On the last day of the decade, Bill Bernstein will retire after 30 years with Time Inc., 26 of them on the staff of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. It would be easy to say that we are losing a layout artist—that is his title—but it would also be inaccurate, because there is virtually no job in our art department that Bernstein hasn't performed. Indeed, layout work has been the least of it. Need a photograph retouched? Call on Bernstein. Some hand lettering done? Bernstein's your man. A map drawn, or an illustration readied for reproduction? Get Bernstein. "There have been times when we would've been sunk without him," says Bernstein's longtime friend and boss, Art Director Dick Gangel. "He's a highly skilled troubleshooter"—a designation that befits an avid target shooter.
Bernstein's most notable feats of artistic marksmanship have been in the exacting field of dye-transfer retouching, the technical term for removing shadows and other imperfections from color photos. Using chemicals and brushes, Bernstein can re-create an athlete's face when shadows have blurred the features, eliminate background when it detracts from a subject, highlight brilliance in naturally bright colors and emphasize darkness in naturally somber ones. For 10 years he has contributed immeasurably to the magazine's high-quality color pictures.
Bernstein has always worked with enthusiasm. "In 48 years on various jobs, I've looked forward to getting up every morning and going to work," he says. "When I started out, with Raymond D. Levy Studios in 1932, I was paid about $15 a week and was glad to be making that much. I began by mixing paints and sweeping floors and wound up dipping into every facet of the art business. It was basic training you couldn't believe."
Bernstein later got basic training in the Army Air Corps. During World War II he was an air-traffic controller, guiding Spitfires and Mosquitos onto a landing strip near Norwich, England. Following his separation he worked as an art director for several printing concerns and ad agencies and as an assistant art studio manager. He joined Time Inc. in 1949 and four years later became one of the first to work for the projected magazine that became SI.
Upon retirement to Great Neck, N.Y., Bernstein will divide his time among wife Lillian, who's the business manager of a Manhattan art gallery, three children, two stepchildren, one grandchild and a number of new interests. "One of the first things I'm thinking of doing is returning to school to take some courses in money management," he says. "If there's any advice I'd give to people who are about to retire, it's to study up on economics and financing. Most companies have psychological advisers who help employees make the difficult adjustment to retirement, but few companies have financial advisers.
"I'm also going to continue repairing old radios [he gives them to charity] and do some writing. I hope to find some areas that are as challenging as the ones I've been involved in."
RETIREE BERNSTEIN: SI's 26-YEAR MAN