Steve Kaufman
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Robert (Bob) Michelson

Robert (Bob) Michelson was a person that greatly influenced Steve Kaufman's life. Robert was Steve's "Big Brother" as part of a volunteer program that provided companionship and mentoring services to local youth who were missing a parental figure in their lives.  Robert committed himself for two years to this program, and spent one day every other weekend enjoying community activities with Steve.  The "Big Brother" program connection developed into a life long friendship for Robert and Steve.

I personally believe that Bob Michelson was a big part of why Steve was such a kind and generous man.  Please read this wonderful interview to learn more about young Steve Kaufman and a very kind young man that influenced Steve's life greatly.

- Diana Vachier
Diana:                  Tell me from the beginning, what made you decide to become a Big Brother and how did you find Steve?

Bob:                  I graduated from college. I was accepted in the Peace Corps. I went through Peace Corps training program for two and a half months at Springfield College in Massachusetts. I actually ended up in the top 10% of the program.

At the end of the program, two of the psychologists or psychiatrists came down and did the evaluation and they said, "You have all this potential and ability. We looked at your high school and your college records. You're not really working up. We’d rather have somebody with 70% of your ability working in 100% of their capacity."

                  I got rejected out of Peace Corp, which is something I really thought I wanted to do at the time. I ended up going to the business world working for my dad as an alternative to that. During those times, it just wasn’t about just graduating from college. I just wanted to contribute, and to do positive things. I had spent some time reading at the Lighthouse for the Blind. I also decided I wanted to become a Big Brother.

Diana:                  How old were you?

Bob:                  I was about 23, 24 years of age at the time. I signed up at the Jewish Board of Guardians, 57th and 7th.

Diana:                  In Manhattan?

Bob:                  In Manhattan. There was a woman who was the head of it, Mrs. Sinclair. I remember her name. There's also a social worker who I'd like to actually get in touch with. Her name is Moralyn Volub. I went through a whole vetting process to become qualified to become a Big Brother. It was communicated to me in no uncertain terms that this is not just something that you want to get involved with and do and maybe six months down the road, you're no longer interested in doing it. This is a commitment. Cognizant of that, I interviewed with a bunch of different kids. They told you everything that you needed to know about what you're going to get involved with. I met Steve.

Diana:                  These were children who didn't have fathers.

Bob:                  They have lost a parent and they needed somebody in their life.

Diana:                  These were low income families?

Bob:                  I don't really remember that, but the Jewish Board of Guardians was a quality program for certain. It was run very well. There was a social worker. She lived in New Jersey. Her husband, I think, was an attorney or something to that nature. She actually helped me out quite a bit because I ended up having a broken nose. I was going to go have it fixed and she said, "No. You need to go see this plastic surgeon.” That’s what I did, and really helped me out. I had a broken nose from playing basketball. As far as Steve was concerned, I interviewed and met him.

Diana:                  What was your impression the first time you met him?

Bob:                  He was a tall, skinny kid, and he was hiding behind his mom. He's very shy.

Diana:                  How old was he?

Bob:                  I have to remember exactly how old he was at that time. I think he was probably 8 years of age. I need to think of that, but that's probably how old he was. I made a commitment to be with him every other weekend for two years.

Diana:                  How did he respond to you when he met you?

Bob:                  It took a little bit, but it was all positive. We had great times together. I really looked forward to spending the day with him. I would go up to the Bronx. He lived up in the Bronx in a very small apartment in Riverdale. Nice area. I would take the subway up to 231st Street, walk up this unbelievable hill, I remember Johnson Avenue, to his house and see his mom, his sister, his brother, and Steve. Steve and I would take off.

Diana:                  He lived in an apartment or in a house?

Bob:                  He lived in a very small apartment. I can close my eyes, and I'm like back there. When I think about it, and it's quite a number of years later, I somehow wonder where did the mom and the sister sleep? It must have been either a sofa bed, or maybe there was one other room that I wasn't aware of.

Steve and his brother shared a bedroom, a small bedroom. They're both tall boys. Even though they were young, they were tall.

                  His mom actually asked me at one point if I would be Howard’s Big Brother too. I didn't feel that was really what the equation was all about. It was Steven and me, that’s what it really was about. A one on one.

