Constable: Impeachment souvenir leads to revealing tale of suburban artist
Impeachment never goes out of style. On my desk is a cartoon "Impeach Everyone" placard given to me at the turn of the century by the late, great columnist Jack Mabley. I can't remember if Jack said he got it during the Richard Nixon impeachment proceedings of 1974 or if he picked it up during the Bill Clinton impeachment that started in 1998, but the current political climate makes me search for the iconic artist who was living in Glenview when he drew it: Lloyd Rognan.
"He was a man of opposites," Bruce Rognan says of his artist father, who died in 2005. A member of the mystical Rosacrucian Order and the conservative John Birch Society, Lloyd Rognan smoked a lot of marijuana and his personal life was very free-spirited, which sometimes made life uncomfortable for his young son.
"There was a lot of sexual tension," Bruce Rognan says of his life growing up in Glenview. "We had nude models coming to our house all the time. That's tough on a 10-year-old kid."
In the late 1960s, Rognan "loved his job" as art director designing greeting cards for the United Card Co. in Rolling Meadows, and he especially enjoyed the annual company holiday parties where everyone got naked, Bruce Rognan says, adding that his mom always left that party early.
Born in Chicago in 1923 to Norwegian immigrants, Rognan was an artist who started working with the Works Progress Administration as a teenager at Lane Tech High School and was attending the American Academy of Art when he was drafted during World War II.
He earned a Purple Heart during the invasion of Normandy and was a frequent contributor to the Stars and Stripes military newspaper. After the war, he stayed in France, where he got a job as an illustrator for Elle magazine and drew for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine while attending Academie De La Grande Chaumiere.
"He had a daughter in France who was unknown to us until he died," says Bruce Rognan, who lives in Arizona and had his father's old letters translated from French to learn the full story behind the photos of the girl who turned out to be his half-sister.
When Lloyd Rognan returned to the U.S., he was a sought-after illustrator for the covers of science fiction pulp magazines.
In the 1950s, he was an illustrator for Rogue Magazine, a short-lived Chicago men's publication that competed with Playboy. Rognan's lecherous "rogue wolf" character was the rival to the Playboy rabbit. As staff illustrator for Brown and Bigelow commercial publishing giant in the 1960s, Rognan drew mildly risqué cartoons for a series called "Corn Squeezin's." His drawings of a drunken hillbilly Santa, provocatively dressed farmers' daughters and rural life proved very popular.
He also did Norman Rockwell-esque portraits, paintings of the Old West, and landscapes. The art of Rognan, who later moved to Missouri, still can be found on pinball machines and jigsaw puzzles and among collectors.
"He just loved art," Bruce Rognan says of his father. "He painted the beauty of trees, the beauty of woman, the beauty of stuff. That's what he loved to paint."
There is a certain beauty, I suppose, in the placard on my desk. I'm hanging on to Rognan's "Impeach Everyone" sign, if not for now, for the next time.