/How New York Caricatured Richard Nixon Through the Years

How New York Caricatured Richard Nixon Through the Years


Richard Nixon inadvertently helped New York grow up. The magazine was founded in 1968, the year he was elected to the presidency. A few years later, coverage of the Watergate scandal launched New York into the business of covering national affairs regularly. In those years, he appeared on our cover ten times.

In their new book Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines, Milton Glaser and Walter Bernard — who first collaborated in 1968 as New York’s founding design director and art director, and continue to do so today — recount their decades of editorial work, here and elsewhere. We asked about the covers they conceived and assigned when Tricky Dick, rather than Tiny Hands, was the man sweating out the prospect of impeachment.

Will Nixon Trip Over Nixon Again? (above)
Illustration by David Levine

Levine is probably most closely associated with the New York Review of Books, but he was a regular here as well. “If we couldn’t figure a visual treatment for an article,” says Glaser, “we’d say, ‘Give it to David. He’ll do a portrait.’ We knew he’d always get something on time and beautiful.”

Gloria Steinem on Learning to Live With Nixon
Photograph by Carl Fischer

Photo: New York Magazine

As Bernard recalls, “Gloria” — who was one of New York’s first political columnists — “didn’t want to be photographed for this.” In the book, Steinem explains why: “It seemed to me that serious writers didn’t do that. As you can see, the result was a compromise. I was there amid Nixon photos, but with my back to the camera.”

Wall Street’s Case Against Nixon
Illustration by Paul Davis

Photo: New York Magazine

“We had a team of artists,” Bernard says, “that we knew could do certain things well and certain things on deadline. Paul Davis originally worked in a primitive style — he did other covers for us, for the ‘Power’ issue — but he could also do caricature: You can see that Nixon’s exaggerated here.”

Why Nixon Was Afraid of Cox
Illustration by Robert Grossman

Photo: New York Magazine

“Robert Grossman was another of those regulars,” says Bernard. “He drew a comic strip for us, at the bottom of the ‘City Politic’ column, and also came up with illustration ideas” — like this one, published in the days after the Saturday Night Massacre, not longbefore impeachment proceedings began.

Is Nixon Finally Going Under?
Illustration by David Wilcox

Glaser expresses great affection for this one. “It’s remarkable because it could be no other human being on Earth besides Nixon. And you wonder, what is it that helps the mind recognize him from a fragment? The issue of likeness is always miraculous. To some degree,Nixon and Trump both share this quality, of being a trademark.”

Still Rose Mary’s Baby?
Illustration by Richard Hess

Photo: New York Magazine

A feature on Nixon’s longtime secretary, who was taking the fall for erasing a key Watergate tape. “The day I needed it, Hess wasn’t finished,” Bernard says. “I called him again and said, ‘Dick, it’s got to go, or there’s no cover.’ He came to my apartment at 12 o’clock, saying that he hadn’t finished the chair, the dress, the details. I took a look and said, ‘It’s good enough.’ ”

The Nixon Blues: How the President’s Character Explains Watergate
Illustration by Julian Allen

Photo: New York Magazine

“Julian Allen was our staff illustrator,” says Bernard, “and ‘The Nixon Blues’ was based on the fact that we knew Nixon played the piano. A funny thing was that, on Third Avenue later that week, we saw a piano bar that had put this cover up, saying, ‘Coming next week.’ ”

Why Nixon Did Himself In
Illustration by Haruo Miyauchi

Photo: New York Magazine

One of many covers that reflects New York’s long history as a place for emerging journalists, photographers, and illustrators. “Haruo worked at Push Pin Studios for Milton, studying under him,” Bernard says, “and he was young and we wanted to give him a chance and gave him the assignment.”

*This article appears in the December 9, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

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