                  We would go to ball games. We'd go out and play ball. We go to museums, different places, a lot of the time with me, I have to go down back to the subway with him. We'd go down the hill, take a bus. We always did something. We just hung out. I would get up there by 11:00 in the morning, 11:30, and then we'd go out and do something, and I bring him back home 5:00, 6:00 at night. That was it. It was just the repetition and the fact that somebody was there to be with him, somebody who was a little bit older. I did that for two years, every other weekend.

As time progressed, he would come down to the city. Mom would put him on the express bus. He'd come down. I would meet him downtown. Then we saw each other less, but we always would see each other after the two years. Maybe I would see him once a month. We had that bond. He trusted me.

I just remember in later years when I was married and I had a loft on 26th Street, and we'd go out of town. Steve would come over, and he would stay in my apartment. He was very fond of throwing parties and stuff like that. He had parties in my loft. We always hung out and did things.

Diana:                  How would you describe his personality when he was young, the first couple of months you were with him?

Bob:                  He's very shy. He was never really sure of himself. He didn't have a dad. He lost his dad when he was, I think, four years of age. There's no question that I spent every other weekend with him for two years. There's no question that we really had a really strong bond together. If you looked at the end of the day, when you look at his Last Will, he gave me the exact same percentage as he gave his brother, his mother, and his sister. He told me years later that he considered me like a surrogate dad, as his dad. He called me every Father's Day. We were like family.

He was shy. Quiet at times. As time went on, he became more self-assured with himself. He was a little bit more outspoken. He was quite a character. He turned out to be quite a character. There's always so many things that I could have done for him. I would have liked, for example, that maybe he had spent a little more time in English class, because it sets the structure. At times I didn't feel it was at a level where it should be. He was definitely into his art. He definitely pursued his art. I didn’t really pay as much attention to that, really just a bond between the two of us and what we're doing at that particular time. I went through the lows and the highs of his art career, when he first started off and when he worked with his friend and business partner Adam in the beginning. They broke up.

Later I moved to California. I was out in California producing TV commercials in the 80s. He'd never been to California. He came out to San Francisco. This is a classic story.

I had a rented car because I was living both in New York and San Francisco at the time. I had a car that I rented. Steve asked me, because I was in production, if he could borrow it. I said it's not a problem. I'm leaving at the end of the week. Steve took the car, and this is his first time in California. I didn't see him for three days! What he did finally returned, he had been to San Diego, to Fresno, and he had been all over California. I know at a later date, he and Roger and with Bobby, they head on to California to open his studio.

He was headed to Los Angeles. He ended up in Lancaster. That was his first stop before he got to L.A. He had some problems in Lancaster. He also had a girlfriend in Lancaster.

Diana:                  I’d love to learn more about the very early years about Steve because those are the years that we know nothing about, so if you could tell us when he started, when you think he started getting into art, what inspired him. Did he talk about art? When you went to museums, did he enjoy that more than going to a movie?

Bob:                  I don't really know. It's really hard to say because we went to movies, we went to museums, and we liked everything. He loved to paint. He soon learned how to get around, make money and start his painting. Later he had a card that said SAK on it. I believe it was SAK, or maybe it was just Steve Kaufman. He would go to bars in New York City and organize parties. He would tell people to show up and there's going to be a party at this particular bar.

Diana:                  How old was he? Was it early teens?

Bob:                  Yeah, he would be in his teens. I need to figure that out. I can't because I have to figure out when I was in my loft. I will never forget as long as I live, his mom called me. She would always call me. I tried not to really talk to her too much. I just wanted her to know that I was there, and I was taking care of her son and doing what I could. I didn't want to violate the trust that I had with Steven. I had a bond.

What he had with his mom was what he had with his mom, and what he had with me was... I didn't want to be telling her what was going on. I reported to the social worker, if there was anything. I didn't really have any problems with her. Steve and I just took off and did our own thing. They told us at the Jewish Board of Guardians that at some point your relationship is just going to... We had a bond. It was between us. We didn't care about anybody else. It was Steve and myself really, what it got down to.

                  As time progressed, I didn't feel I had to go back to the Jewish Board of Guardians. I didn't feel I had to go say anything to his mom. We were just buddies. We were friends. He trusted me. I trusted him.

