Rarely does lightning strike for an editorial cartoonist.
For me, it struck big in the form of Sophie Masloff. The folksy Jewish grandmother with the beehive and a blue-collar work ethic was local cartoon gold. The first time I drew Sophie, the cartoon wasn't even about her. She was just one of several members of city council who appeared in the drawing.
The next day, my phone rang, and that distinctive, high-pitched screech was on the other end. "Rob, I just loved that cartoon today," Sophie said. "Could you send me a signed copy for my grandkids?"
When she became mayor in 1988, the phone calls ceased. Perhaps it was because she now had a city to run and couldn't be bothered calling local cartoonists or perhaps she no longer found them as amusing because she was the main subject. Now that the cartoons were more pointed, I waited in fear for another call from her, screaming, "I'm gonna scratch yer eyes aht!" It never came.
Years later, Sophie confessed that she never stopped enjoying my work, even while she was the mayor. When she left office in 1994, the phone calls returned. Fortunately for me, Sophie continued to appreciate my cartoons and my eyes remain intact.
Pittsburgh will never be the same without her, and neither will my cartoons.
Here are some of my favorites:
“Leap Frog,” May 17, 1989: Sophie hopped over both Frank Lucchino and Tom Murphy to win the mayoral race in 1989.
“Aviary Revenge,” Sept. 22, 1991: The mayor proposed closing or privatizing the Aviary (then owned by the city) to save money.
“Sophie in Bean Town,” Aug. 4, 2004: Sophie attended the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
“Free Tix,” Jan. 14, 1992: Sophie was famous for her malaprops, especially when referring to rock bands.
“Field Of Dreams,” Sept. 8, 1991: Sophie fielded criticism when she suggested building what would eventually become PNC Park.
“The Sophie Name,” Aug. 10, 2011: Gov. Tom Corbett named the newest sea lion pup at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium after the former mayor.