Phil Frank, the witty, enterprising cartoonist best known for his Farley and Elderberries comic strips, died Sept. 13 from a brain tumor. He was only 64.
Aside from being a huge fan of his works, I knew Phil. We weren’t close friends, but years ago he, along with Joe Troise, created a cartoon strip for Wine Spectator. Longtime readers may recall the saga of Chateau Daffite, which began in 1985 and ended in 1993.
Like all of Frank’s cartoons, Chateau Daffite featured a zany cast of characters. Brothers Guido and Sergio ran the chateau along with their mother. Guido, the steady-handed winemaker dedicated to tradition, the land and the vine, clashed with his conniving brother Sergio, the sly marketing director for the chateau; he was always seeking ways to squeeze greater profits with his whimsical marketing gimmicks, undermining Guido’s efforts to uphold the chateau’s legacy. In the middle, separating her two quarreling sons, was Mama.
I enjoyed my brief association with Frank and Troise as they created the strip. Once every few months we’d get together, have lunch and drink wine, thinking of new story lines and subplots for the fabled chateau.
Those of you who followed Frank’s career, particularly through Farley, know of his genius, warmth and creative powers. He died way too soon. Chateau Daffite was a small part of his world, but one worth remembering for those of us who knew and worked with him, however briefly.