Love is . . .
inNovember 27, 2012 - 7:15am
It was like a love story from a romance novel. The young, freckled-face Marilyn from New Zealand with long blonde hair, traveling and working in the US on a shoe string budget, meets the dashing and debonair Italian engineer Roberto on the ski slopes of California one weekend in the late 1960s. The sparks are instantaneous. The relationship moves along quickly and looking for a way to express her feelings in a non-threatening way she starts signing her notes to him with cartoons. The little cartoons depict the couple—nude in a non-vulgar way, she with freckles and waist length hair, him with his dark hair and eyes. She coyly looks over her shoulder with the caption “Love is . . . being able to turn his head.” They are kissing under a clock with the caption “Love is . . .losing track of time together.” Him sniffing her neck with the caption “Love is . . . always wanting to smell her perfume.” She later described it as a sort of diary of her feelings and the development of their relationship. They were private little love notes, until Roberto Casali showed them to a friend and journalist at the LA Times.
The “Love is . . .” cartoon was a daily one frame cartoon that Marilyn wrote under the pen name “Kim” that became an instant hit. It continued to follow their relationship, including their wedding, with her wearing the chain of daisies and veil in real life that she drew in the cartoon. But it was the serendipitous moment when she saw the movie “Love Story” along with all America with its famous slogan “Love is never having to say you’re sorry” that took things to a whole new level. Her cartoon response “Love is . . . being able to say you’re sorry” took her little cartoon worldwide. Her cartoon strip was published in fifty countries and the “Love is . . .” kids were marketed on t-shirts, mugs, greeting cards and jewelry in many languages.
By 1975 the Casali’s had two sons and the franchise was earning the family millions every year. Then tragedy struck. Roberto was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Marilyn stopped writing the cartoon to care for him and spend as much time with him as possible. She commissioned Bill Asprey, a British cartoonist, to take over and he has written it ever since. Roberto died in 1976. The personal love notes written by Marilyn became the voice of love for a whole generation. It seemed that she knew just how to express intimate moments in one line. And yet, at age 25, I would have never known about these 42 year old little pudgy nude kids if it wasn’t for a recent estate sale. Among the jewelry items we picked up was a package of earrings, three pairs, each with a statement. Luv is . . . giving just one Valentine. Luv is . . . picking one of the cheaper dishes on the menu. Luv is . . . saying she can call her mother long distance.
After researching and finding out the whole story these little earrings bring a smile to my face as I realize the sentiments probably stem from actual events in this couple’s life. They shared their most intimate, embarrassing and heartfelt moments with the world. Marilyn Casali passed away in 1997. But the world will always be full of Love because of her.
Written by Nichole Brown
Sienna’s Sandbox on Ruby Lane