A Forgotten Interview with the Real 'Nancy'by Stephen Roth
Many people know there was a real-life little girl named Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll's classic tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Not many people know that there may have been a real "Nancy" who befriended cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller, and led to the creation of the strip that became Nancy in 1933.
Nancy Carbonaro, who lived near Bushmiller in the South Bronx, claimed to be the classic comic's muse. For a period of time in the 1920s, Bushmiller would take Carbonaro to an ice cream parlor, buy her a sundae, and studiously take notes. "He had a notebook with him at all times and he was always writing down things I'd say," Carbonaro recalled in an "exclusive" interview from more than 20 years ago.
The mid-1990s Q&A with Carbonaro appeared in Lowest Common Denominator, a print publication for New Jersey radio station WFMU. It's the only known interview in which Carbonaro talks about her relationship with Bushmiller. According to her, the budding cartoonist was not a family favorite. In fact, he cultivated a friendship with Carbonaro because he wanted to court her sister.
"The furthest he ever got in my house was the foyer. My father refused to have him inside," she said. "He didn't think anyone who drew cartoons as a living could ever support himself, never mind a wife and family."
Was Carbonaro the real "Nancy?" Bushmiller was not around to confirm or deny the validity of the LCD interview. He died in 1982.
At any rate, Carbonaro's account of her time with Bushmiller is a colorful read. And she did seem to share Nancy's appetite for sweets – she claims she could down the "Kitchen Sink" sundae at Jahn's parlor all by herself.
To read a selection of Bushmiller's strips, visit Nancy Classics on GoComics.com.