New York City, 1974
A recollection by Leon Rosenblatt, Man of Miracles cover artist, journalist, designer and fine artist
I was living in New York in the 1970’s, working as an illustrator for The National Lampoon, Rolling Stone, Random House’s Ballantine Books and of course, RCA Records. One day I got a call from Ace Leyman, RCA’s Art Director at the time, who wanted to know if I ever heard of a Chicago group called Styx, or their previous record label Wooden Nickel (which I had not.)
RCA thought highly of the group and wondered if I might be interested in painting a cover for their RCA debut album, which had a working title of Man of Miracles. I was intrigued and asked to listen to some of the rough cuts on the album. I liked what I heard and immediately started looking for a suitable “wizard” for the album’s cover. Lo and behold, that afternoon I was walking out of my Huntington Village studio when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to find a somewhat grizzled, but wise looking older man, who asked if I could lend him some change for a cup of coffee. His voice was low and scratchy, but his eyes held me with an intense sparkle. I asked his name, and he whispered “I’ve had many.”
“Are you from around here?” I said.
“Occasionally,” he replied. “So how about it? Do you have any spare change?”
I smiled. He smiled back.
“So what’s your current name,” I asked.
“Leonard,” he said, “but you can call me Leon. What’s yours?”
“Leon,” I said, "but you can call me Leon.”
He smiled. I smiled back and said, "How about we get a cup of coffee and something to eat at the diner across the street?”
We had lunch and I had my wizard for the album cover. He posed for me the next day for some photos. Leonard was very educated and entertained me with tales of New York’s art scene in the 1950’s. We became friends and he was a regular visitor for morning coffee in the studio while I worked on the painting of him, which he thought made him look too old.
“You are old” I told him, and he scoffed.
“Only on the outside,” he answered. “So, can you make me look a little younger?”
“Only on the inside,” I said.
Leonard hung around the studio until the painting was completed. He never told me if he liked the finished piece, but that was OK. We were in the studio the day before I delivered the artwork to RCA when I called Ace Leyman and asked if I could sign it on the cover, but he said it wasn’t company policy, so I secretly signed my initials, hidden on the shoulder of the wizard's robe. Leonard had overheard the conversation but didn’t comment until I finished rendering the initials.
Then he stood, looked closely at the painting, and said “not too bad.”
He left that afternoon. I never saw him again.
San Juan County, Washington, USA, 2022
Leonard the wizard at a birthday party for the son of Leon Rosenblatt