"I learned pretty quick that I couldn't eat and paint at the same time," says Tom Vanderschmidt of his days as an aspiring abstract expressionist in 1950s New York City. "Between classes at Cooper Union, I used to hang out at the old Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. It was the closest thing to an artists' bo√Æte you could find in America—Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and that crowd were there—and I hoped to pick up some pointers on painting. But all they did was slosh whiskey and argue about what pony to bet in the seventh at Aqueduct."
A mite disillusioned, Vanderschmidt channeled his creative impulses in other directions—first as a copy boy at TIME, later as a member of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's art staff and then as our associate director of photography. Tom left the staff in 1978 to freelance but returned last year to serve as art director of our first Football Spectacular. This year he returned for another hitch, working closely with football editors Joe Marshall (pro) and Bill Colson (college), Deputy Production Manager George Infante, Copy Coordinator Kate Scott and the picture staff. Tom's job: to oversee the entire "look" of the issue. "Abstract expressionism it ain't," he says. "Actually, it's more like concrete dynamism."
For a man who has to sift through some 2,000 pictures to find those precious few that convey the essence of America's most slambang sport, it may seem odd that Vanderschmidt, 47, never saw a football game until he was in his late 30s. "I know how to play cricket, though," he says. "I'll bet you don't." That's because he spent most of his childhood in England. His father, Fred Vanderschmidt, was a foreign correspondent and bureau chief in London for the Associated Press and Newsweek and eventually became chief of Newsweek's European correspondents. "There was a special mystique about foreign correspondents in those days," he says. "My dad had a trench coat, a Bogie hat, the works."
Vanderschmidt's European boyhood left its marks: He developed a taste for Continental cuisine and foreign sports cars. He is the proud papa of a '67 Lancia Fulvia in British racing green that currently resides in semiretirement at his country place in Sharon, Conn. "The town recently raised my property tax on that car from $2.50 to $70," he complains. "They said a machine of that marque and vintage is constantly gaining in value." The tax on haute cuisine is paid in pounds, not dollars. "I do all the cooking in the family," Vanderschmidt says, "from pot-au-feu to pastries. I got started as a kid. We had a villa in Cannes, so I was corrupted early. English cooking is of course dreadful, and my mother didn't care much for kitchens, so when we got back to Britain I'd mess around with the pots and pans trying to recapture the tastes we'd had to leave behind in the South of France."
The family he cooks for these days includes his mellifluously named wife, Fortunata Sydnor Trapnell Vanderschmidt, who is the assistant managing editor of DISCOVER, and their rambunctious tomcat Booze (so named for his habit of nosing in on Tom's preprandial cocktail). Like many fine chefs, Vanderschmidt pays the price of his art in added girth. "I'm afraid I look like a burgher in a Frans Hals portrait," he says. "But everyone at SI is so fit that someone has to be the exception."
Not to worry, Tom. There's no sense jogging when you can drive over in your Lancia.
VANDERSCHMIDT'S FEAST FOR THE EYES