Craig Hankin, director of
Hopkins’ Homewood Art Workshops, had driven Griffith to the bookstore, and also
took him to the Senator.

“Bill said, ‘I have to see it in daylight,'”
Hankin remembered, who had invited Griffith to speak at Hopkins and in whose
house he was staying that night.

The next morning, before heading to Penn Station for
Griffith’s train to New York, Hankin drove him back to the Senator.

A few weeks later, Hankin said, he got an e-mail from
Griffith with the strip about the Senator. Hankin forwarded it to Kiefaber.

“It’s very, very exciting,” Kiefaber said.
“You plant a seed and, in many cases, there’s a long wait, but this was as
close to instant gratification as you can get.”

In another, also published in June, Zippy revisits the
51-foot-tall sculpture outside Penn Station, known as Male/Female, which was
also featured in a 2004 strip. Zippy is as confused now as he was then.

“Why,” he asks this time, “do I suddenly
yearn for a Revolutionary War hero on a horse?”

On the Net:

Zippy the Pinhead:

Senator Theatre:

Information from: The (Baltimore) Sun,

– Associated Press

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