Bon vivant, oddball advertising guru, a droll social critic and all-round Dallas character, Toomer, 66, died in his sleep at his home. The News’ obituary is here. I know, I’m catching up from last week. But the local arts community should be aware of what we’ve lost.
A genial man but disrespectful of most authority, he wrote and co-wrote several books (the News says three, but Amazon lists five, and that doesn’t even include his Dixie Chicks coloring book). He drew illustrations for the Wall Street Journal and Time, among other publications. Legend had it that George created the Frito Bandito character; he certainly drew the deliberately cartoony advertising campaigns for Dick’s Last Resort, Razoos and Bone Daddy’s. I once found a hand-painted postcard of some old-time cowgirls, showed it to George, and he claimed it was his artwork. Of course, I wouldn’t put it past him to pull my leg.
It seemed perfectly fitting that he excelled at restaurant image-making. I never saw George without a cigar or a glass in his hand, looking like a rumpled Orson Welles. He once delivered a typical Toomer observation when I told him I was off that evening to see a stage show. He lifted his glass in toast and said: “The manufacture of white wine will not die as long as theaters and galleries hold openings.” He downed his glass, made a face and added, “Make that the manufacture of weak white wine.”
I think George never played Falstaff on stage because it would have been too much like work and not enough fun. He also did it everyday, anyway.