The Business I Did Not Start
My near miss with LeRoy NeimanMay 6, 2014 By Denny Hatch
Back in the early 1980s, Peggy and I were taken to an open house at the Nutmeg Curling Club in Darien, Conn. We tried the sport and liked it.
Dues were cheap, and curling was a grand diversion over the winter—a sport to enjoy from ages 8 to 80. Fellow members were all party animals. Booze flowed and second-hand cigarette smoke was a fact of life.
I never got good at curling, but Peggy excelled. She traveled to bonspiels (friendly competitions in the northeast) and had a blast. After a few years, her team won the regionals and she went off to compete nationally.
Booths were set up at bonspiels and championship events to sell equipment—brooms, shoes, gloves and clothing.
Others offered stone tchotchkes made from the Ailsa Craig granite island off the coast of Scotland's Turnberry golf course. It is the only granite in the world suitable for curling stones.
Occasionally a marketer of curling art would exhibit—mostly reproductions of 19th century paintings, prints and etchings. Here were Scotsmen in kilts and tams curling on a frozen pond or canal. The modern prints, drawings and paintings were artistic crap.
Curling pins and patches were coin of the realm among curlers. Every club had a pin and every event was memorialized with a pin.
[See the first image in the media player at upper right for a sampling of Peggy's curling collectibles.]
My LeRoy Neiman idea
Back then, ABC's Wide World of Sports was hosted by Jim McKay. Every weekend viewers were offered the consummate coverage of world class competition—sailing, skiing, figure skating, the Triple Crown, track and field, gymnastics and, of course, the Olympics.
The premier sports artist of the time was LeRoy Neiman—a cigar-chomping macho man with a mustache that covered his face from ear to ear. ABC would hire Neiman to paint sports pictures on camera. His trademark was a series of vivid colors and impressionistic images that shimmered with energy and movement.
Posters of his work sold all over the world. Signed prints commanded over $1,000 each. Original paintings were out of sight.
On a whim, I decided to look into hiring Neiman to create a curling painting from which signed prints could be made.