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Last year Trudeau occasioned more backchat when he had Henry Kissinger appear on This Is Your Life while figures from his past reminisced. Said Sometime Date Marlo Thomas: "I'm reminded of the many children who were maimed and killed during the Christmas bombings of Bach Mai Hospital." "But . . . that's awful," sputters the host. Says Marlo: "You bet! Why do you think we stopped dating?" That strip has been nominated by Trudeau's syndicate for a Pulitzer Prize.
Any resemblance between Michael J. Doonesbury and his creator is more than a case of art imitating life. Garretson Beekman Trudeau can trace his ancestors back to the 1650s, when the first Trudeaus moved from France to Montreal. One branch of the family stayed in Canada (and eventually produced Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau); another moved south, eventually to New York City, where Garry was born in 1948. When he was five, his family moved upstate to Saranac Lake; there his father, Francis, 56, still practices medicine. Garry and Sisters Michelle, now 24, and Jeanne, now 31, enjoyed a crystalline childhood in that fashionable vacation area. "It was a real Christopher Robin existence," Trudeau has recalled. "I was well schooled in fantasy and Beatrix Potter."
The idyl ended in 1960 when Trudeau's parents were divorced. Garry, then 13, enrolled at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., where football skills were prized far above artistic flair. "It was an unbelievably bad climate to be an artist," recalls Classmate Joseph Wheelwright, still a close friend of Trudeau's. "Garry took a lot of grief." The grief included an incipient ulcer, friends say, but the sensitive, unathletic kid refused to stifle his artistic instincts. He served as president of the Art Association ("Twenty of us little wimps reading Artforum," says Wheelwright), became co-editor of the yearbook, won the senior-class art prize, and drew murals for the children's ward of a local state hospital.
Soon after Trudeau entered Yale, in 1966, he drew his first comic strip: a Feifferesque embarrassment about a freshman who bombed in New Havenparticularly at mixers. "The art was bad," Trudeau acknowledges. "Stylized." He put the scrawls away and went on to become editor of the campus humor magazine and write an occasional column for the Yale Daily News on a wide assortment of campus topics.
One epochal afternoon in his junior year, Trudeau showed News editors sketches for a proposed cartoon strip. In the fall of 1968 the first installments of Bull Tales appeared, poking sophomoric fun at mixers, campus revolutionaries, Yale President Kingman Brewsterbut mostly at the football huddles of "B.D." Yalies recognized the jock as Brian Dowling, standout Yale quarterback who will play next season for Toronto. "I never knew Trudeau," says Dowling, "but I thought the strip was funny."