LeRoy Neiman’s unique handlebar mustache and brightly colored paintings of sports figures and sporting events made him stand out as an artist. He sometimes painted “live” during telecasts of the Olympics and Super Bowls. Neiman left a body of artwork that covered other areas such as famous locations, celebrities and animals. He passed away on Wednesday of natural causes at the age of 91, states Reuters. His memoir “All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies and Provocateurs,” was published a few days before his birthday. Find out more on the life and times of LeRoy Neiman.
* Born LeRoy Runquist on June 8, 1921 in St. Paul, Minn., to Lydia Sophia Serline and Charles Julius Runquist, reports CNN. His mother was of Turkish descent and his father of Swedish descent.
* He later adopted a new surname, Neiman, from his stepfather when his biological father, a railroad worker, abandoned the family.
* After serving in the U.S. military during WWII in the Normandy invasion and Battle of the Bulge he attended Chicago’s School of the Art Institute on the G.I. Bill.
*One of Neiman’s first jobs as an artist was doing freelance fashion illustrations for the Chicago department store Carson Pirie Scott. Hugh Hefner was employed there as a copywriter. Hefner was about to publish his first issue of a men’s magazine, according to The New York Times.
*Neiman ran into Hefner five years later to show him his artwork. He would eventually do the artwork for Playboy’s party-jokes page. Later on he was assigned a running feature titled “Man at His Leisure” going to glamour spots around the world and coming back with his visual art reports.
* His friendship with Hefner had remained for over 50 years. He ignored critics who stated his credibility as an artist would be ruined if he worked at Playboy magazine.
* Art critics dismissed Neiman’s work as mere magazine illustrations with pretensions. However, his collections have been featured in museums around the world.
* Through Hugh Hefner is how Neiman met his sports muse, Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay). He painted a dozen portraits of the famed boxer.
* One of the celebrities he painted was Sylvester Stallone. As a result Stallone gave him a cameo role where he appeared in three of the “Rocky” films.
* LeRoy Neiman is survived by his wife Janet, whom he married in 1957. She worked in the copywritring department, along with Hefner, at Carson Pirie Scott.