What kind of questions are these? Based on his biography Knuddeeight dilemmas for cartoonist Toon van Driel (78).
FC Knudde or The regulars? (1)
‘That is immediately a difficult one. FC Knudde celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year. One newspaper, it Algemeen Dagblad, one comic and one artist, that is unique. I’ll be in next year Guinness World Records. Knudde is dear to me, but has to be about football, or sometimes Formula 1. With The regulars I can go in many more directions. The comic was my salvation when I bought the rights to it FC Knudde had sold to Audax and after a while was financially ruined. By The regulars millions of albums have been sold.
‘For FC Knudde I draw from my own experiences. I played football until I was 50, in Amsterdam. I was a left winger, a kind of Piet Keizer. I played for Blauw-Wit as a youth. It could also have been Ajax, but I refused. Ajax was already an elite club back then. And I wasn’t one of them.
About the author
Paul Onkenhout has been working for de Volkskrant. He writes about popular culture, music and football.
‘Said in the beginning FC Knudde nothing for it. Bad drawings, bad jokes. Real shit. But it was the beginning, at one point there were four of my comics in it A.D. Ron Abram, the editor-in-chief, was afraid that I would get sick and there would be four holes in the newspaper every day. Ron, I said, I’m not getting sick, how do you think about that? And I didn’t get sick either.’
Alexander Brandenburg or Jaap van de Venis?
‘The writers of my biography. I came across them in Anno 1890, my favorite pub on the border of Amstelveen and Amsterdam. I previously did some things with Alexander on the internet, but that was not a success. They both write for De Speld. One was a fan of The regularsthe other of FC Knudde. One day they asked politely if they could write my biography.
‘Alexander is the intellectual of the two, he also wears glasses. I also sometimes put on glasses if I want to improve my image. I had to get used to Jaap. He spoke rather softly, but it turned out he could write well. They didn’t give me a hard time. We met every week in Anno 1890 and I threw everything out. Everything.
‘It has become a painful book; a wiedergutmachung also for my two exes and my children. When I read the book I cried many times. Jesus Christ, I thought, is all this me? Have I done all that? And I was taken back to my youth, to all the misery of that time with a fascist, communist father and a mother who showed no love.’
Jaap or Dirk?
‘Dirk, the goalkeeper. I love his tantrums. Jaap is the declarant FC Knudde, with his back pass. They can do something as football players, but don’t put them together in the penalty area. ‘Tikkie back, Jaap’ has become a standard phrase in Dutch football vocabulary. It was exactly the silliness I was looking for. Jaap and Dirk are a golden duo that always has bad luck.
‘Do you want something to drink? I still have a non-alcoholic beer. Can you handle that or don’t you think it’s too much to drink? I myself have given up drinking, for the first time. It didn’t go down well anymore, it made me feel like shit.’
John le Noble or Ron Abram?
‘I was rejected as a cartoonist by the studios of Marten Toonder and Het Parool when I went to Rotterdam with a folder of drawings Algemeen Dagblad. My job as a steward at KLM was over, I had been kicked out. I had to do something.
‘Le Noble was a very good sports reporter A.D, Abram was editor-in-chief and later editor-in-chief for almost twenty years. They saw something in my comics from the start. I owe them a lot. Abram became a kind of father to me and I had crazy adventures with Le Noble. He was always drunk, I liked that.
‘We often went out in Rotterdam. In the café he had the habit of taunting colleagues, sometimes so much that they beat him up. When we drove away later, he sometimes suddenly got out of the car. There I stood, completely lost in that shitty city. John was completely out of control, that’s why I came to love that man so much.’
Hot Sand or My Jenny?
‘Two songs of mine. I choose My Jennythat’s a funny song, if I remember correctly. Hot Sand is the B-side of a world hit, Venus by Shocking Blue. I discovered music in America. I would have preferred never to leave again. It was the flower power time. Everyone was on pot and everyone was excited. And everyone did it together, I liked that too.
‘But then I got a call for military service. Then I would become an American citizen. They needed cannon fodder, guys for the Vietnam War. I won’t survive that, I thought. Because I didn’t have money for a flight, I took the boat from San Francisco to the Netherlands.
‘I had learned to play bluegrass pretty well and came back with a five-string banjo. In The Hague I bumped into Robbie van Leeuwen from Shocking Blue. We clicked immediately. He asked if I could write some songs for the band. I could. I was also the singer for a while. I had a nice Bob Dylan at home, but I quickly got tired of it. Mariska Veres became the singer of Shocking Blue, I couldn’t compete with her.
‘Robbie adjusted my lyrics a bit. When it came to paying later, his manager Cees van Leeuwen did not give in. I never made a cent from it. But the songs were shit too, I have to admit.’
Tokyo or Accra?
‘Tokyo. As a steward at KLM I flew all over the world. I have been to Tokyo forty, fifty times. I was fascinated by the technology of the Japanese and the high quality of their products. And I got to know the work of formidable artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige, for example. Terribly beautiful.
‘I earned a lot of extra money with those trips. For one Leica camera I got three or four Nikons in return. And I sold them again in the Netherlands, to photographers from The Telegraph and to hospitals. There were always many couples, pilots and stewardesses among the crew. They always requested the same trips so they could have sex. I’ve seen pilots climb out of a hotel window. It was a wonderful time, I hated that my contract was not renewed.’
Marco van Basten or Louis van Gaal?
‘Van Basten was my neighbor in Badhoevedorp for eight years. With my second wife I had a large house built there. I loved Marco. He had a Porsche and it took half an hour to get in. He had a mess of bars in his leg because of that broken ankle. Let’s still experience it, I said, when I saw him struggling with that Porsche.
‘We often visited each other, he thought I was a good peer. Our families also had fun together. I never really got to know him, he didn’t allow that. He could be very blunt. At AC Milan he was attacked too often by fans, who sometimes wanted to pull his hair out. He was suspicious of other people. Be a little nicer, I often said. That helped, he recovered a bit.
‘Van Gaal once mentioned an exhibition of mine in Haarlem The regulars and FC Knudde opened. Truus, his wife, was also there, she said she was a fan of it Knudde goods. In drawings I often had them lie in bed together, spoon-spoon, and then his orange KNVB tie would peek out above the duvet. Louis always asked her for advice, that’s how it was in real life.
‘Lovely couple, those two. You have entertained us for years, Louis said. There was also an auction of books and paintings, the proceeds went to Muscles for Muscles. It raised eleven thousand euros. That’s what Van Gaal did it all for. He tends to treat people like weirdos and idiots, but I think he’s a worldly guy. He is not afraid and doesn’t give a damn about everything. Yes, we do look a bit alike.’
FC Knudde or The regulars? (2)
‘I have only one goal in my life: making puppets. I draw during the day, in the evening, at night, every day, for fifty years. I always want more. I’m obsessed with it. My first two wives didn’t care about my comics. Laura is different, she watches my jokes. I now have a woman who can laugh at me and never gives me a hard time. Then you’ve done well, haven’t you?
Alexander Brandenburg and Jaap van de Venis: Knudde. The bizarre life story of Toon van Driel, creator of FC Knudde and De Staggasten. Ambo Anthos; 256 pages; €22.99.
Toon van Driel
1972-1973 Steward at KLM
1973 Debut in the Algemeen Dagblad of FC Knudde
1975 FC Knudde in Avro’s Sports Panorama
1980 First episode The regulars in the A.D
1988 Stripschap Prize for entire oeuvre
2023 Biography Knudde. The bizarre life story of Toon van Driel
2023 Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau
Toon van Driel is married and lives in Amstelveen. He has six children from previous relationships.