Does Head Cheese Taste The Same Coming Up?

DUCKWORK No. 4 – October 1981

Duckwork No. 4

If I hadn’t done so earlier, this was the issue that convinced me to venture up to the 13th Floor and drop in on the DUCKWORK offices. Gerry’s cartoon of a vomiting duck placed in front of a halftone of the school building at Broad and Pine cracked me up – duck puking! HAR! HAR! Vomit cartoons are funny! – and also made me ask, “How’d he do that?” I didn’t even know what a halftone was at the time and wondered how he mixed his cartoon with a photographic element. Nowadays it’s easily done digitally, but back then with stats, Rubylith and board work, it was a lot more of a hassle!

Again, I don’t remember how things exactly transpired, but some time late in 1981, I was up on the 13th floor meeting Gerry Giovinco, Bill Cucinotta and some of the other ducks. These guys LOVED comics, and we could talk about them for hours on end and did. It was amazing how much time could be whiled away in the tiny, cubbyhole-like office on the 13th floor. We certainly talked more about comics and fantasy movies which were exploding at the time than we did illustration or, God forbid, art. DUCKWORK was a respite from all of that. It was a haven safe from window screen sculptures and pages upon pages of ruled pencil lines.

DUCKWORK No. 4 had 12 pages! It had news, an editorial, a serialized story, poetry and plenty of comic strips including the continuing adventures of Star Duck, Punk Duck and another movie poster spoof.

DUCKWORK No. 4 also had a notorious record review of the band Head Cheese by Kyle Skrinak. I’m hoping that Gerry or Bill chime in on this because I am fuzzy on the details. For some reason this band was well connected to the school. Head Cheese sold copies of their album for $3 at the student services office and the school’s art supply store (think Soviet bread line). Well, Skrinak writes his review, and it ain’t pretty. It did make me laugh out loud when I reread it, but I didn’t think it was as vicious as legend had it. This was the era when Creem magazine was regularly disemboweling music acts in their pages. Besides, we were in art school. Wall “crits” were a lot harsher than what Skrinak was dishing. It didn’t matter. DUCKWORK had to apologize.

I never cease to be amazed by the internet. A search turned up a Head Cheese video! Who knew they made a video? This is for a song called Jungle Jam which Skrinak referred to as “the coup-de-gras (or poop on the grass).” Take a listen and a look and let me know if the Ducks had anything for which to apologize.

Click image to go to the youtube video

Pretty rough, eh? Of course, this is back when people thought Liquid Sky was a great movie and also thought performance artists were making powerful statements. This was par for the course at the time.

Further research shows that Head Cheese changed their name to Book of Love and were a successful synth-pop band in the club and dance scene. Their songs appeared in the movies Silence of the Lambs and Trains, Planes and Automobiles. They toured with Depeche Mode. Who knew?

MP3 downloads of Book of Love’s music can be purchased here. They do an interesting remix of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.

When we meet again, I promise to get back on subject! To be continued!

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7 Responses to Does Head Cheese Taste The Same Coming Up?

  1. Joe!
    You are killing me! Of all the extremely fond memories of DUCKWORK, you had to bring up our darkest moment. OK, we were in college and probably were not conscious for most of our darkest moments, but HEAD CHEESE!!

    For the record, I actually liked the group and admired their efforts to achieve their dreams as musicians which was parallel to what we were hoping to accomplish in comics. To this day I still find my self singing their song “Teenage Idol” which I found both amusing and catchy.

    As editor and primary instigator of DUCKWORK, I made it a point to let the paper be an open forum for the artists and writers who contributed. We needed all the contributors we could get. I was not about censoring the work based on objective criticism though I would have drawn the line on anything that was racist or promoted hate. Kyle’s critisism was uncomfortable, but it was his opinion and his right to state it.

    You pointed out, that as students in art school, we learned to have thick skin regarding critiques. DUCKWORK itself was regularly, heavily criticized by the staff, the students and the trustees. Bill Cucinotta tells me his teachers were particularly harsh and would pin it to the wall and spend a half hour of class time ripping it to shreds every time it came out.

