NORMAN GILLER pays tribute to an old master who, after more than 50 years, is still at the top of his craft
When the shortlists for the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards were published this week, my focus was almost literally drawn to the name Paul Trevillion in the cartoonists’ category. Never in the history of Fleet Street has one man done so much to draw attention to himself.
I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing two exceptional sports cartoonists who could each be put into the “genius” bracket. Paul is one of them, but I have to add that he is also the pottiest pencil pusher to have crossed my path in my 50-plus years spilling words.
My all-time favourite cartoonist was the late Roy Ullyett, with whom I worked on the Daily Express and who became a close personal pal. I ghosted Roy’s autobiography While I Still Have Lead in My Pencil when he was 84, and after more than 60 years scribbling for the London Evening Star and then the Express.
It was Roy who captured the golden era of sports journalism in which he functioned with the revelation: “When Lord Beaverbrook signed me he said, ‘You will not become a millionaire working for me, but you will live like one …’.”
My imagination will not quite stretch to Richard Desmond making a similar statement.
Roy, of the huge handlebar moustache and ever-present Sherlock Holmes-style pipe, penned and punned his way through thousands of cartoons, and was an impulsive, creative caricaturist who used to turn his subjects into comic characters.
This was in stark contrast to Paul Trevillion. To call him a cartoonist is to trivialise the work of an outstanding artist. While Ullyett was all about making his readers laugh, Paul likes to inform and enlighten.
His renowned You are the Ref feature started as Hey Ref in the People more than 50 years ago and has had several reincarnations in publications including Shoot Magazine and The Observer.
This alone would have been enough to guarantee him fame, but it is just a pinprick of his staggering output since first getting published in the Spurs Lilywhite magazine at the age of 18. He was born a goalkick from White Hart Lane and has remained a Lilywhite, despite spending much of his time in the United States drawing the greatest sports stars of the last 40 years.
He started out sketching on the Tottenham terraces for fun, capturing the players in the 1950-51 Push and Run side and becoming a life long friend and supporter of his hero Alf Ramsey. His vast canvas has since taken in personal sittings with sporting giants like Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Moore, and his good friend George Best (not forgetting the comic strip superstar, Roy of the Rovers).
Paul’s riveting Gary Player Golf Class instructional strip set a record by being syndicated in more than 300 newspapers worldwide, and it gave him the idea of inventing a unique split-handed golf putting technique. He began modestly calling himself the greatest putting expert In the world, and challenged Colin Montgomerie to a £1 million duel for charity. Colin apparently found something to keep him busy, so it never happened.
I got to know Paul back in the early 1970s when he was masterminding a PR campaign to try to improve the image of Don Revie’s gifted but ruthless Leeds United team. His ideas included the players warming up in unison like a chorus line, and he invented numbered stocking tags which he encouraged the players to throw to the fans after games.
His enthusiasm for everything he tackled bordered on the fanatical. You could have lit up a city with the electricity coming from his creativity. I would give my right hand to be able to draw like him (which is a bit dumb, as I am not left handed), yet machinegun-speaking Paul was always restless and looking for something outside the sports art world.
He has tried stand-up comedy, was crowned world speed-kissing champion, had a record contract, dressed up as DJ Bear the Panda of Peace to try to bring harmony to the terraces in the hooligan era, and has worked at marketing with Coca-Cola, Adidas, Umbro, Hersheys, NFL, Nascar and the NBA.
But it is in the world of sports illustration where he belongs and is revered. Celebrated Disney animator Milt Neil paid him the compliment of calling him the “Master of Movement”. He said: “It would take a Disney artist 20 pages to produce the movement that Paul captures in one drawing.”
Paul is now drawing his pension. He will be 76 on March 11, four days after the SJA Sports Journalism Awards show at London’s Brewery in Moorgate. This will probably be the kiss of death, but I hope he gets Sports Cartoonist of the Year as an early birthday present. Be prepared for an off-the-wall acceptance speech if he wins the trophy.
You can get some idea of his gift for drawing in this BBC gallery here, and this YouTube appearance – when he wondrously turns an elephant into Pelé – proves he has lost none of his eccentricity and unique skill.
It should be a sell out at the Brewery, because Paul always draws a good crowd.
THE Daily Telegraph – sorry, Telegraph Media Group – continues to deny it has any intention to duck behind a paywall with their excellent website. But my contacts down at Buck House Road tell me they are well advanced with plans to charge regular visitors from September.
They are using the Financial Times model as their inspiration. This allows the reader to stand in the virtual hallway and look around and read teasing snippets of stories before deciding whether to pay the entrance price.
This seems a much more sensible approach than at the News International websites where you hit a wall, and only a subscription will allow access after you have filled in what many consider a too-intrusive form.
It will be interesting to read the views of Telegraph “Head of Technology” Shane Richmond, who wailed against the walls when The Times announced their decision to pull up the drawbridge.
How many of their reported 31 million website visitors will stick with The Telegraph once they start to charge?
I was surprised that this development was not mentioned once in the long (and, for non-journalists, I suspect quite tedious) discussion on Tuesday’s Newsnight, where the BBC’s own website’s distortion of the online marketplace with its vast resources and free access was only briefly touched upon.
Certainly, the BBC’s free news is a major reason why the phenomenally popular Mail, Guardian, Independent and Mirror websites feel they have to remain free-to-access. What chance do any of them have while the BBC is allowed to give everything away, all paid for out of TV licence money?
Paul Trevillion would no doubt tell them it’s time to draw the line.
Read Norman Giller’s previous columns for the SJA website by clicking here
Who will be this year’s SJA British Sports Journalism Awards winners?
Atherton? Collins? Copley? Heavey? Stelling? Samuel?
Book your tickets for sports journalism’s Big Night Out – the British Sports Journalism Awards on Monday March 7 – click here for a booking form
UPCOMING SJA DATES
Tue Apr 5: The SJA Olympic Question Time. Ticket booking to be launched in March.
Wed Apr 13: SJA 2011 Annual Meeting, at offices of UK Sport, Russell Square. Strictly SJA members only.
All details subject to alteration. Keep checking sportsjournalists.co.uk for updates