(excerpted from original article)
Underground comix artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb and R. Crumb have lived and worked together for the past 35 years, collaborating on strips for Weirdo, The New Yorker and their own Dirty Laundry Comics, among others. But Aline, a prolific and widely published artist in her own right, has often taken a back seat to Robert’s larger-than-life persona (many don’t even realize that much of Robert’s works are, in fact, collaborations). Now, at 58 years old, Aline is stepping into the spotlight and publishing her first solo book, Need More Love (MQ Publications, 2007), an autobiography chronicling her life—from an emotionially-anemic upbringing on Long Island with an abusive father and psychotic mother, to her countercultural 20s in a Greenwich Village feminist art collective, to her life today with Robert in the south of France. Ilana Arazie sat down with the artist (who just happens to be her cousin once-removed) to talk about Need More Love and Aline’s need for more love.
You thought Robert was Jewish when you first met him.
I had read Robert’s work before I met him and I thought he was Jewish because he’s just so whiny. He’s such a kvetch. I grew up going to the Borscht Belt hotels in the Catskills and hearing famous Jewish comedians like Joey Bishop and Alan King and Jackie Mason;I was really familiar with that anecdotal, self-deprecating humor. So when I saw Robert’s comics, I thought, here is Jewish humor at its best. I assumed that Crumb was a name he made up for comics and his real name was Crumberg or something. When my grandparents met him, he wore a white shirt, a sports coat and a hat so they thought he was a rabbinical student. When we finally told them the truth, they were really disappointed. My grandmother tried to get him to convert for years. Robert seems to be somewhat of a Jewophile because I’m his second Jewish wife. He actually comes from a big, Minnesota farm family and they’re as white as can be. I think they came over on the Mayflower or something.
So being Jewish is different than being white?
I can’t help it, you know? My best male friends are Jewish, but as far as attraction—forget it. Terry Zwigoff and I were really good friends. One time I was wearing a pair of leather pants and asked, ‘Terry, how do I look in these pants?’ He said, ‘You look like a couch.’ That’s typical of how I felt growing up in high school when Jewish boys were real snotty. They were these short, skinny boys who wanted little blond girls. Those boys all grown up still make me feel like a Jewish monster. Whereas when I’m with a goy, I feel exotic and sexy and voluptuous. The most popular girl in my high school was Peggy Lipton, the actress who was on The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks. She was Jewish, but she was tall with straight blond hair, and a thin, pug nose. I adored her. She had a brother who was my age. He was dumpy and curly-haired like the rest of us, and I would help him with his homework so I could go over to his house and see Peggy.
The way you draw yourself and other women sometimes borders on the grotesque.
I used to keep notebooks of drawings of people on the street—these disastrous looks, strange body shapes and disgusting makeup. I started doing that in the ’50s and early ’60s when people wore bubble hairdos and white lipstick and go-go boots. Then when the ’60s came in, everything became natural, I stopped setting my hair on orange juice cans and putting Dippity-doo on my bangs and gluing them to my forehead with Scotch tape. I saw Joan Baez and Judy Collins and I realized there was a way for me to be myself. It was an incredible salvation for me. The natural Jewish thing became sort of okay and guys started finding me attractive, too.