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Leee Black Childers: An appreciation

“The word legendary is thrown about a lot,” Chalkie Davies wrote on his Facebook page yesterday, “but there is no question that Lee truly deserved the title.”

Leee Black Childers at Max's Kansas City in 1973.
Danny Fields

Davies, a legendary rock photographer in his own right, was reporting the death yesterday of Leee Black Childers, a legend indeed in rock photography, famed for his early photos of David Bowie and for chronicling New York’s Andy Warhol era and ensuing punk rock scene. Many of his photos and stories were compiled in the recently published Drag Queens, Rent Boys, Pick Pockets, Junkies, Rockstars and Punks tome, which includes iconic shots of Bowie, Warhol, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Robert Mapplethorpe, Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols and Warhol "superstars" Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling.

“His photographs documented the 60's and 70's,” continued Davies. “He was one of the most original of punks [and] brought us many fabulous images of Bowie, Iggy, Debbie and Lou. He hung with Andy, managed Johnny Thunders' band The Heartbreakers, and he really was one of the sweetest of men. It’s another sad day in rock ‘n’ roll.”

According to Childers’ friend and fellow key New York arts and culture scenester Danny Fields, “he was the best storyteller alive, and one of the smartest people, glamorous and brilliant and always at the right place and at the right time. And he was a fabulous photographer! All I can do is spill out superlatives.”

“And he could tell a story like nobody,” notes Fields, recalling when he and Childers were being interviewed for a documentary at the deli where Max’s Kansas City, the famed New York nightclub that was a favorite Warhol and punk rock stomping ground, once stood. “I just wanted to crawl under a table instead of wasting tape whenever the camera was pointed in my direction. He could tell stories of what went on in this corner and that corner.”

Even though he hailed from Kentucky, Childers’ was a “real New York story,” maintains Fields, who met Childers back in the Warhol days. He reports that Childers died of natural causes in Los Angeles.

“RIP Leee,” concluded Davies. “You will be missed more than you will ever know.”

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