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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our seventh calendar year
    PCR #349  (Vol. 7, No. 48)  This edition is for the week of November 27--December 3, 2006.

Thanks For The Memories....Denis Lebrun, The Man Who Never Existed....The Aftermath  by William Moriaty
"The Fountain"  by Mike Smith
The Tampa Film Network Meeting For September  by Nolan B. Canova
Recent Stuff....Flying While Muslim....What A Coinkydink....Play Ball....Down On Main Street.... My Favorite Films, Part 48: "Unforgiven"  by Mike Smith
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It has not been with any great amount of joy or satisfaction that I have written this week's column, or previous La Floridiana columns concerning the PhyMed Partners investment fraud. The subject matter of both of these stories has been of a more personal nature and have pointed out the less than noble or even less than civil behavior of certain individuals.

As I stated above, this edition is no different. My columns concerning the PhyMed Partners scamola described a man who had no remorse at fraudulently pick pocketing the earnings and life savings of others.

The current edition you are about to read features a man who appears to have written his own slant on history where the hard work and sacrifices by others on his own behalf does not seem to have mattered to him.

As y'all know, one of my best friends is Denis Lebrun. I am both grateful and proud to say that our friendship has endured for over 32 years now. Not all of those years were picture perfect, but the pluses have far outweighed the minuses in what has been one of the most fulfilling relationships in my life.

Objectivity is hard enough to come by when it doesn't involve someone that you know, but it can be extremely difficult when it concerns someone that you do know.

In the spirit of honor and fairness I will try to write this article in as fair and objective a manner as possible.

As longtime readers of PCR may recall, in the November 18th and 25th 2002 editions of PCR, I conducted an interview with Denis, who, at that time, was the lead artist for the King Features Syndicate comic strip Blondie.

I remember when Denis flew to Tampa from Burlington, Vermont in the fall of 1981 to meet with strip owner Dean Young to discuss being brought on board Blondie. Jim Raymond the longtime artistic legend on the strip, was terminally ill and his successor lead artist Mike Gerscher was in dire need of an assistant .

The assistant for Mr. Gerscher was found in the likes of Denis Lebrun, who found himself learning the inking and lettering of the strip under Gerscher's guidance. Gerscher left the strip in the summer of 1984 and veteran comic strip artist and legend Stan Drake took over as lead artist. Denis served as his more than able bodied assistant until Drake's passing in 1997.

I can remember through that 15-year span, the unwavering dedication, commitment and passion that Denis had for the strip. I occasionally would even voice my profound concern to Denis that he might either burn himself out or prematurely die if he did not slow down on the pace of the production of the strip. He would always respond that there was basically no one else who could "fill his shoes" and that both the reading public and strip owner Dean Young deserved no less than the best from him and if that meant only three hours of sleep a day and no vacations, than so be it!

After Stan Drake passed away, Denis became the lead artist on Blondie with editorial cartoonist Jeff Parker on board as his assistant. In addition to his new position, Denis had been, and continued on to be, responsible for the production of Blondie merchandise illustrations.

By 2002 I was also becoming deeply concerned with Denis's obsessive loyalty to the strip and its owner, Mr. Young. I was also beginning to get an impression that things were not quite right in Denis's personal life and now his relationship with Dean Young was coming in to question. My intuition was right - - Denis held up the publication of my PCR interviews with him for almost two months as he and Dean were beginning to have profound conflicts. In addition, Denis's marriage appeared to be heading awry.

By 2004, the demands from the strip and the difficulties in his personal life were taking a nearly catastrophic toll on Denis who was by then 46 years of age. In an attempt to reduce his work load, Denis talked to Dean about adding a third artist to work on the strip. He wanted to spend more time with his family and was willing to reduce his income to make it happen. With the addition of a third artist, Denis continued drawing the Sunday editions, and oversaw the production of the dailies that was handed over to Jeff Parker (a nine year veteran on the strip) and the latest addition to the team, John Marshall. Within the next year and a half, Denis's marriage would end up in a disastrous divorce. In addition, his relationship with Dean became strained. Like his personal marriage, Denis and Dean's "marriage" of close to 25 years appeared to be headed for certain disaster.

Prior to this period, Denis had been dealing with a personal health problem. It became apparent that sometime during his last year on the strip, Denis's health was getting worse and this condition was taking its toll on him. Although I do not know all of the details of precisely what factors lead to the unfortunate "breakup" between him and Dean, and regardless of having never heard Dean's side of the breakup story, I believe that I nevertheless have a pretty good general idea of how things came to a conclusion in this incredible two decade saga of one of the world's most beloved comic strips.

On July 10, 2006, I received an e-mail from Denis where he stated that a friend of his recommended that Denis take a look at Dean Young's autobiographical summary in the Blondie web site. After his reading the article, Denis told me that he felt that "I've been written out of existence."

I logged on to the site which is at http://www.blondie.com/page.asp?%20page=cartoonists_dean and sadly found myself having to concur with Denis.

I was saddened that after all of the support, dedication, contributions, endless working hours and sacrifice that Denis gave this strip (much of which I witnessed first hand), that in the end none of those efforts truly seemed to matter to Mr. Young. What little contact I had with Mr. Young was always favorable, and I got the impression that in addition to his being a dynamic man, he was also a fair man. His blatant omission of Denis (and Mike Gerscher for that matter) has forced me to reevaluate my assessment on this man's character.

I surely take nothing from the talent, genius and mastery of the cartoonists mentioned in his autobiography such as Blondie and Dean Young creator Chic Young, as well as artists Jim Raymond and Stan Drake. I also wish nothing but the best for the strip's relative newcomers John Marshall and Frank Cummings. But regardless of what differences Dean and Denis may have had, however, I truly sense that this omission is intentional and is rooted in a deep resentment over the relationship of the two in the recent past.

I love Denis as a friend dearly, but even I know that no one is perfect and he (and I for that matter) is certainly no exception. I am also certain that Dean may have had his own valid reasons for specific actions taken during their long professional relationship that Denis may have felt uncomfortable with or could not outright agree with, but this omission is, nevertheless, a little hard for me to swallow.

I truly hope that with the passing of time, Dean will take another look at that era of the strip's long and colorful history, where a truly masterful, thoughtful and hard working artist helped bring joy on a daily basis to millions of readers around the world. I also recognize and appreciate that the Blondie web site is Dean's and that he has the right and prerogative to present whatever material he pleases or deems appropriate.

That being said, if you do a Google search you'll realize that any rumor or implication of Denis's nonexistence has been greatly exaggerated.

Regardless, I sincerely hope that Denis Lebrun, and Mike Gerscher for that matter, will be reserved, in this most important of web sites, a much earned mention and recognition for the work that they did to keep the strip alive for close to three decades .

"La Floridiana" is ©2006 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.