Blondie fires Dagwood after just two weeks


September 18, 1992|By Sheila Dresser | Sheila Dresser,Staff Writer

Dagwood Bumstead, who rocked the cartoon world recently when he left his office job of 59 years to work for his wife, has been fired after only two weeks, The Sun has learned.

Mr. Bumstead, commenting in the comic strip in which he co-stars, says in this week's Sunday episode that his wife, Blondie, who has a catering business, fired him because he was "eating up all her profits."

Mr. Bumstead apparently is going to return to work for his old employer, J. C. Dithers, the George Steinbrenner of the private sector, who has fired him hundreds of times since he was hired in 1933.

The dismissal sent new shock waves through the cartoon world. Mr. Dithers' corporate employer, King Features Syndicate, issued a press release -- embargoed for Sunday -- announcing the job change. The Sun learned of Mr. Bumstead's firing from other sources in the comics industry and felt compelled to come forward with the news.

Close followers of the downs and downs of Mr. Bumstead's career expressed concern at the turn of events and Mr. Bumstead's return to his old boss.

"I really think the man ought to think through why he's going back to Mr. Dithers," said Barbara Turk, a Baltimore psychologist whose "Coping" column is published Tuesdays in the Today section. "Why is he looking to be abused again? Why doesn't Dagwood start his own business? He could go in competition with Blondie. He's made such good sandwiches all these years. I mean, he could have 'Dagwood's Doozies -- mile-high sandwiches for your next office party.' He could have Mr. Dithers hiring him. Then if he wanted to eat the profits, he could eat them from his side of the ledger."

But given Mr. Bumstead's notoriously slack productivity, would you hire him?

Sure, says Lenny Kaplan, who with his wife, Gail, owns and operates the Polo Grill in Baltimore. "Is he the creative juice that drove these sandwiches? Sure, I'd hire somebody with creativity like that and open another department in our operation.

"He's got his own name," Mr. Kaplan continued. "He could go out into business. He should get his own backer."

Mr. Kaplan scoffed at the stated reason for Mr. Bumstead's dismissal: "Could anyone consume enough food to drive a business into unprofitability? It feels inconceivable. Maybe there's something else going on."

Questions also were raised about whether Mr. Bumstead had been treated fairly by his wife.

"I cannot believe that she was not aware of his shortcomings when she hired him after all these years of being together," Mr. Kaplan said. "And I cannot believe they did not discuss this in advance. Suppose he was on drugs. Would you terminate him or try to find him help?"

"You don't just hands down say 'you're outta here,' particularly to a spouse," agrees Ms. Turk.

"If she has an issue with his performance, i.e., eating the profits, then they should talk it through rather than just firing him," she said.

"I think they're going to have some problems over this," Ms. Turk continued. "People have an enormous amount of sensitivity about their work. There's pride involved. There's the feeling of being adequate or being a success or a failure. Having worked for Mr. Dithers for such a long time, there's the issue of change involved. And change in itself is enormously stressful.

"And then to go to work for his wife, and being of a generation where that would be almost unheard of. That really was quite a risk for both Blondie and Dagwood."

In other words, they should have seen it coming. Just ask Donald and Ivana.

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