                  He had this club where he would go to the bars, give out his card, and tell people to show up. He got a percentage of the bar tabs and entrance fees. He had these big events. What ended up happening was one day his mom called me. It was like a Sunday morning and said, “Steve just came home.” It was like really early Sunday morning. He was out all night.

“Steve has $5,000 in cash. Not a check. $5,000 in cash. What should I do with it?”

That's what she said to me. I told her “Monday morning, go and put that in the bank.” She didn't think that this was what Steven should be doing.

Diana:                  Was she worried that he was doing something illegal?

Bob:                  She was like an accountant. That's what she did for a living. This wasn't the way she saw that her son working. She didn't know whether it was a way for him to make money. She didn't really understand. It’s like another world to her. It wasn't anything. It was a really innovative idea that Steve had. Steve had a following of people who would show up at clubs, who liked to party. That's basically what happened. He actually did quite well with that.

I didn't really follow his art career other than I just have really strong memories of when he stayed in my loft. I would never see Steven without his big black portfolio. He had a huge big black portfolio that he would always carry around with him. He always had his art and sketches and so forth.

The next thing I knew, he was a bouncer at Studio 54. Steven was a big guy. I don't know if that's how he ended up meeting Andy Warhol. I know he was friends with Keith Haring. He told me at one point, I think later years, that he had loaned Keith some money and in exchange for that, Keith gave him a canvas, and that Steve painted over it. Who knew! Steven, because money was always a problem for him in some way, shape, or form in the beginning, so Steven just erased what Keith had and painted over it.

                  Steven was fearless. It was sometimes to his credit or his discredit. He would like, if there was something that seemed to be daunting to him, he would step right into it and then ask questions later as opposed to trying to ask questions first before getting involved. That was a Steve Kaufman trait.

Diana:                  How was his family situation? How did he get along with his mom?

Bob:                  His mother was, I don't want to say domineering. She can only control him so much. She was like everything in the family. He loved his mom and would do anything for his mom. They had a kind of a crazy relationship over the years because she called him all the time. She was always very concerned. This little woman, big Steve, okay?

How it was… The little brother, and Steven, throughout the years, Steve tried to take care of how and however he could. His brother Howard graduated from State University of New York at Albany. Steven cared for Howard.

Melinda, his sister, was kind of like the second mother in the family. I guess the two women felt that they should be looking after Steve and Howard. Melinda was always calling Steve up and telling him to do this and do that. Steven would just shake his head and was exasperated. She was a very successful. I think she became a very successful accountant. She had her own little apartment that she bought up there in Riverdale.

Steve, with maybe the money that he had from these clubs, he bought an apartment up in Riverdale too, his own apartment. Melinda bought one. It was all like the same building, street, or somewhere. Melinda, I always viewed her as being somebody who was totally concerned about Steve.

Diana:                  Was she trying to mother him?

Bob:                  Yeah, she was trying to mother him, supervise him, and to help him in some way, shape, or form where she’s felt that he should be doing this or be doing that. Steve looked at this as she was just nagging him or stuff like that.

His mother was a good person. She had problems just dealing with three kids and no husband and a limited income. His sister was also a very good person.

Diana:                  I mean, that’s enough to... a huge job for her.

Bob:                  Yeah, exactly. They were good kids. They weren't kids looking out, going to try and do things that would cause them to get into trouble. They were just kids.

Diana:                  What was the time Steve was arrested for the graffiti?

Bob:                  I don't know much about that. I know a little bit more about what happened in Lancaster when he came out. He wouldn't tell me those things because he didn't want me to know. As time went on, he didn't want to let me know about all those things.

Diana:                  Did he talk about his time with Warhol? Did you and him have a connection while he was working for Warhol?

Bob:                  We went through some periods when we weren’t that fully connected. I wasn't that fully connected with him at that point in time when he was working for Andy Warhol. I knew he was working there. I had my own career and a creative career in the industry that I worked in, in creating television commercials for these rock stations. I didn't really pay that much attention to Steve's career like the business of what he was doing. I just really paid attention to the fact that we got together.

This looks like a big blur to me at this point in time. When you look back on your life, there's a lot of things that you probably should remember, but you just don't really see them in a clear vision as you could or should. I never related to Steven on that basis as a really successful artist or what was going on in his career. I was always there for him and we were just friends.

