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Obituaries

Eldon Dedini, 84; Prolific Cartoonist for Playboy, New Yorker Magazines

January 20, 2006|Myrna Oliver | Special to The Times

Eldon Dedini, a prolific California cartoonist for Playboy and the New Yorker whose subjects included lusty satyrs and curvaceous nymphs, thrifty witches, elegant automobiles and even broccoli, has died. He was 84.

Dedini died Jan. 12 at his home in Carmel Valley of esophageal cancer, said his niece, Arlene Dedini Anderson.

The artist, who produced 50 preliminary cartoons every three weeks, drew about 630 panels for the New Yorker from 1950 to 2005 and 1,200 for Playboy from 1959 to 2005.

He was named best magazine cartoonist by the National Cartoonists Society in 1958, 1961, 1964 and 1989.

Dedini, a native of King City, Calif., spent most of his life on the Monterey Peninsula and painted elegant water color or acrylic posters for Pebble Beach's Concours d'Elegance vintage auto show and for the Monterey Jazz Festival. .

In a 1957 cartoon collection, Dedini recalled his close association with other area artists and writers like John Steinbeck, who were habitues of Ed Ricketts' laboratory on Cannery Row. "With a small group of paisanos," he captioned a drawing, "we meet in Doc's old place and study wine, jazz and philosophy."

Last year, Salinas' Sasoontsi Gallery staged a retrospective of Dedini's cartoons and posters, titled "Babes to Broccoli."

The "babes" clearly referred to Dedini's voluptuous Playboy nymphs who helped establish the magazine's racy image in the 1960s. The broccoli was a bit different.

In 1985, Dedini was asked to draw the green cruciferous vegetable by his friend Don Nucci, president of Mann Packing Inc. in Salinas, one of the world's largest shippers of fresh broccoli. And, Nucci said, please make the greengrocers and cooks laugh.

So for nine years, Dedini drew humorous advertising posters featuring broccoli.

For Dedini, the drawing came easily. A plethora of early rejection slips convinced him that gags -- the ideas and the captions that made people chuckle -- sold the cartoons. Critics and editors found him adept at both.

Dedini began drawing at age 5, copying newspaper comic strips that his mother had pasted into homemade comic books for him. His favorites were Popeye, Jiggs and the Katzenjammer Kids.

The budding cartoonist studied art at what is now Hartnell College, where he drew cartoons without pay for the Salinas Morning Post and the Salinas Index Journal to gain experience.

During his Salinas student days, Dedini sold his first cartoon to Esquire, where he would later work as a staff cartoonist from 1946 to 1950.

After earning his associate's degree in Salinas, Dedini moved to Los Angeles and put himself through the former Chouinard Art Institute by moonlighting as a janitor.

Dedini began his career in Hollywood -- working briefly at Universal and then for two years in the storyboard department at Disney.

But he kept freelancing his own cartoons as well, and Esquire soon lured him to its Chicago office by doubling what Disney had paid him.

Dedini returned to the Monterey Peninsula permanently in 1950 and soon sold his first cartoon to the New Yorker. In 1959, Dedini published his first Playboy cartoon.

The cartoonist wrote and illustrated two books, "The Dedini Gallery" in 1961 and "A Much, Much Better World" in 1985 and published several anthologies of his New Yorker and Playboy cartoons.

Dedini is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Virginia Conroy; one son, Giulio of San Luis Obispo, and a brother, Delwin, of Altadena.

Funeral services are scheduled at 1 p.m. Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church, Carmel-by-the-Sea.

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