So long, Leonard, you really were King of Coconut Grove

Leonard King

They came from far and wide to celebrate the life of Leonard King. They gathered at Scotty’s Landing, a locals’ dining place on the shore of Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove.

There were faces from decades past, many not seen in the Grove for years and many more from very recent times, people who were befriended by Leonard over the years. Ron and Josie Higgins were there, and Dave Hill and Joel Krieger and John Lawrence and Don and Kathy Kesler and so many, many more. In fact, more than 150 folks packed into Scotty’s to remember Leonard by drinking a beer or two, swapping stories and listening to Keven Hurley sing and play his guitar.

Lenny would have been proud that so many turned out to remember him. He would have smiled that impish grin and said, “I told you so.”

I knew Leonard King for about 40 years. I don’t know when he got the title of the King of Coconut Grove; it was a name that just seemed to fit him and he wore it with a smile.

Leonard was a true original — Grove resident, artist, filmmaker, friend to many, a man who always was ready to lend a hand, ready to be your friend.

Ellie Brecher, in her obituary story in the Miami Herald, said Leonard was among the last of the Grove’s 1960s-era bohemian artists. I suppose he was that, for sure. He always liked to tell people that he was close friends with the celebrated Grove artist Tony Scornavaca and that he was part of the gang of artists that created the original Coconut Grove Art Festival that has morphed into the giant spectacle that it is today.

Leonard certainly was an original, the very fact that he is credited with founding the Royal Blowgun Society at the old Taurus Restaurant on Main Highway in the Grove is one testament to that. The fact that he considered himself “an artist for the 21st Century” is another.

In line with that, one of Leonard’s biggest claims to a legacy is his invention of what he called “the variable form abstract image reflector” in 1972. The idea was to use warped, concave mirrors to create abstract images that interact with the viewer as he moves in front of it. He called it optic-kinetic art and some of his pieces are in the permanent art collections at Miami Beach City Hall, New England Center for Contemporary Art, and (his favorite) the Kiev Modern Art Museum in the Ukraine. Another piece — Chaos in Altered Space created from trash left by Hurricane Andrew — was displayed for the better part of a year at Miami Metrozoo (now Zoo Miami) back in the 1990s.

Leonard King died quite suddenly of natural causes on Sept. 28. He was about a month shy of his 85th birthday. I and many others will miss him.

Goodbye, Leonard.

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