It's been more than two decades since children's literature lost the great Theodore Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss.
Since his death in 1991, his mini-empire of books has netted more than $10 million. His work is well-known by generations, from "Yertle the Turtle" to "Green Eggs and Ham" to the holiday favorite "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."
Lesser known is the life he led beyond his children's books. Geisel worked several decades in advertising, he served in World War II, and he even won a few Academy Awards. He also kept a vast collection of his own private artwork.
Now a new book, "The Cat Behind the Hat," reveals many of Seuss' darker, and intensely personal paintings for the first time. Published Bob Chase joins the show to tell us about Seuss's career and his experience putting the book together for publication.
On the discovery of Geisel’s affinity for collecting hats and where they have been stored for seventy years:
"In an actual secret chamber. And the only thing that’s in that chamber that is really interesting is his hat collection. He collected hats. He traveled to 30 countries in the 1930s, if you can imagine that. Thirty countries in the 1930s. And in those travels, he collected hats. So his private hat collection as well as the artwork was stashed in this closet. It was amazing.”
On Geisel’s early life impact in Springfield, Mass. where his father was involved in the Springfield Zoo expansion:
“Hanging around the zoo and all of those animals, clearly he translated that into his sort of menagerie of icons from a very early stage. If you look at some of the earliest works, you can see early sort of renditions of things that later evolved to become the characters that we all are so familiar with. Even in doodles in his sketchbooks from Dartmouth College and the early editorial cartoons and things that he did.”
On Geisel’s sculptures:
“He created a collection of sculptures and he called it, 'A Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy,' which I thought was just a great name, perfectly Seussian. And he said he found these animals after travelling to the Bobo Islands, which is something that he made up. And so in any event, his father would give him horns and beaks and feathers of these animals from the zoo that had either passed away or shed their horns. And he had a stockpile of these. And he started to build new animals, Seussian animals, out of them. So theres this incredibly Seussian head with real animal horns coming out of it. And they called them things like the Andoluvian Grackler and the Two Horned Drouberhannis.”
On the La Jolla Birdwomen series of paintings:
“He had this really beautiful way of looking at how he worked. In that, he wasn’t a guy who got up and went to an office. He was a guy who got up and went to his studio in his home to create whatever the project was that he was working on at the time. As such, he had the opportunity to be this great birdwatcher on the scene of La Jolla. So, he could watch the La Jolla women as they would sort of move throughout the day in and around his home. And just in his very Seuss way, translated that into these women, these bird women and they’re off frolicking in whatever activities they were engaged in. It’s everything from two women fighting about, one of the pieces called, ‘My Petunia Can Lick Your Geranium,’ you know, two women fighting over a wall over whose garden looks more beautiful, through to he has a piece called, ‘Raising Money for the Arts,’ and there’s these two really elaborate beautiful sort of bird women figures talking to this tiny little man.”
On what Geisel, and Dr. Seuss, can inspire in us for the upcoming new year:
“To always look at the world through the wrong end of the telescope. This is a guy, and that’s something that he said very often, this is a guy who was a child at heart, who really understood the vital aspect of having fun and how vital that can be in our lives. So that’s one thing I think that Seuss did very well. The other is, people don’t know this, but when he wrote his first children’s book, he shopped that book to 37 different publishers. Thirty-seven people turned down Dr. Seuss. You talk about perseverance, he really stuck with it. And what an amazing pay off.”