Fond memories, forever friends
I first created the Amsel appreciation site in early 2008. Back then it was a struggle to find people who knew Richard Amsel personally. Over the years, the website's growing popularity was critical in helping me find people -- or, more accurately, having people find me, either through emails or Facebook posts on message boards about their remembrances .
One such person was Gloria Leschen, who in late 2015 posted about her memories of Richard Amsel's early days in New York City. She even helped him find his first apartment on 83rd Street, which at the time was a new complex built directly across from her building.
A year later, in November 2016, I received a separate message from Marsha Cohen, who also recalled her friendship with the artist during the early days of his career. Their first meeting seems right out of a Hollywood storybook: Cohen was tending tables at a restaurant, and struck up a conversation with the handsome (if somewhat peculiar-looking) young patron. A friendship was born, and Amsel would go on to help Cohen get a job as an assistant at his agency, Artists Associates.
I struck up separate email and phone conversations with both Gloria and Marsha, and -- being the somewhat slow-brained fellow that I am -- it took me some time before I realized that these two women not only knew each other, but had been close friends for decades. When it came time to coordinate their interviews, I felt it'd be best to film them together, with the hopes chemistry would spark. And it did.
Marsha Cohen (left) and Gloria Leschen (right), during our interview in Cohen's apartment.
Afterwards, they took me on a tour of the city (though I drove -- a terrifying journey for a guy in a rental jeep, inexperienced with NYC traffic, and during a torrential downpour, no less). We visited Amsel's apartment building, the former location of Artists Associates, and the galleries of The Society of Illustrators.
Gloria and Marsha regretted having lost touch with Amsel after their time together in the late 1960s-early 1970s. Such things can happen in life, and we don't always know why some people might compartmentalize their friendships over the years. Amsel's skyrocketing career no doubt led him into different social circles. But it was clear to me that Gloria and Marsha's mutual affection for the artist never waned.
Gloria recalled how her sister, a then 16 year-old aspiring artist, met with Amsel, who encouraged her to embark on an illustration career. She was so inspired that she took his advice, and meeting him changed the course of her professional career.