Frank Interlandi dies at 85; former L.A. Times editorial cartoonist

Frank Interlandi, a former Los Angeles Times editorial cartoonist who was once part of a group of fun-loving fellow Laguna Beach cartoonists who regularly broke away from their drawing boards for midday gatherings at a local watering hole, has died. He was 85.

Interlandi, who lived and worked in Laguna Beach for nearly 60 years, died of age-related causes Feb. 4 at an assisted living facility in Poway, Calif., said his daughter, Mia Interlandi-Ferreira.

The identical twin brother of Playboy magazine cartoonist Phil Interlandi, the Chicago-born Interlandi was an editorial cartoonist for the Des Moines Register before joining The Times’ staff in 1962.

He drew editorial cartoons for The Times until 1981. His cartoons, which for many years appeared under the title “Below Olympus,” also were syndicated in newspapers throughout the United States.

Interlandi was still with the Des Moines Register when he won the 1961 Sigma Delta Chi Award for best editorial cartoon.

His prize-winning cartoon showed an armed man standing in the doorway of a fallout shelter and angrily shouting at two unassuming visitors who were outside: a man standing beside a donkey on which a woman was riding.

The caption read: “There’s no room in the shelter!”

For most of Interlandi’s years at The Times, he shared the op-ed page with Paul Conrad, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist.

“He stayed at the bottom of the page, and they gave me the top,” Conrad, who joined The Times in 1964, said Tuesday. “He was more social commentary rather than political. He was political on some things, but I was political all the time.”

For a time, Interlandi’s recurring angry old lady in tennis shoes character was something of a cartoon trademark for him.

Although Interlandi was employed by the Des Moines Register and was syndicated before coming to The Times, he had been living in Laguna since 1953. His twin Phil, a cartoonist for Look and other magazines, had moved to Laguna a year earlier.

“They were almost inseparable,” said Interlandi’s daughter. “According to my mom, there were few periods of their life when they weren’t together and seeing each other on a daily basis.”

The Interlandi brothers were among a gaggle of newspaper and magazine cartoonists in Laguna who began taking midday bar breaks together in the 1950s. Over the years, the group included Virgil (VIP) Partch, John Dempsey, Dick Oldden, Ed Nofziger, Don Tobin and Roger Armstrong.

Their first meeting place was the bar of the White House restaurant on South Coast Highway, a spot chosen because it was the closest bar to the post office where they dropped off their morning output of cartoons.

When the post office moved to Forest Avenue in the mid-1970s, the cartoonists moved with it, bellying up to the leather-padded bar of the Ivy House restaurant a few doors away.

The Marine Room Tavern later became the cartoonists’ favored downtown Laguna haunt.

“The truth is, we’d meet in one bar and wander to another,” Frank Interlandi told an Orange County Register reporter in 1989. “But we always got our work done before we played. Some days I’d get mine done in a half-hour and play all day.”

Interlandi also was a successful abstract Expressionist painter who exhibited in galleries in Laguna Beach and Los Angeles, as well as at Laguna’s Festival of Arts.

The son of Sicilian immigrants, Interlandi was born in Chicago on March 10, 1924. Both he and his twin joined the Army at 17. Frank and Phil served in different units during the Battle of the Bulge, Frank as a medic and Phil as an infantryman who was taken prisoner by the Germans.

After the war, Frank Interlandi earned a degree in fine art from the University of Iowa, where he met his wife, Mitzi, whom he married in 1955. They were divorced in 1997.

Mitzi Interlandi said her ex-husband was naturally funny.

“I think that’s why I was so crazy about him,” she said. “He had a very dry wit, a very subtle wit. But he also could be zany funny.”

Interlandi’s brother Phil died in 2002 at age 78.

Besides his daughter, he is survived by his son, Frank; and two grandsons.

A memorial service will be held at noon Friday at the gazebo in Heisler Park in Laguna Beach.

Afterward, friends will gather at the Marine Room Tavern, where many of Frank and Phil Interlandi’s cartoons are displayed on the walls.