Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Biography
from Independent Book Publishing Association, 2022
LEETEG: BABES, BARS, BEACHES, AND BLACK VELVET ART
The Collectors’ Edition of Leeteg: Babes, Bars, Beaches, and Black Velvet Art is limited to only 99 number copies.
Autographs included (photos of each signature found below):
- Signed by his only three children, all now around 80 years old (from Jackie Cadousteau and Stella Ebb) —
- Laverne Leeteg
- Edgar, Jr, Leeteg (Laverne’s brother)
- William Ropati Leeteg
- Also signed by the Authors: CJ Cook and Michael Ashley
- And the Book Designer, Claudine Mansour
- Also available: Personalized inscription by CJ Cook (optional)
This is a story of a most memorable rascal from the South Pacific.
256 pages and more than 510 photographs.
Purchase 2-book set with Free Shipping*!
Enjoy both Biographies of the best Black Velvet artists of the South Pacific. (Please note: this book set does not contain Collector’s Editons.)
Book pair includes Leeteg: Babes, Bars, Beaches and Black Velvet Art, and Tyree: Artist of the South Pacific. * Free shipping USA only. Not available overseas.
Genesis of a Genre
What follows is the story of the “American Gauguin,” Edgar Leeteg. Leaving California in 1933, with oil paints and a few paintbrushes, he conquered the South Pacific art scene, and of course, its nightlife. Hard-drinking, constantly womanizing, and endlessly painting, Leeteg, the original “Tiki Man,” started the black velvet craze linked to South Pacific-themed restaurants.
Read this sensational story of Leeteg, black velvet artist and party man of Tahiti, who painted sumptuous vahines in his tropical paradise Villa Velour on the island of Moorea between 1933-1953.
Throughout his life, shrewd promoter and creative genius Edgar Leeteg possessed many titles, astonishing fans, and antagonizing critics. Once memorialized by James Michener as an original “Rascal in Paradise,” he redefined artistic success by pioneering a form of painting in the South Pacific that would forever change the world.
His home in Tahiti allowed him to paint nudes, drink, and party with sensual vahines from the beaches to the bars of Tahiti (Captain Louis Bougainville’s birthplace of the Venus, goddess of love).
Leeteg described himself as a “fornicating, gin-soaked, dope head,” and all the artists and writers of the South Pacific knew of him. He took on the elite of the art establishment of the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1938 and shamed them in the press. He painted murals in fine establishments in Honolulu and Tahiti. He sheltered himself and his family on the neighboring island of Moorea. However, his self-promotional newspaper “letters to the editor” and drinking bouts in the bars of Papeete, especially Quinn’s Tahitian Hut, made him a most famous scoundrel in the South Seas. He was a wealthy artist and legend in his lifetime and a goal few artists can achieve. Tourists visiting Tahiti would seek him out for his generosity of wine, women, and song on his Shangri-la-like estate called Villa Velour on his quiet isle. He was the father of black velvet art and the genesis of a genre continuing today with the tiki and Polynesian pop art movement nearly 70 years later.
Instead of viewing Leeteg as a relic of some unenlightened period, we should ask ourselves, what can this genius teach us about what it means to create and fearlessly love? When we look back at Leeteg, we encounter our reflection, forcing us to reckon with our existence. When this occurs, a question leaps to us: Did we live as much as we could?
When it comes to Leeteg, we know the answer.
People Who Bought This Book Had This to Say
5.0 out of 5 stars
Entertaining and Inspiring Read of a Rebel
The story of Edgar Leeteg reads like a novel with vivid scenes and gripping dialogue that is frequently comical and often suspenseful reflecting the unpredictability of the rebellious artist.
It’s tough not to be entertained and inspired Edgar’s success story, even if he sometimes makes you wince or shake your head. He struggled in life, and for a time made a living painting signs in Tahiti, then asking local women to model for paintings that he sold to tourists. This turned into an amazing career, as he became the godfather of sorts for painting on black velvet.
He at times seemed like a rock star—living a wild life, partying hard, drinking, gambling, and engaging in bar fights. He even described himself as “fornicating, gin-soaked, dope head.”
On flip side, he cared for his mother, who lived with him on the island. Leeteg comes from a line of artists, though his father was a butcher. His father died when Edgar was just 12 in, leaving his mother to care for him—and they forged a very close relationship. Needless to say, Edgar veered closer to the legacy of his grandfather—a German sculptor—than his father the Illinois butcher.
The book also gives a crash course in Tahiti and its history that encouraged rascal behavior from Leeteg and others who visited or lived there. Leeteg was never exactly accepted in the highbrow art world and didn’t really want to be, generally raging against the establishment.
That’s perhaps why this book is so enjoyable for those that might not be interested in art or art history.
Anyone who likes disruptors in the world of business, academia, government or anywhere else will really be able to identify with this. It’s really a story of a rebel, a very colorful rogue, that drives the story of an unlikely success story that left a lasting impact. Great writing and wonderful storytelling.
"This book is so much more than I expected. It’s not just about Leeteg, but all the detail and “science” behind who (and why) the man was. This book is rich with interesting facts that I never pieced together before. I think I’ll have to start over and read it again!! I shared the copy with my 96-year-old mother, and she finished it before me. She absolutely loved it too! Congratulations CJ. You created a work of art. Seriously.”
“Art, booze, brawls, women, parties and late-night escapades. This story has it all. Little was really known about Leeteg till now. C J Cook has unearthed the people, places, stories and bare facts on renowned artist and party man Edger Leeteg. One of the Pacific's legendary characters, a master of his craft, Leeteg's life story finally wrapped up inside this rich historical read brimming with stunning art and imagery. A story waiting to be told and delighted to see it finally has and one I can’t seem to put down. I’m hooked.”
“Hey this book is amazing and overwhelming... for Leeteg wannabees, a slice of life most wished they were a part of...”
"CJ Cook draws Leeteg out of the velvet shadow created by myth, making him the ‘American Gauguin’."