    PCA, now the University of the Arts, deserves a lot of credit for encouraging both DUCKWORK and HEAD CHEESE to pursue our ambitions and giving us a forum for which to do it in. In our case, we handled the criticism with more defiance and more determination to improve.

    HEAD CHEESE seemed to take it much more personally and I felt really bad when I witnessed one of the ladies in the band sobbing profusely in response to the critique.

    Our apology was genuine. We never intended to hurt their feelings by running the piece. I did argue in our defense, however. I always felt that we had the right to express ourselves honestly and openly.

    I will be doing my own spin on the DUCKWORK days over on the CO2 Comics Blog in upcoming weeks and I am really appreciating the memory jogging.

    Thanks for the continued great work that you and Tina do on Monkey and Bird which appears on CO2!

  2. Kyle Skrinak says:

    Hello; Duckwork’s darkest moment here. Talk about ghosts coming back to life. To recap, my review was indefensibly BAD writing and unjustly mean-spirited. In retrospect, I wish Jerry had exercised editorial prerogative, but the sin’s all mine. No, it wasn’t hateful or racist, just insufferably immature. I thought my tear was richly and unmistakably avenged in short order, but, alas, more penance is in order, apparently. I’d really rather pack that rat back into the memory hole. Like (duck?) feathers released from a tower, you can’t easily return the ones you threw out.

    Too bad there’s no undo feature for 1981.

    Tell Bill I said “Hey!”

  3. Tina says:

    Hi Kyle! I knew if we started dropping names, people would show up! I remember Head Cheese doing a performance piece in the window of PCA during lunch. It was a song called “Henna” and one of the members of the group got a henna for the sake of art.
    Nice hearing from you, thanks for replying!
    Tina Garceau
    P.S. I still have my Pyrex Hill Family Club T-shirt!

  4. Hey Kyle,

    Welcome to Old Home Week!

    Don’t beat yourself up regarding that article. Most of what we published in DUCKWORK was insufferably immature. As much as you wish that I had practiced some editorial prudence, I wish that we would have had some involved guidence from the administration.

    We were the inmates running the asylum and the product reflected that in nearly every way.

    PCA never appreciated our desire to create comics, though, and that would have been quickly squashed if the staff had a greater (any) hand in it.

    What evolved out of DUCKWORK more than anything were most of our relationships as comic artists and entrepreneurs. The legacy that includes myself, Joe Williams, Bill Cucinotta, Matt Wagner, Mike Leeke, and Dave Johnson as guys that had impact on the comics industry as well as others like yourself that started their own successful endeavors grew out of the initiatives we took to publish our own work in a publication that we controlled for what it was worth.

  5. Kyle Skrinak says:

    Hey all, it is a hoot seeing all this, just, jeesh, that damn Head Cheese review. More importantly, It looks like you’re all doing great; that’s great to see. I can’t believe Tina still has a PHFC t-shirt! I would have though moths enjoyed it by now? I’m subscribed, so I’ll see you all around.

  6. Joe Williams says:

    Gerry – sorry for being a killjoy by exhuming the remains of the Head Cheese controversy, but all-in-all everything turned out all right. Everybody had to start somewhere and I think most of us were firmly entrenched in the “crude but it showed talent” column back then.

    …and Head Cheese ended up doing better than okay. Best of album! Wow!

    I’m looking forward to your take on the DUCKWORK experience!

    Kyle – welcome and thanks for posting. Tina and I update this blog every now and then depending on our mood or schedule. This week its seeing signs of hyperactivity. Gerry has been talking about the good old days at CO2 Comics:

    …and I wanted to flesh it out with my take on ancient history.

    It’s also fun throwing up artwork that people did almost 30 years ago and have probably forgotten. Cracking open the time capsule of sorts.

  7. Joe Williams says:

    Oh, and Kyle, you were right about Jungle Jam. It’s awful.

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