In the 1980s, the pages of Playboy bore the hallmark of a unique artist who captured the essence of celebrities and society through deft strokes and raw creativity. That artist was LeRoy Neiman, whose sketches for the iconic magazine during that decade painted a vibrant picture of a transformative era.
One of Neiman's most famous subjects was the sensational singer Tina Turner. In Neiman's sketch, her dynamic figure is frozen mid-dance, while the description notes the energy she exudes on stage, "attracting huge audiences for two decades." The sketch captures Turner in a moment of rest, depicting her warmth and radiating soulful energy. Neiman calls her one of the "loveliest individuals" he ever sketched, paying homage to her dynamic personality and captivating performances.
In another of his works, Neiman portrays the actress and singer Cher with an unexpected element – a tattoo. He speaks about her "shapely body," complimenting her on a "fine tattoo" on her left ankle. In Cher's poised, classical pose, Neiman finds parallels with Modigliani and Botticelli's iconic works, elevating the pop culture icon to the realm of classic art.
Neiman's sketches often commented on societal norms and trends. He addressed America's fascination with height, depicted through the elegant, towering figures of showgirls. Though they may not have reached celebrity status like top fashion models, Neiman deemed them "equally elegant and doubly sexy," capturing their allure backstage and on stage.
Finally, Neiman welcomed the return of the "sexy, leggy cigarette girl" of the 1940s and '50s, a figure revived in part due to the marijuana kick of the '80s. While acknowledging the controversial aspects of the era, Neiman appreciated the unique charm and entrepreneurship of these women, as some were known to tuck away the controversial herb in their trays, "purely to accommodate," of course.
LeRoy Neiman's sketches and accompanying texts for Playboy offer a unique insight into a pivotal era. His perceptive eye and artistic flair immortalized figures and trends, blending high culture and popular culture in his signature style, and serving as a testament to his legacy as an artist