~ Syd Hoff aka A. Redfield ~
Syd Hoff was regarded as one of the great Jewish-American humorists of the 20th century, a familiar face at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, a friend and colleague of Sid Perelman, William Maxwell, Arthur Kober and many other literary stars of the thirties. Yet few knew of his deeply passionate commitment to the plight of the underdog and his great sensitivity to issues of class discrimination, which ultimately led him to step out of his comfort zone and also cartoon for a number of left-wing publications under the alias A. Redfield throughout most of the 1930s as he felt a calling to effect change and inspire others to re-examine their own moral compass.
So carefully had Syd concealed his dual identity, that although I grew up in his extended family – the daughter of his kid sister, Dorothy, and a niece who frequently spent time with him – I had no idea of his other world until after he passed away in 2004. I stumbled on his secret while researching the mural he painted for the 1938 opening of Barney Josephson's historic Greenwich Village jazz nightclub, Café Society, a political cabaret that fostered racial equality in entertainment and admission. It was known as "the wrong place for the Right people," the venue where Billie Holiday made famous her song of racial intolerance, "Strange Fruit." The nightclub eventually closed down, as the House Un-American Activities Committee pressured suspected Communists, including Barney's brother, Leon, and encouraged vicious attacks in the mainstream press from the likes of Dorothy Kilgallen and Walter Winchell. Soon after, Syd was also harassed by the FBI, and although he emerged unscathed, he decided it was time to lay to rest his alter ego, although he never abandoned his support for the working classes.
Download an excerpt from the upcoming book Syd Hoff…the Magic, the Man and the Mystery, about Syd's early years as cartoonist A. Redfield at a time when he was beginning to ascend the creative ladder to fame and commercial success as cartoonist and author Syd Hoff.
~ Carol Edmonston (Syd Hoff's niece)
"Hoff" cartoons with political overtones
Redfield & the Occupy Movement connection