I do remember he and Adam, when they first started off on their own, they had a building not too far from my loft. There was a vacant building, and they had an apartment way up on the top. There was no heat in the building. It was on 20 degrees there. It was on 22nd Street off of 6th Avenue. You had to walk up three flights of steps, four levels, to get to this place that they had. It was there. They said they had no money. They started their first business. He and Adam were really good buddies from the Bronx. They were really tight. He was trying to get his art into galleries and stuff like that. I came back. I wasn't living in New York at that point in time, I guess. He said, "I got a place for you to stay." It was pretty rudimentary. It was a dark, round, with plywood, a bed in it, and it was the most rudimentary room you can possibly imagine.

You know something? To Steven's credit, Steven didn't care about that. If you saw where he lived because he lived at his studio in Los Angeles, and that’s not a place you want to be living. Bobby lived there too and has fixed it up, but it certainly wasn't anything like it looks now.

I don't want to put it down, but at a certainty level, it's not a place you'd really want to be living in. Later in years he bought this big house in Las Feliz, and the only reason he bought that house was—and I talked to him about it significantly—was because he found love with this woman. But that didn’t work out, and Steve was devastated. He really loved this woman.

Yeah. Steven at a certain point realized that he wanted to have a relationship with a woman, and he got into a certain point in time in life where something just kicked in. He was good friends with Hugh Hefner. He was hanging out at the Playboy Club. It didn't matter much to me. I just wanted him to have somebody who would really care for him.

I know this is off the subject, but he had his mother in his life. His mother was an arbiter to some degree as to what decisions Steven would make with respect to women, because he knew that at some point he would have to bring whoever this woman was to meet his mom.

                  Steve could say whatever he want and press whoever he wanted to, however he tried to, but at the end of the day he'd have to cross the bridge, and this woman would have to meet his mom. That was something that he had to deal with. He knew that all the time because his mom was a loose cannon. She only wanted the best for him.

I don't think she came out to L.A. often. There was one time, I'm trying to remember, where both she and Melinda were coming out to LA and Steven was going through… That's why Steven needed to have; he needed to kind of step it up, because Steven was very proud of his accomplishments. And between that and wanting to find someone, here he's doing all this art and very successful, but he's still living in that container at the studio.

It was really the woman that Steve loved that coerced him to get the house. It took a couple of months before he was able to close on it. That was unfortunate at the end because the woman, I believe, was married and had some kids. And Steve didn't know that, plus the fact that he did some things and repair work to the house that he didn’t have permits to do. It just became a financial albatross around him at the time when he was making good money, but not enough money to cover his big mortgage payments on it.

He had some financial problems, but he wouldn't divulge them to me because he was a very proud person. Steve would suck up whatever problems he had, keep them within, and keep a straight face as much as he possibly could. That's Steve Kaufman. He was tough and strong physically, but he was one of the most gentle, kind, and wonderful people.

Diana:                  What do you think your influence on him had when he started his Give Kids a Break?

Bob:                  Steven always wanted to give back. I've had some very successful TV campaigns, and I have donated money to various charities. Steve saw that. He told me, "That's what I want to do. I want to give back." Steve started from a very humble background. I'm not saying that Steve made it to the real high upper echelons, but to Steve he did. He was very successful with his art.

Diana:                  He reached his goals financially, I think.

Bob:                  He was making money. He bought that property where his studio was. He had some really great paydays. For Steven, he had reached some really great heights. That was his world. He was very kind. He wanted to always give back and he was always… (Bob became very emotional here.)

Diana:                  Sorry. I know it is upsetting to talk about this.

Bob:                  That's okay.

Diana:                  Okay. I'm sorry.

Bob:                  Steven was kind. He was so kind and so generous to a fault. He was tough with the gang of kids that he worked with, but that was all out of kindness. He wanted to help these kids. He was great to Bobby Womack. They were a great team. They were like brothers. Real close. They worked great together.

Diana:                  Bobby was like his right hand.

Bob:                  He would take care of him. They took care of each other. Bobby was his de facto partner in a sense. Really, if you look at a partnership where there are people, it wasn't a defined partnership. It wasn't anything that was in writing or already done professionally, but they were buddies. Bobby was Steven's right hand guy.

Diana:                  Yeah they traveled out together.

Bob:                  Yeah, with Roger.

Diana:                  They built everything together.

