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|The Montreal Gazette, Feb 7, 1978|
B. Kliban, one-man phenomenon, creator of cat cards, the 'Cat Calendar,' cat posters and 'Cat' — the book of cartoons that started it all — is stingy with details of his private life, among them his first name. Depending on whom you ask. Kliban either dislikes his name or considers it unimportant.
Kliban has no interest in being a celebrity. He has managed, so far, to avoid talking to 'People' magazine and other media representatives who've asked, says Workman Publishing Co. publicist Jennifer Rogers. Last summer Kliban did submit to a telephone interview with 'Publisher's Weekly', when we sat on his head.' Rogers noted "He's a wonderful, charming, marvelous man, Rogers said, "But he has taken a very reasoned position on his personal life, about things he feels would be of interest to no one but him. Don't ask him questions like 'What does the B stand for?' He thinks its a fairly frivolous question, he'll say it stands for balloon. And he's bored with talking about cats." But people are anything but bored with Kliban's cats. One man reported receiving three cat cards and a calendar from four different people in four, different states.
Perhaps the secret of the cats' popularity is that they are very human and still quintessential cats. On the "Cat Calendar," for example. Julys entry is floating in a swimming pool, around the perimeter of which is piled a stack of laden kitty dishes and a bowl of goldfish. October's cats are of the alley variety, all set to go trick-or-treating. One is wearing a Nixon mask.
Kliban is not anti-social. For one thing, he answers all his fan mail. "I feel compelled to answer it." he said in a telephone interview from his San Francisco studio.
He prefers not to deal with fame, the gee-its-really-him kind of fame that confronts celebrities when they go out to dinner "There are times when I find it embarrassing" he said. Few people recognize him because he has rarely been photographed. Neither photo nor blurb appears on any of his published work.
A Connecticut native, Klibam has lived in California since 1959, earning a living as a cartoonist and commercial artist. Among other things, during his pre-'Cat' years, Kliban worked on annual reports for Kaiser Aluminum and advertisements and logos for various clients. His attitude toward that kind of work is perhaps summed up in one of his cartoons. Entitled 'The Birth of Advertising,' it depicts little men in gray flannel suits dropping from a horse's posterior.
"It's all autobiographical, Kliban said of his work in general. “Any artist's work is autobiographical."
Klihan's big break occurred when 'Playboy' magazine began publishing his cartoons. Michelle Urry, 'Playboy's cartoon editor paid a visit to Kliban's studio and discovered his cats. He was drawing cats when he wasn't drawing what he was supposed to," Rogers said.
It was Urry who bound the bestiary and trundled it back to New York in 1975 "I think we can sell this." she said With a minimum of advertising. a phenomenon was born The Cat book was a word-of-mouth hit And then people began stealing the posters advertising the book That's when the related products came into being.
One source close to Kliban compares what has happened to Kliban with what happened (over a much longer period of time) to Charles Schulz' 'Peanuts. When 'Peanuts' first caught on, the same thing happened" she said. And while there are no Kliban lunch boxes or pencil sharpeners, there are T-shirts and puzzles and other projects yet unseen.
Kliban is divorced and has a 12-year-old daughter. He once had four cats. And his next major project is this 'All I want to do is paint landscapes," Kliban said, "watercolor landscapes".