It was approximately 6PM when we arrived back at Ed Vebell's home and I immediately called our friends in West Granby to report that it would be virtually impossible for Matthias and I to make the two hour drive up at this point and then return at a reasonable hour. I believe this was a huge disappointment for all of us in many ways. For me, it was to be the final event capping off my personal celebration of the 40th anniversary of the series with a small but International gathering of Three Investigators enthusiasts. That's important. Matthias was eager to meet with other US fans of The Three Investigators. I can't speak for Steve and David, but I could hear the disappointment in their voices when we spoke on the phone. Matthias and I enjoyed a final dinner with Mr. Vebell and spent some more time in his studio where we tried showing him the ropes on eBay. Saying our goodbyes, we retired for the evening.
Early on Wednesday the 22nd, I dropped Matthias off at the train station. He was flying to California where he will dine with Dennis and Gayle Lynds on the 25th. The great adventure continues for him. I drove back home to Indiana with much on my mind.
Seth T. Smolinske
Sept. 23, 2004.
Click HERE to go to the Three Investigators page on Ed Vebell.
Click HERE to go to the pages on Harry Kane. You won't want to miss these, guaranteed!
Click HERE to link to Mark Zahn's interview with Peter Lerangis.
Click HERE to link to Seth Smolinske's interview with Bill McCay.
This year, 2004, marks the 40th Anniversary of the series. In 1964, the first two titles were just landing on the retail bookshelves in September or October in time for Christmas sales. When my long-time friend Matthias (a staff member of Germany's rocky-beach.com) said he would be in the States in September, we knew we were fated to find a way to celebrate the anniversary. Between the two of us we came up with a long list of things we could do in the New York City area. Some things proved possible, others were long-shot wishes (meeting and interviewing Jenny Fanelli) and some things were planned and set in stone to take place but, regrettably, just didn't happen due to various circumstances. We weren't too concerned with research, we just wanted to have some fun, and we did!
I'll try to be brief in my recounting of our adventure:
I arrived at Three Investigators artist/illustrator Ed Vebell's home in Connecticut late on Saturday evening, Sept. 18th while Matthias had arrived two days earlier from Germany. Mr. Vebell had very generously offered to host us during our stay in the area. The three of us sat around the kitchen table until the wee hours of the morning - Ed has LOTS of interesting stories to tell and we were enthusiastic listeners. I wish I had had a tape recorder.
Sunday the 19th was decreed "Ed Vebell Day" and we spent most of the day with him and some of his family. In casual conversation a few days prior, Matthias had referred to Mr. Vebell as a "Living Legend" much to the amusement of Ed's family and Ed was henceforth referred to as "L.L." by some of his family members. Highlights of the day included a tour of Mr. Vebell's studio over his garage and a chance to rummage through the original negatives from the 1964 and 1972 Three Investigators model shoots. We stood in the exact places where the models for Ed's T3I paintings/illustrations posed but I couldn't persuade Matthias to let me photograph him simulating the "hands-up and surprised faces" poses of those models from so many years before - darn! We were hoping that Mr. Vebell or his daughters might be able to recall the names of some of the boys who posed as The Three Investigators for him. No luck, but Ed did mention that many of his models were recruited for him by the coach at the local high school. Even though it was sometimes expensive to do so, he insisted that drawing from posed models in photographs was/is the only way to draw realistically. Mr. Vebell closely examined some of The Three Investigators books featuring illustrations created by Harry Kane and Jack Hearne and gave his expert opinion that both of these artists did not use models for their work on these illustrations. He pointed to the clothing and how it fit the characters as the most obvious clue among several other subtleties that perhaps only a trained or experienced artist might detect.
Recent problems with his eyes affecting depth perception have made it virtually impossible for Mr. Vebell to continue with his craft of fine illustration and many of his current projects have been taken on by his oldest daughter who has created some cover art for Nancy Drew books. However, at age 83 Ed is far from retired. He is regularly consulted by other artists, especially those seeking to render completely accurate historical scenes - particularly when it comes to the period clothing worn in those illustrations. His specialties include military clothing from the Revolutionary War through WWII and the authentic dress of cowboys and Indians. He also maintains an incredible collection of authentic weaponry, particularly swords and knives. In addition to keeping busy as a consultant, Mr. Vebell does a brisk business renting out both genuine and reproduction costumes and historical props from his large collections. Ed doesn't merely collect artifacts willy-nilly, his working knowledge of the usage and history of the items in his collections is extensive. Not surprisingly, when it comes to TV, Mr. Vebell favors the History Channel.
Over the course of the day we went boating on Long Island Sound with Ed and his youngest daughter's family and attended part of one of his grandson's soccer games. Ed also insisted that we join him for a short time at a Westport Community Association meeting where he made the rounds with his neighbors and later that evening we treated Mr. Vebell to dinner at one of his favorite seafood restaurants. We even went grocery shopping with him. It was a day that both Matthias and I will never forget, having the opportunity to spend so much personal time with a Three Investigators legend.
For more information on Ed and the other folks you'll meet in the following paragraphs, please see the links you'll find at the bottom of this page. Lots of great stuff here!