Bob:                  Yeah, definitely. Steven wouldn’t have accomplished what he accomplished without Bobby. Steven definitely brought Bobby to new heights for Bobby. There’s definitely no question that was a great relationship for both of them. Steven was the engine that made that operation run, but he needed Bobby because Bobby was the gas, whatever it took to run the machine.

Diana:                  Did you see when they bought the place on Madison Avenue? Did you see it before?

Bob:                  Yeah. What a mess that whole place was.

Diana:                  So you saw it from the beginning until it was workable.

Bob:                  There were pit bulls there. That place was just unbelievable. The latest incarnation came when they started finally putting the containers in there, and they would live in them, and he had an editing suite in there at one point. He had a guy who Steven befriended and who did the auto body work in the driveway out of there. In fact, I had an old classic BMW 2002, 1972 that I bought from Dave who worked for me. Steve took the car and painted it for me.

Diana:                  With characters? With his art?

Bob:                  No. He painted the car. He restored the car through the guy who was working for Steve. It wasn't like the motorcycles. He went and did the body work. They fixed the car up, and it really looked nice. I remember I flew down and he picked me up at the airport in my car. It was an amazing because I had a station wagon, so I gave it to my niece who went to Colorado College so she could go skiing. It was an all-wheel drive station wagon. I didn't really need that much of a car, so I had this classic BMW. Steve said, "Let me fix it up for you." That's what we did.

We were so close. We used to level. I never questioned anything that he did. I just wanted him to do well, so I never really looked into... I had my own business going, which is going pretty high level. I just looked at Steven and said to Steven, "Gee, I just hope everything is going well. It looks like its going great. You got all these kids working for you. You have a place. You got to own this property that you bought. You got this and so forth. You got a couple of bucks in your pocket." That's all I cared about.

Diana:                  And he was happy?

Bob:                  He was very happy. He loved L.A. He would contact people and do pop art paintings of them. Some people were very flattered to have a pop art painting made of them. One thing begot another. That's how it happened. I remember all the stuff with Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra and the Sinatra family.

I got bits and tidbits. I wasn't really intimately involved with his business. I was involved with Steven and just wanted to make sure that he was doing well. He didn't have any problems at that time. Maybe he had a financial problem here or there, but his business seemed to be rolling along. He was really doing quite well. That's all that mattered to me. I didn't look below and see if there were any other things going on.

Diana:                  From the time you met him until the very end, do you feel that there was times that he was the happiest, times that he wasn't, times that everything was going great?

Bob:                  Yeah. He had reached the level where his business would seem to be drawn the line apart. It seemed to be on somewhat of an even keel. The house caused some financial duress because I know he wanted to put a pool in or do an extension, and he got somebody that wasn’t licensed. One of the neighbors informed that he was doing it, and he had some problems. He was doing what he wanted to do. Steven lived by his own rules.

He loved living in L.A. He saw himself as being very successful. Maybe he had a couple of highs and lows along the way. but he saw himself as being somebody really successful. He loved doing his art.

Steven was the person that I knew, who was Steve Kaufman, my friend. I never looked at him (differently). We go out for dinners, stuff like that. I was very proud. I've looked around and seen the place, and there was ton of art there at the studio. I didn't look behind the cover and see what was going on. It's none of my business. I didn't have any knowledge of what was going on other than the fact that the studio kept getting bigger and bigger.

I know he bought that property and paid in full. I think he told me $130,000. He owned that property. He was very proud of it. He had also some plans of things that he was going to build and do this and that. Steven was on uphill spiral. He was just heading upward. Along the road, things happened that might have derailed him a little bit, but Steven was very determined. If he wanted to do stuff, he'd figure out a way to make it happen. If he couldn't go straight through it, he’d go around. If he couldn't go around, he'd go over it or he’d go under it.

Diana:                  Was he always like that as a child?

Bob:                  I didn't really see that when he was younger, but as he grew older he knew that there was a way to get whatever he wanted to get accomplished. That was a really wonderful trait the he had. He was always kind, generous, and always wanted to give back. That's what all of the paintings was—stuff that I know he was involved in different causes. He had a heart of gold. He was just a really sweet, great kid. There's no question about that. I feel I had a lot to do with that, but still he innately had that. That is who he was, period.

Diana:                  Beautiful. I there anything else that you think that would be interested in knowing about him that you know?

