In a world filled with awards, earning the title of EGOT is among the most rarified in the entertainment world. EGOT stands for the four major American show business awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award. This has been a banner year for EGOTs as there were once only 12, now there are 15 with the addition of new members, John Legend, Tim Rice, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Hirschfeld, who won two Tonys, and whose documentary about his life and work was nominated for an Oscar, as well as drawing many Grammy and Emmy winners, drew 12 of the current EGOTs, and/or many of their award-winning performances.
The first Academy Award ceremony was held in Los Angeles in 1929, honoring films of the previous two years. By this time, Hirschfeld had already been working in the film industry for nine years. His career started at Goldwyn Pictures in New York, drawing traditional portraits for their new films. He would eventually make his way over to Selznick Pictures where he became the art director, followed by a stint at Warner Brothers where he drew his first caricatures. By 1929, he was drawing theatrical caricatures for three different newspapers and doing advertising art of all kinds for at least six different film studios. Hirschfeld’s first drawing of an Oscar winner was director Frank Borzage. Hirschfeld would later draw the stage musical adaptation of the first Best Picture, Seventh Heaven.
The Tony Awards were the next major award show to come on the scene. The first Antoinette-Perry ceremony presented by the American Theatre Wing for the “outstanding contributions to the current American theatre season," was held in April 1947 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Hirschfeld’s first theatre caricature was from December 1926, giving him a 21 year head start on the Tony’s. Jose Ferrer won the first Tony Award for Best Male Actor for his role as Cyrano de Bergerac. While Hirschfeld did not draw Ferrer’s original performance as this was the only season he missed a significant portion of while traveling around the world with S. J. Perelman for Westward Ha!. He would draw him as Cyrano several times in later productions, as well as many of the winners of the first Tonys.
The first Primetime Emmy Awards were handed out in January 1949 in Los Angeles. Hirschfeld was a newcomer to the television scene with his first TV drawing in May 1949, “So This is Television!” for Redbook magazine. Over the next five years, Hirschfeld began drawing television more, and in 1954 would start a relationship with TV Guide that would span the rest of his career. In fact, no one would draw more TV Guide covers to than Al Hirschfeld. In 1961, Hirschfeld drew the Best Actors and Actress Emmy winners from the three previous years waiting for the new winner.
Music was the last genre to get its own award show with the first Grammy Awards in 1959. The first Grammy Awards held two separate but simultaneous ceremonies—one in Beverly Hills and one in New York. Among the first Grammy winners were Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, and the original Broadway cast of The Music Man. Hirschfeld had drawn all of these Grammy winners and had been drawing popular musicians since 1930, and his first album cover was in 1942.
As for the EGOTs themselves, if Richard Rodgers were somewhere, Hirschfeld was never far behind. In 1962, Richard Rodgers became the first artist to win all four awards. Rodgers has Grammy’s for The Sound of Music and No Strings, and Tony’s for South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music, and No Strings. Rodgers is also a member of PEGOT, adding the Pulitzer Prize (South Pacific, 1950; Special Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma!, 1944). He and Marvin Hamlisch are the sole members.
Hirschfeld got two of Hamlisch’s awards in one drawing in The Way We Were, for which Hamlisch won an Oscar for Best Score and Song, as well as a Grammy for Song of the Year. He drew the composer’s Tony winning show, A Chorus Line multiple times in Sunday and Friday drawings.
Rita Moreno won her Oscar for her supporting role in West Side Story. Hirschfeld drew the film three times, though only one features Moreno. Her Tony was earned for The Ritz, which Hirschfeld captured when Moreno reprised her role in the film adaptation.
Theatre great John Gielgud has a few Hirschfelds to his name. Hirschfeld only drew two Gielgud film roles including Arthur, for which he earned an Oscar. His second Tony was for directing Big Fish, Little Fish, drawn with a rare Hirschfeld cat!
The unforgettable Audrey Hepburn, though drawn many times, was captured only in her Tony Award Winning performance in Ondine, although he would draw her three time in her iconic film role, Breakfast at Tiffanys.
We are never ones to forget those behind the scenes, and Jonathan Tunick is no exception. Tunick earned his Oscar orchestrating Stephen Sondheim’s songs for the film version of A Little Night Music. While Hirschfeld did draw the stage production, the film version was never drawn. In 1997, a new Tony Award was added for “Best Orchestrations” and Tunick was its first recipient for his work on Titanic. Yes, of course there’s a drawing of the most infamous disaster of the 20thcentury!
Mel Brooks earned the majority of his EGOT from The Producers, both fiim and stage versions. The 2001 Broadway production of The Producers remains the highest winning Tony show, with 12 total awards.
Among Scott Rudin’s Tony Awards are these that werw drawn by Hirschfeld: Copenhagen and Passion. Hirschfeld’s original drawing for Passion was infamously rejected from the New York Timesfor showing a woman’s bare breast. He would draw another version where the couple was in a less compromising position, and it was later published as a limited edition print.
The final EGOT inductee this year is Tim Rice. Rice has had a long partnership with Webber over the years. He won his Tony Award for Evita. Rice’s first Oscar was for his work on Aladdin. While the film was never drawn, Hirschfeld did capture Aladdin animator Eric Goldberg, who based his drawing of the Genie on Hirschfeld drawings. Hirschfeld included the Genie in his drawing of Goldberg.
Although Helen Hayes was drawn 29 times, not a single one of her EGOT performances were captured by Hirschfeld. In 1977, she became the second artist and first woman to win all four awards. Whoopi Goldberg is the first and only African-American woman to have her EGOT. She was drawn four times by Hirschfeld, but never in one of her award winning roles.
Hirschfeld himself was never comfortable declaring anything was the best. He felt the designation was too subjective and he knew that if he named one thing the best he might upset friends who had done something else. He celebrated all, hits and flops, award winners, and those not nominated. For him, they were all characters to draw.