A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 13, 2005
“Nina” in Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures (New York Times)
Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003), the Broadway caricaturist, was probably Broadway's longest-running success story. His first theater doodle was in 1926 for the New York Herald Tribune.

He soon joined the New York Times and became an institution within that instution. His daughter, Nina, was born in 1945, and he began writing the name "Nina" into his line drawings. Many times, there were multiple "Ninas," so Hirshfeld put a number after his name to give readers a clue.

Hirsheld died in 2003, just before his 100th year.

23 October 1945, New York Times, pg. 25:
Albert Hirschfelds Have Child
A daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Alberts Hirschfeld at Doctors Hospital Saturday night. Mrs. Hirschfeld is the former Dolly Haas, stage actress. Mr. Hirschfeld is the well-known caricaturist. The child has been named Nina.

5 November 1961, New York Times, pg. BR40:
Nina's Father's Book
(...)
With a once Mephisto beard turned patriarchal by the passage of time, Hirschfeld in his book admits a secret that has been about as closely held as the telephone company's number for WEather. In almost every drawing over the last sixteen years he somewhere has placed the name of his daughter Nina. It has appeared in the lace of a costume, in the flowing locks of an actress, in a background setting.

15 October 1972, New York Times, pg. 76:
Miss Nina Hirchfeld Engaged
To Michael J. Russell of Dallas

21 January 2003, New York Times, pg. A1:
Al Hirschfeld, 99, Dies; He drew Broadway
(...)
The Hirschfelds' daughter, Nina, was born in 1945. On Nov. 5 of that year, her name made its debut in the pages of The Times, on an imagined poster in a circus scene for a drawing about a new musical, "Are You With It?" The world may have lost track of the show but it kept up with Nina, a name covertly insinuated into a caricature several times -- perhaps in the fold of a dress, a kink of hair, the bend of an arm.

So popular did the Ninas become that the military used them in the training of bomber pilots to spot targets. A Pentagon consultant found them useful in the study of camouflage techniques. Mr. Hirschfeld realized how addicted readers had become to Ninas when he purposely omitted them one Sunday only to be besieged by complaints from frustrated Nina hunters.

One Nina fan was Arthur Hays Sulzberger, then the publisher of The Times. In 1960 he wrote a letter to Mr. Hirschfeld to say that he always first looked for Ninas in Hirschfeld drawings but had learned that each included more than one.

"That really isn't fair, since not knowing how many there are leaves one with a sense of frustration," Sulzberger wrote.

A letter from another reader suggested that the artist note in the caricature how many times a Nina appeared. From that time on, Mr. Hirschfeld appended the number of Ninas in the lower right-hand corner of each drawing.

Posted by Barry Popik
Media/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • (0) Comments • Sunday, February 13, 2005 • Permalink