On Monday the 20th, Matthias and I took the train to Grand Central Station in NYC and then took the subway to Ground Zero, both of us wanted to see and experience as much of New York City as we could in the short time we had here and this stop was at the top of our list. Before we knew it, it was time to make our way to the upper west side to meet 3 Investigators Crimebusters authors Bill McCay and Peter Lerangis for lunch. This was a meeting that took some effort to engineer due to conflicting schedules and last-minute problems, but it worked out well and our lunch lasted for well over three hours. Both of these authors have been previously interviewed concerning their work on the Crimebusters series as well as other series they have written for including the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, Jr. and those interviews can be found on this site.
Over the course of our lunch and conversation, which covered a diversity of topics both related and unrelated to series books, Bill shared an interesting story about the cover art for CB#4 "Funny Business" that I hadn't heard before. It concerned the rendering of the character Stellara Stargirl and we also discussed the possibility that Peter's unpublished "Brain Wash" might be of interest to the German publisher. This lunch was a reunion for these two authors as well who had once worked closely together on many different writing projects, including CB, years before. After lunch we all strolled down 86th St. to Central Park where we went our separate ways. Matthias and I were ecstatic after this enjoyable and comfortable meeting - it was almost like we were four old friends who hadn't seen each other in a long while. More great memories!
Our original schedule for Monday called for a day trip to Robert Arthur's Cape May but this had to be deleted from our itinerary and we found that we now had time for some city sight-seeing instead and took full advantage. We had considered visiting in on Random House's HQ but time was short and the probability of accomplishing anything worthwhile seemed small. We managed to miss the last ferry to the Statue of Liberty and so we opted to scale the heights of the Empire State Building where we marveled at the city lights below. We then hopped over to Times Square for a couple of hours.
Tuesday the 21st dawned bright and early for Matthias and I as we had much to accomplish this day. First, we had a 10AM appointment in Queens to check out the remaining Harry Kane Three Investigators artwork. Then we had to be back at Mr. Vebell's house by 2PM in order to leave for northern Connecticut where we planned to meet up with two fellow Three Investigators enthusiasts, Steve Servello and David Baumann, along with about a half dozen other series book enthusiasts at a barbeque at Jim Towey's home in West Granby.
The commute in to Grand Central Station was right on time but the subway trip to the end of the line in Queens had many delays. We later learned that the grid-lock above ground was due to President Bush's presence in the city along with all of the activity taking place at the United Nations. We finally arrived at our destination at 11:30 AM. Matthias was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and beauty of Kane Three Investigators artwork! Watching his facial expressions and hearing his words of amazement, I suspect that my reactions had been much the same when I first visited this trove in October 2003. It is difficult to put into words the magical feeling of being surrounded by and immersed in all of the original artwork from one's favorite series of books.
By 1:30PM we could only hope that our journey back to Connecticut would be smooth and fast. No such luck. We experienced more subway delays back to Grand Central Station and gradually we came to see that time was not on our side today. At one point we realized we were probably within a few blocks from one of the studios in which Harry Kane worked, 145 East 52nd St. so, more or less in frustration, we emerged from underground. We found a relatively new office building at that location with a sandwich shop at street level bearing the correct address. I spoke with a woman who manages the shipping and receiving area for the office complex and she said that some older buildings had been demolished in 1986 to make room for this new building. To the far right in the picture is an apartment building that probably looked similar to Kane's place. The door surrounded by the yellow awning in the middle of the picture is the sandwich shop with the 145 address. Matthias suggested we sit down directly across the street and have a beer in honor of Mr. Kane. We then hoofed it down Lexington Ave. ("...down to Lexington, one-two-five..." - that's a line from a Lou Reed/Velvet Underground song that often passes through my mind) to Grand Central Station. On the way down, there were hundreds of police officers everywhere, streets were temporarily cordoned off, and motorcades of black limos occasionally passed us. It looked like President Bush was probably staying at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and we saw cameramen running to film a foreign leader or dignitary we didn't recognize who was surrounded by bodyguards. No wonder there was so much delay on the east side of Manhattan. Still, it was quite exciting for this yokel from corn country.
Ed Vebell in his studio, Sept. 19, 2004.
The two locations where Ed posed his models for the 1964 and 1972 photo shoots.
Left: The studio over the garage. A white background screen was pulled down between the fireplace and the open door.
Right: The drive beside Ed's house and studio.
Boating with Ed on Long Island Sound.
Above: Peter, Seth, Matthias and Bill lunching at Popover's on Sept. 20, 2004.
Below: Strolling east down 86th St.
Outside of the approximately 115 pieces of T3I art there are possibly up to 2,000 other Kane pieces in the collection spanning his entire career. A few more T3I printer's proofs had been found in the material but the most exciting new find for me was a "portrait photo" of Harry Kane himself which was taken near the end of his life. Between Matthias and I, all of the Three Investigators pieces were photographed. Matthias set some pieces aside for himself and I made arrangements to add a couple of more items to my own collection. The owners estimated another two weeks for the sale of the rest on eBay.
At Right: A table full of original Harry Kane Three Investigators art!
A heap of Harry Kane Three Investigators art topped with some colorful printer's proofs.
Above: 145 E. 52nd - site of Harry Kane's apartment and studio, now gone.
Below: 155 E. 52nd - an apartment building that may have resembled Kane's place.