Richard Leck, Longtime Village Figure, Finally Laid to Rest


Richard Leck, the East Village habitue whose death we reported two weeks ago, was buried today in Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.

Leck, 75, a former soldier, died of heart disease on Dec. 19 without next of kin. His friends had contacted the Voice because they feared that he would end up in a pauper’s grave.

But the city Medical Examiner, the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs, the VA, and a coalition of veteran’s groups got together in impressive speed and took care of the transportation and burial of his body.

In other words, the system worked. Kudos to them.

We wrote about Leck because he was one of that disappearing class of people who make the neighborhood colorful and interesting.

As a young man, in the 1960’s, Leck was a fixture in the flourishing café scene at places like Café Figaro, the Commons, the Limelight and Café Feenjon. There he hung out with Yoko Ono, Shel Silverstein, the eccentric late night radio host Long John Nebel, the artist Yukiko Katsura, and the Feenjon’s arm-wrestling owner, Manny Dworman, among other bold-faced names, according to accounts he gave his biographer.

He had a long, strange and varied working career. He was an artist, drawings mainly. He took acting classes at Stella Adler, and got a part as an extra in the cheesy horror movie “Bucket Head.” He sold knick-knacks on the street. He worked in a Jewish child care program for children.

He was intermittently homeless, finally finding a real place to live in 1993 at the Sirovich Senior Center on East 12th Street.

In his later years, Leck’s poetry was published by Karen Lillis’ Words Like Kudzu Press in Pittsburgh. Lillis describes Leck “as a character, a bohemian, and an astute observer of city life… He embodied the pace of the old village.”

In his poem, “Residents,” Leck seemed to be referring to folks like himself when he wrote:

Let dandelions be. They break up

the monotony of the grass.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 23, 2009

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