Remembering the artistic soul Doug Leblang
by Michael Perlman
Apr 19, 2017 | 3322 views | 0 0 comments | 116 116 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Forest Hills resident Doug Leblang, a talented artist, commercial designer, illustrator, musician, teacher, and humanitarian, passed away unexpectedly on April 4 at the of age 70.

In 2013, he was featured in this column and focused on his passion as an artist, which originated during his childhood.

“I didn’t want toys,” he said at the time. “I wanted a pencil, so whenever my mom’s friends came over I would draw their portraits. In day camp I won a brotherhood contest, where I showed different colored hands shaking each other in a square.”

He taught a painting class at FEGS in the Bronx and assisted psychiatric patients in Queens. He performed music as the “One Man Klezmer Band,” and played with Lou Michaels at Red Pipe Café and Barnes & Noble.

In his paintings, he recognized natural wonders (“Central Park Rainbow”), honored notables from Theodore Bikel to Bob Dylan (“Cape Cod Vision”), and captured local cultural destinations like Eddie’s Sweet Shop and the New York State Pavilion

At the Queens Library, he coordinated the “Middle Village of Old” exhibit and was able to capture his childhood, creatively resurrecting the Arion Theatre, Willy’s Delicatessen and his father Dave’s business, Leblang’s Pharmacy, which opened in 1924 and served ice cream sodas.

Steve Tintweiss attended PS 87 for a time with Leblang, and both men would eventually become musicians.

“Our earliest jams were in Doug's basement, when he played piano for our doo-wop group Spindles,” Tintweiss recalled. “For several years, Doug was on the road performing on his Hammond B3 organ with a succession of bands, including Fifth Celebration.

“After retiring as art director for Philip Morris, he added clarinet, vocals, accordion, and melodica to his one-man band and duos,” he added.

Frank D’Abramo was in Fifth Celebration and Leblang's roommate at the time. He praised his pastel portraits and generosity.

“Doug would comment on how pretty a young lady was in the club and asked if she would sit for him,” D'Abramo said. “He made her look flawless and would give her the portrait. He also borrowed the band truck in Florida to help move a waitress in need, waking up way before our general time of noon.”

The band played in over 50 cities, and he recalled a meeting with Bob Hope at Hogate’s in Washington, D.C.

“One night, Bob Hope came in with a beautiful blonde, and Doug said, ‘It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Crosby,” said D'Abramo. “Bob replied, ‘Ah, a funny guy. You look too intelligent to have made that slip.’”

“Doug was a very funny and friendly kid and enormously talented,” said childhood friend Mark Glaser, who attended Hebrew school with him at the Jewish Center of Forest Hills West. “He was the same Doug when we reconnected nearly ten years ago at a Class of '58 public school reunion.

“When we got together at our annual pool party at my house, Doug was always the center of attention and a great storyteller who always entertained you with a joke,” he added.

“Doug played music in many libraries, nursing homes, and at my temple, B'nai Jeshurun, singing weekly for the homeless at the Judith Bernstein Lunch Program,” shared Sherri Heitner. “He knew all the old Yiddish, Jewish, and Klezmer music, and now whenever I hear it I think of him.”

“I knew that I could always count on him to brighten up the day with his beaming smile, jokes, and stories,” said his Forest Hills neighbor, Alison Weil Eisenstein. “Doug was a ‘mensch’ and ‘a gitte neshuma’ who now resides in heaven as a shining star.”
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