The lady behind 'The Lockhorns'

Bunny Hoest

So, Loretta looks over at her husband playing solitaire and says, "If I stole a minute of Leroy's time, it would be a petty crime."

Welcome to the mind of Bunny Hoest, the genius behind the popular newspaper cartoon "The Lockhorns," who says her reality is nothing like that of her characters.

But for more than 200 million readers, the cynical barbs tossed back and forth by this quarrelsome couple are part of a daily ritual that always makes us laugh and think about our own relationships.

"It's actually nothing like my life," said Hoest, a 77-year-old New Yorker who's been a part of the Lockhorns' world since her late husband Bill Hoest created it more than 40 years ago.

"It's all based on observations in everyday life. The Lockhorns are a negative role model. It's a gross exaggeration to make people aware of how silly they look when they are demeaning to their best friend."

Culture vulture

Hoest was in Charleston this week to visit family.

"I come every year for Spoleto," she said. "I love Charleston. It's a dream city for me. I just love walking down the streets and smelling the flowers."

Her daughter, Sharon Bowers, lives downtown with her husband, Nigel, an organizer with the South Carolina Aquarium. And, of course, her grandchildren grew up here, attending Porter Gaud, Ashley Hall and the College of Charleston.

"I'm a culture vulture," Hoest said. "I go to as many Spoleto events as I can while I'm here, from opera to the chamber concerts."

So you might have been sitting next to her recently and never knew you were sharing space with someone who seems to know what's going on inside your life.

"One woman told me, 'I feel as though you're living inside my closet,' " Hoest said with a laugh.

Wit and wisdom

Regular readers might notice that the Lockhorns never age, have no children and Leroy's job is somewhat vague. All by design.

"We leave a lot of room for people to fill in their own lives," said Hoest, who writes and designs the cartoon that is drawn by John Reiner. "For me, it's like directing a theatrical event. I see it in my head and relate it to John."

And she works far in advance. This week she was sending in captions and ideas that will appear in September.

And while she insists none of her three marriages resembled life with the Lockhorns, sooner or later her sarcastic wit finds its way onto everybody's refrigerator door as a reminder of just how funny everyday life can be.