Bob:                  I just feel horrible that this whole thing has come to this point. I'm just very determined to make it happen in a different way. This is the last thing, the best thing that I could do for him in one sense, to help his art become more successful. That's what I would like to do.

Diana:                  Thank you. Beautiful.

Bob: I remember when you asked if he was happy. I remember after he had his stroke, he did change a little bit. He was less dynamic, obviously. He might have known that at that point he had some pretty severe health problems. He started to change his diet. I remember having lunch with the family. He was sitting, eating green salad. He didn't enjoy it, but he knew he had to do that. I think the reality of his health affected him a lot. I noticed a slight personality change after the stroke.

He came to my dad's 90th birthday. We had a birthday party in Santa Monica for my dad. There's a lot of longevity in my family, so he came to it. Steven was a little rough around the edges, in a sense. He was a really great, sweet, wonderful human being. My two nieces both went to pretty high end colleges. Steve was a little bitter for the acquired taste in a sense. I have a photo. There we go. I have a photo of him with my nieces. Steve was like, they all cared for him, but he was just a little, I want to say again, rough around the edges.

Diana:                  He was a Bronx boy.

Bob:                  Yeah, I know. Exactly.

Bob:                  You know what he loved doing? He loved getting on his Harley Davidson and cruising down Melrose Avenue.

Diana:                  Did he take you for a ride?

Bob:                  He took my girlfriend Carol on a ride on his Harley, and they rode down Melrose Avenue together. Everybody turned and looked, "Who's this huge guy with this little blonde hanging onto him?"

He would always have like a red or blue bandana that he would wear. I've got a couple. I didn't bring them. I have a couple of photos. We had beer with both my nephew and myself. I've got photos which I will get you copy of. I haven't scanned them, but I will.

Diana:                  I would love to have copies. Whatever you have. Do you have any of you and Steve?

Bob:                  I have one of Steve and myself, two, but I don't have that many photos. We just never really took photos or good stuff like that. It's a shame. But who would think that there would not be plenty of time?

I've always been a fitness type person. I would always be on Steve's case to be in really good shape, stay in good shape because he was a big kid, a big guy. Sometimes you would put on some. He had the worst diet, in the beginning. I don't think he ever saw a vegetable until he was probably in his 30’s.

My brother and I—not that my brother was really in this exact great shape—but we challenged Steve and Adam to a race. We went out, and we beat them. It was the two of us against the two of them. He came out, also he came to my 50th birthday party out there with his girlfriend, who he originally bought that Porsche for that Bobby now has. She was very pretty. I have a photo. I have to find it.

Steve was really a good-looking guy when he got his act together. There was a period in his life that I felt he was a really good-looking kid. He was big. He came out, and he gave me the Superman painting, the one with Superman that says, "Dad! Dad! It's all my fault!" I became like his father, really. He gave me that painting. I gave it to Dave, my partner. He gave me so many paintings that it was like I didn't have enough walls for them. I didn't realize the significance of that painting at the time because I had so many other paintings I had in my office. I so regret giving it away. I feel very bad. I had all Steve’s paintings in the living room. I had the one that he gave me with the dollar bill where it said, "Thanks for being my big brother.” We had the American Indian up there, and I also had the Batman. I traded it for another painting with Dave. He gave it back to me. I then gave it to my nephews whom I totally love. It's in their bedroom. I told him how important it was.

This is a great story. The first radio series that I ever created on my own, before it got into TV where my business really took off, was the Marvel Comics radio series. We produced 5-minute shows each week. Each week we completed the Adventure of the Fantastic Four.

How Steve factored into it is this: He had nothing to do whatsoever with the creation of the programs, but he knew Stan Lee. What happened was Marvel Comics gave me all these posters, beautiful posters, which I would give one of the posters to a radio station when they bought the series.

At the end, Marvel Comics called me up, and I didn't realize at the time, and they asked me did I have any of the remaining because they didn't have any more. I said, "No. I've sold them all. I provided them all to the radio stations." We have 22, 23 radio stations that ran the program. These were the big rock stations. I said no, but a short time later I didn't realize I had 40 of them.

