LeRoy Neiman was an Olympic painter — in more ways than one. Sure, he was known for his bold, rapid-fire brushwork that captured the brawn and verve of our most celebrated athlete-gods on the world sports stage. But he was kind of an Olympian, too: His own, artistic athleticism — reflected by the range of his subjects and the fervor with which he embraced them — might be worthy of a gold medal. (He would have probably rocked it like bling.)
In this Sept. 15, 1981 photo, Neiman paints Cher at Caesars Palace during a public vamp session to promote her upcoming concert. His association with hyperbolic entertainment icons such as Cher is just the tip of the headdress — the guy had neon and glitter and limelight firing up his blood. Many know him solely as a painter of athletes and entertainers, but Neiman, who died June 20 in New York, had a deep fondness for Las Vegas casinos; they channeled the restless energy he sought to put into every painting.
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And it wasn’t always a good and wholesome energy, either. In his recently published autobiography, “All Told: My Art and Life Among Athletes, Playboys, Bunnies and Provocateurs,” he characterized casino culture as “an entire world of freaks, fanatics, operators, suckers, sex, money and frothy make-believe.” He meant that in a good way. Hey, you have to take inspiration where you can find it.