Bunny Hoest, the comic mind behind nearly 50 years of captions for “The Lockhorns,” admits it isn’t easy coming up with snappy one-liners, day after day, for the endlessly bickering couple’s comic strip exploits, 30 of which are part of the exhibit “The Lockhorns Meet Howard Huge” through Nov. 5 at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington.
“I work hard on getting the caption just so,” Hoest, 84, said in a telephone interview from her Lloyd Neck home and studio. “The Lockhorns is a one-panel cartoon, so you have to have everything very succinct and crisp.”
So far, that’s more than 25,000 (and counting) Leroy and Loretta gags she’s written since the battling suburbanites debuted in Newsday in 1968 as “The Lockhorns of Levittown.” The Heckscher exhibition features examples from 1976 to 1986 along with 31 framed Howard Huge comics, another of Hoest’s long-running creations, about a big — and big-hearted — family mutt.
“We wanted to have a representation of the major themes that are central to both comics and resonate with readers around the world,” says Heckscher curator Lisa Chalif. “Food, for instance, is a fun theme throughout, and in ‘The Lockhorns,’ speaks to Loretta’s amusing lack of cooking skills.”
A TRUE LONG ISLANDER
Hoest is a lifelong Long Islander who grew up in Huntington village. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from Adelphi University and a master’s in education from C.W. Post, and taught English as a second language in Huntington for a time.
Her English-teaching background came in handy for naming the family St. Bernard Euripides — the inspiration for Howard Huge, a “stage name” her husband, Bill Hoest, came up with playing off industrialist Howard Hughes and their son’s big-and-tall college roommate, also named Howard.
“The Lockhorns,” however, was a product of observation, not autobiography. “We were very happily married,” Hoest says, but “we were both uncomfortable with all of the bickering when we went anyplace with other people, or we were at a tennis club and we played mixed doubles.” The Lockhorns began to gestate after “Bill started to think that a husband and wife fighting was hilarious.”
Bill Hoest died in 1988 at age 62, and since then she’s collaborated with his former assistant, artist John Reiner. And so “The Lockhorns,” who celebrate their golden wedding anniversary next Sept. 13, battle on despite occasional pressure to change with the times.
“At some point there was a lot of women’s lib mail coming in saying, ‘Why does she put up with him? She should get a divorce,’ ” Hoest says. “She loves him, they want to stay together and they are working on their marriage endlessly,” was her answer. Then and now, the comic, currently translated into 18 languages in 27 countries, steers clear of trends and politics. Says Hoest: “That’s what keeps it universal.”
WHAT The Lockhorns meet Howard Huge: Comic Cartoons by Bill & Bunny Hoest
WHEN | WHERE Through Nov. 5, The Heckscher Museum of Art, 2 Prime Avenue, Huntington. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday.
ADMISSION $8, $6 seniors (62 and older), $5 students (10 and older), children under 10, free; 631-351-3250, heckscher.org
WHAT It’s the final weekend to see Clifford Ross’ epic images of crashing waves at the Parrish Art Museum. Ross, who lives in the Hamptons and Manhattan, captured the astonishing seascapes in his exhibition, Light | Waves, by wading with state-of-the-art photographic equipment into a hurricane storm surge, tethered only to an assistant on shore. The walls both inside and outside the Parrish’s building are a platform for two Ross exhibits: Hurricane Waves on Wood, featuring six large-scale images printed onto sheets of maple veneer, and Digital Waves, in which more than 3 million moving particles on LED screens recreate the experience of oceans and waves.
WHEN | WHERE Through Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill
INFO $12, seniors $9, students free; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org