                  Steven knew about the radio series, obviously. He said, "I know Stan Lee. I worked with Stan Lee, but I'm in touch with Stan Lee right now." Years later. "Let me take those posters. I'll have Stan sign them for you." Steve took the Marvel posters that I had, and had Stan Lee sign them. I have, I don't know, 40 of them. It's the 10th most valuable Marvel Comics poster. I've given them to people who I really care about. Steve Kaufman was the person that had Stan Lee sign the posters. The posters that are signed are just spectacular. My brother had one, and my brother had it framed in black. I'm looking at all this work that he has, and I’d say, "Steve, you need this poster framed in red or yellow." He would say, "They're just spectacular."

We framed his poster. I did see, I think it was on YouTube somewhere, they have the 10 most valuable Marvel posters, and it was the number 10th most valuable all-time Marvel poster.

Diana:                  Was that before or after Steve did that collaboration with Stan Lee?

Bob:                  Probably after because he knew Stan. I didn't know how he knew Stan. I never asked any questions. I actually called Stan and spoke with him. I had worked with Stan. We're talking 1975, 76. This is right after I left National Lampoon after we closed it. The radio show closed. Everybody went over to Saturday Night Live.

I had the Marvel Comics radio series, and I had all these posters. This was significantly after, so I wasn't really in touch with Stan after that, but he remembered the radio series and the fellow Peter who worked with us in producing it. Stan was totally into it.

Diana:                  Steve's earlier works seem to consist of mainly superheroes.

Bob:                  Yeah. I don't really know. I have no influence or anything with what direction Steve's work went in or any influence on any of that. I just knew that he was doing his art.

Diana:                  He loved it.

Bob:                  Superheroes, whether it was a Marilyn, whether it was a pop icon or Marvel Comics or DC Comics. He kept turning the work out. He would show me all the work. He was so proud of everything he did, the portraits and stuff like that. I had no input whatsoever on that. I was like an outsider looking in, just being very happy that he was just doing well.

Diana:                  Any closing statement do you want to make?

Bob:                  What can I possibly say? When I think about it, it's emotional. It was really great. We had a great relationship. We trusted each other. It was honest. I was very proud of him. I tried to be the best person I could be for him.

Diana:                  You certainly did.

Bob:                  Yeah. That's all I have to really say.

Diana:                  Thank you.

Bob:                  What I really appreciate about you is how much you really cared for him and loved him.

Diana:                  On a personal note, I think the very first conversation I had with Steve in 1999, the very first conversation we had, he told me about you.

Bob:                  He told me about you as well. He said he met this woman in New York who was just great. You were honest and you were selling his art. He really cared for you and trusted you. He didn’t really talk about these things with me, but he told me that about you.

He was very kind, generous person you could always count on, if you needed something. I didn't, but if you needed something, Steve would be there for you. He was a standup person. Diana, you have a love for Steve and the commitment to Steve. That is just wonderful. He left his licensing in good hands, his legacy to you. I just would like to add what I know so more people know how great he was.

Diana:                  You’ve been tremendous. The last time I saw Steve was January 2010, just a few weeks before he died. We went to Chin Chin. He got really serious. This is when he couldn't talk, when he lost most of his voice. He looked at me really seriously and said, "I left you the licensing." I was totally wiped out emotionally by the thought of losing him, and I think he knew at that point how ill he was. He was very frightened. I said to him, "I promise you, I will make sure everyone knows your name.” What an honor I feel. I feel like I was given the best gift of a lifetime but, I would give anything and everything to have him back, alive and well.

Bob: Yes, I know what you mean. That's great, he knew you were the one. I feel bad in retrospect that I didn't really get involved in some way, shape, or form with his business, but that wasn't what our relationship was.

Diana:                  You guys were really tight. I mean, he loved you. He told me about Howard and Melinda and then he's mentioned, "My big brother." I said, "Howard?" He said, "No. My big brother." Then he told me the whole story about you and how close and what you meant to him.

Bob: I didn't see Steve toward the end. Steven didn't want me knowing what was going on with him. I didn't really have a clue toward the end. His voice was so bad. I would talk to him, and he could hardly talk. It was a very raspy type of voice on the phone. I wasn't there for him really at the end because I didn't really know.

Diana: I don't think Steve wanted anyone to know because he didn't tell his family anything. He was protecting people.

Thank you, Bob. This was a wonderful experience for me to hear your stories. I know that there are many people that would love to learn everything they can about Steve. All this will be in art history books.

Bob: What a loss… But we have his art to keep him alive.