Cartoons and Caricatures
It All Started…
The Palm’s legendary tradition of caricatures originated in 1920s New York, when some of its first patrons – talented cartoonists from the nearby King Features Syndicate – virtually paid for their supper in original art on the walls of The Palm’s first restaurant; then a speakeasy. These artists would draw lively scenes of the restaurant’s clientele – neighbors, family as well as celebrity patrons – that came to be known as the hieroglyphics of New York City life at the time.
Jolly Bill Steinke
The Palm’s original caricaturist was Jolly Bill Steinke, a well-known King Features artist and radio personality, who spent so much time at The Palm bar that diners would ask him to draw them. He obliged and was compensated by The Palm with a healthy supply of his favorite gin cocktails.
Following Steinke was Mac Miller, who created the restaurant’s caricatures for the next 20 years. Miller was a respected artist and member of the same New York Illustrators and Artists Guild as Stan Lee and Charles Schultz. He introduced a distinct, restrained style and initiated the practice of transferring images through paper – a decoupage technique from 12th century China.
Following Miller, Bill Lignante took over the lion’s share of the artwork. Lignante, a notable comic book illustrator, comic strip artist, animator and television courtroom sketch artist, had a 16-year career at Hanna-Barbera and as one of The Phantom artists.
Bronwyn and Bill Bird
In the 90s, The Palm Philadelphia hired Bronwyn and Bill Bird to take on the portraits of locals and a mural of the original New York City restaurant wall. Members of a family of five generations of classically trained artists, they dove into the work. Bronwyn emerged as the primary Palm portraitist, ultimately creating thousands over the years.
Bronwyn and Bill’s son, Zack Bird, has since emerged with a focus on The Palm murals, developing a signature style featuring landmarks of the respective restaurant locations. Included among the murals he continues to paint for The Palm are his works in Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Denver, Las Vegas and Philadelphia. “No other business has committed so completely to authenticity,” says Zack. “The Bozzis’ and Ganzis’ support of artists and original artwork is unmatched, just like their incredible food and service. I call it The Palm Quality, and I have never encountered anything else that matches their standard.
Local and Regional Artists
Today, Al Evcimen, who began as The Palm Too’s resident caricaturist in 1974, and Steve Spector, whose first work adorned The Palm Las Vegas’ walls in 1998, continue The Palm tradition across broad swaths of the family of restaurants. Both artists accentuate their subjects’ best features, contributing to their longstanding popularity.
Most recently, local artists have joined the select club of The Palm caricaturists in cities such as Atlanta, where Tony Smith began to adorn The Palm’s walls in 2015, and Philadelphia, where Noa Denmon commenced in 2017 on the occasion of that location’s reopening.
The View from Our Table
Each Palm restaurant continues to be a time capsule of the local who’s who. And while new caricatures spring up regularly, the Palm family stay true to the approach of their grandfathers: wall space may be finite, but a seat at our table is not, and every guest is a celebrity at The Palm.