Carl Barks worked for the burlesque girlie magazine Calgary EyeOpener (CEO) from 1928 to 1935. It was just one of that era's several raunchy, pocket-sized men oriented magazines filled with cartoons featuring voluptuous, long-legged blondes and lecherous men, as well as jokes of an often sexually or racially discriminating kind. The first years Barks was free-lancing, but in 1931 he took the plunge and uprooted himself from a secure job in California to the branch office in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in order to pursue his dream of becoming a full time cartoonist in a very insecure time. It must be remembered that this had to be a giant and daring gamble to take in the years of depression, but Barks was determined. The following is a brief account of his stay in the prairie state.





Robert Edwards
Harvey Fawcett

The magazine was launched in 1902 by Robert Chamber 'Old Bob' Edwards and he made it one of North America's leading whimsical papers at the time. When he died in 1923 Harvey Fawcett stepped in, and he was Barks' boss when he started free-lancing for CEO in 1928. Unfortunately, Fawcett died the following year leaving the magazine in turmoil.
The following years CEO had several editors, some good such as Edward 'Ed' A. Sumner, many bad such as Harvey's widow Antoinette Fisher Fawcett. The last-mentioned group managed to run CEO completely into the ground in a few years, but by that time Barks had already left the sinking ship.



Phil Rolfsen
From CEO, October 1929

One person in a long row of Barks' editors was Phil Rolfsen, who became a friend as well as a colleague. Rolfsen's primary leisure time was spent fishing and hunting, and his professional interest lay with longer, odd tales in the magazine. He would also occasionally make drawings to accompany these stories. In this example two farmers are having a fist argument over the same lady when interrupted. The most battered of the two defends himself by exclaiming: Ay fight better froom da bottom oop!



CEO (1930 issue)
Coo-Coo (1932 issue)

At first Barks was hired by a good editor, Henry Meyer, who early on allowed him to practically run the magazine single-handedly, because he was surrounded by several incompetent colleagues. Barks: Meyer was enough of a businessman to see things weren't being run right around there. There was too much drinking and playing around, and not enough production. So he looked over the list of gagmen and decided that hell, I was a hard-working son of a gun.

But the next year Meyer was fired, and the magazine was taken over by Antoinette Fawzett, who replaced most of the staff. Barks: She wanted to put on her own type of heavy drinkers. Antoinette's editorial by-line was 'The Henna-Haired Hurricane of Laughter and Joy', and it fit. Quite a lot of the time, there wasn't enough left after Antoinette got her fingers into the incoming checks. She lived in the Radisson Hotel in a very expensive suite, and she entertained very lavishly whenever there were any visiting celebrities from Hollywood in town. She would just take everything that came in and spend it. The printers and linotypers, those guys were all waiting for their money. Some of us poor devils - there was myself, and there were three girls in the office - we would get half of our checks, maybe.
So the new owner was inept; the staff was not longer paid on a regular basis, and as the number of staff members thinned, Barks had to work even more to make up for the lack in manpower. He drew lots and lots of cartoons and he would sometimes alter his drawing style or draw under various pseudonyms to give the impression of a booming magazine. You can see examples of Barks' work

Incredibly, Barks had the reserves to found a separate magazine of a slightly more respectable observance. It was published in 1932 and titled Coo-Coo. Ed Sumner was the editor and Barks the art director, who single-handedly drew one third of the magazine's drawings. Unfortunately, the magazine turned out to be extremely short-lived, as only one issue was ever published.



Clara's companions have been blurred by this website

Barks was still married to his first wife, Pearl, when he came to Minneapolis but they had been separated for a year. He now met Clara Balken, who was a telephone operator, and they began dating. Barks: I met her when I was living in Minneapolis. She was a telephone operator in the apartment hotel where I lived. I was still married to my first wife. She was a very beautiful woman, who in Hollywood circles could have been a stand-in for Marlene Dietrich!
In 1938 when they had long returned to California the couple married, a decision Barks later mentioned as one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Clara developed a drinking problem: She became more and more of an alcoholic. She had a lot of talent for cooking, sewing ... and drinking. She came from a family that had a long record of alcoholism. And she just loved the taste of liquor.
In 1951 they were divorced: I paid her 250 dollars a month alimony for 13 years! Always paid her every month, and she used it to buy more booze. Eventually she just died of cirrhosis of the liver. It was alcohol that killed her and it took 13 years to do it.



During his entire stay in Minneapolis Barks lived in the Drexel Apartment Hotel, 1009 Park Ave N, that still exists. The concept of an apartment hotel is that of renting an apartment but without any contract thus enabling the occupant to 'check out' when he pleases. Here Barks lived in his own apartment, and it was here Clara was a telephone operator. In his spare time Barks often doodled with sketches and all sorts of bon mots, one of which is shown below.



Since Barks got his first taste of bohemian life in Roseville, where he had been working before venturing to Minneapolis, he was fascinated by the more dapper lifestyle. This is clearly seen in these photo examples from the big city.   Date 2010-05-19