A Visit to Milton Glaser’s “Camp”

I never cared for the Camp sensibility. Sit through a “so bad it’s good” flick? Please! I barely have time for good-good movies. My notes on a Sontag lecture I endured: “So dry and detached it’s deadening.” And anyway, Camp is so 49 years ago.

But I loveThe Camp Followers’ Guide.”

00This cheap little Avon paperback—only 96¢ in 1965!—is a tasty bit of wit and whimsy that feels hastily thrown together to take advantage of the Camp fad before it would vanish like the shallow glorification of artifice that it was. This Milton Glaser book has a sly, campy-covered Tom Wolfe parody. It’s got fun and games: Brylcreem and Doublemint jingle sing-alongs! Do-it-yourself Warhol and Beardsley art projects, because: Why not???!!! It’s got lists, guides, and even hipness quotient quizzes: “Do you have your copy of Fuck You, a Magazine of the Arts delivered to you at the office?” It’s got text mistakes: Judy Garland was in Shall We Dance? Lotte Lenya in Dr. No? No! And No! But so what? It was edited by the non-existent Niles Chignon, real name Richard R. Lingeman. And it was published by the team that brought us Monocle, that smartly irreverent satire magazine of the early 1960s. Thank you, Victor!

It was also “designed by Milton Glaser and the entire Push Pin staff.” It’s got a nouveau-Nouveau cover illustration by Milton of a woman in a colorful bikini and headdress, with an impossibly long arm holding aloft an American flag. It’s got curvy, pre-psychedelic title typography. Inside, it’s got headlines hand-lettered within cartoon balloon-ish line drawings and photos blown up to accentuate their benday halftone dots: Hello, Roy Lichtenstein!

Overall, the design is a modest effort, and hardly represents a landmark in Push Pin’s legacy. But for me, that’s part of its appeal. Unlike sanctimonious Susan, the entire book doesn’t take anything—particularly Camp, appropriately enough—at all seriously.

It’s so irreverent, it’s relevant.

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  1. It fascinates me what is considered camp, low brow, whatever in different periods. The cover reminded me a lot of Monty Python, but that didn’t start airing til 69. I wonder if any of them saw this?