Portland is a pop machine. The first American political cartoonist to achieve superstar status, Homer Davenport, made his professional debut in Portland. Mel Blanc, the most revered voice artist in the world, made his debut in Portland. Is this a simple coincidence?
Anne Richardson, director of Oregon Cartoon Institute, doesn’t think so. Instead, she argues, proficient use of mass media is a regional strength. Portland’s first film studio opened in 1910. By 1987, three independent Portland filmmakers, Matt Groening, Jim Blashfield and Will Vinton, had national careers – on Fox, MTV, and primetime network television respectively. Their work was everywhere. Comics mogul Mike Richardson was quietly building a Hollywood career from Milwaukie, while Phil Knight and Dan Wieden played celebrity conscious pop culture like a violin, once again on television. What do these pop savvy careers tell us about Portland? Using Carl Abbott’s book Portland In Three Centuries as a guide, Anne Richardson and Carl Abbott will weave the chain of pop magnificence back into the historical narrative of the Rose City, making it possible to see Carrie Brownstein’s leap to television in Portlandia is a continuation of a long, august history.