Douglas Leigh, famous for his billboard overlooking Times Square of the Smoking Marlboro Man, as well as his colorfully lighting the top of the Empire State Building, wished to design, all in lights, snow falling over New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Douglas Leigh contacted me to meet with him. Well past the age of when a person might normally retire, I met with an approximately eighty-year-old alert and energetic man in a corner office of what had once been his empire. One that used to fill the entire floor of a grand midtown office building. Now he was only assisted by his long time associate, and friend, who was also well past retirement age. Douglas Leigh showed me photographs that he’d personally taken of bare light bulbs suspended over streets in Zurich Switzerland during the winter with snow laying on the ground. While sharing his photographs with me, Douglas Leigh explained how he’d had an idea. Why not create a “Lighting Spectacular” in the middle of Manhattan, to be suspended above New York’s Fifth Avenue.
Over the next several days the three of us used a scale model I was building inside his corner office to refine this rough idea into a beatiful 3-dimensional reality. Once Douglas Leigh was satisfied with our shared efforts I watched as he stepped into his private office where, keeping his door open, I listened to him telephone the Director of Tiffany Jewelers in order to request a meeting. Also requested to be there was Mr Bergdorf of Bergdorf-Goodman, as well as the owner of every other building facing, plus all the land that lay underneath, Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.
The following day Douglas Leigh and I hailed a Checker Cab, the only New York public transport large enough to carry the scale model I’d just completed, to Tiffany Jewelers. Inside Tiffany’s third floor conference room everyone was already gathered. I stood by my scale model with my hand on a button ready to light up my ‘self-illuminating’ model. While Douglas Leigh, with the most childlike happy expression on his eighty-year-old face, stepped over to the conference room light switch. Mr Leigh turned off the room lights, as I ‘turned on’ my model. A model that depicted all four buildings surrounding this famous intersection, featuring in its’ center a self-illuminating design showing eight stories of snow falling, encircling a singular snow flake that would measure, once built in reality, five-stories high.
Everyone in the room gasped in awe in an otherwise absolutely silent room.
When Douglas Leigh turned on the room lights, someone inquired, “How much?” Douglas Leigh gave a dollar amount. An amount that seemed to relax everyone present in the room. By all of them sharing in the cost, everyone involved in the buildings and land surrounding this intersection found the total dollar amount to be quite affordable.
Douglas Leigh then expressed the marketing importance of building this design. This immensely visually powerful lighting spectacular of falling snow would draw people up Fifth Avenue during the winter, away from Rockefeller Center and its long time popular Christmas tree lights and ice skating rink, as well as Saks Fifth Avenue’s charming holiday decorated windows.
Everyone attending relaxed. Some stood while others sat in conference table chairs. All were amiably chatting as if old friends. I was introduced to the Director of Tiffany Jewelers, with Mr Bergdorf standing nearby. Shaking Tiffany Jewelers Director’s hand I shared with him how I had just been requested by Tiffany Jewelers to build five original designs in scale model form depicting New York City ‘in the future’ – which Tiffany was scheduled to display the very next month in their world famous windows that faced New York’s Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.
Mr Bergdorf remarked, “Imagine.”
And I agreed. As I became that day the man who helped the man who lit up Manhattan.
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“We recommend you with pleasure. We have worked with you on several occasions and each time your manner was cooperative, your suggestions thoughtful and your work creative. Your simulation of lighting was well executed and served to create a model which impressed not only this organization but all who viewed the model. You present a product which meets or exceeds expectations.”
Douglas Leigh / President / The Douglas Leigh Organization
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