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The Rolling Stones' famous red mouth and tongue logo was a caricature of Mick Jagger, says Ruby Mazur. Photo by CHRISTINE H. WETZEL

Thursday, September 30, 2004
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

No moss

Rolling Stones logo artist Ruby Mazur quietly (and soberly) pursues his craft in Las Vegas

By Tiffannie Bond

Ruby Mazur is a hippie from the good days of hippiness. He could be framed on the wall in a museum, and when children in 2041 ask, "What were the 1970s like?" Mazur could be frozen there for all time, smiling with his tongue sticking out.

He's partied with Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. He easily slipped past the velvet rope at the famous Studio 54 in New York City when admission was nearly impossible.

"I painted all day and did drugs at night. It was insane," Mazur says. "Of all the abusive things I've done, I was never out of control in public. I'd party with them, but I never went overboard. Maybe that's why I'm still alive and they're not. It's very surreal."

In the first years of college, Mazur and his brother spent weekends in New York City at their father's club, The Cat and Fiddle. There, they met a "short, fuzzy-haired, stumpy kid" named Billy Joel, Mazur says, and started to manage his career.

The only thing that dates back further than Mazur's rock 'n' roll days is his art. He started drawing at age 5, and by 21 his ability to go balls-out during an interview landed him the job as artistic director at Paramount Records.

He didn't even know the size of a record album.

Two offices later, he's sitting in Los Angeles pulling out what's left of his hair over a deadline. His secretary called to say the lead singer of the Rolling Stones was on the phone. Mazur thought it was a joke and hung up on him. Next thing he knew, Mick Jagger was walking through the door. He dropped everything.

Mazur tells the story of the first time he walked into the recording studio where the Stones were preparing Sticky Fingers. A sterling silver bowl was on the counter, filled with sugar. Or so he thought. It turns out they didn't like a lot of sugar in their tea. They enjoyed their cocaine.

Nervous, Mazur fumbled and knocked the whole thing onto the floor.

All was forgiven by the time Mazur returned with sketches of the logo they hired him to create. The famous red mouth and tongue was a caricature of Jagger. The singer saw it and pushed Mazur into the pool out of excitement.

"He loved it, and 35 years later here we are," Mazur says. He's locked in a legal battle with Jagger's people these days, suing for millions of dollars over royalties for his design dating to 1971. Album covers were a one-shot deal. No residuals.

"It was work for hire. Once it was done, it was done," Mazur says. "They'd pay me $5,000, and that was it. It's wrong. Now I won't do anything like that without a contract and a royalty agreement. You have to [protect yourself] or they will fuck you."

In true hippie form, Mazur was up all night working on the album cover for Richard Harris' Slides. Some Quaaludes and cocaine later, he finished the album and sent it to the printer. Back then, there was no such thing as artist or legal approval. This was the night Mazur learned a strung-out artist should never be set free without a sober proofread.

Days later, Mazur got a call. About 250,000 copies had been printed with "Once Upon a Dutsy Road" instead of "dusty." Not to mention at least a dozen other mistakes.

"That was the last time I ever did drugs and worked," Mazur says. "That was embarrassing. Dope is for dopes. If I was my boss, I would've fired me."

A few sobering moments in Mazur's life have caused the hippie to tone it down a bit. But not too much. He named his four children after master painters--film actress Monet Mazur, 26, Matisse, 18, and twins Cezanne and Miro, 16. He moved out of the Red Rock Country Club in Summerlin because it was "too snobby" and into Rhodes Ranch, where he's spent the past few months of his five-year stint in the city. He lives there with his two dogs, Lucy and Zeus, each more than 100 pounds.

Most days he wakes up "with a ball of energy" at 2:30 a.m., drinks his coffee, reads the news on the Internet and starts to paint. "During the day, all the shit starts. The phone starts to ring," he says. "From 3 in the morning to 9, I get more work done. There's plenty of time to sleep when you're dead. There's too much to do."

He guesses his funky sleep schedule started after the second fire of his career destroyed his collection of paintings two weeks before his first big art show in New York. He woke up early to paint in order to have pieces to fill the walls.

"I hit one of the firemen because he wouldn't let me in the apartment. They picked me up and threw me out into the street," he says. "I was crying on the curb watching the building burn down. It was either blow my brains out or get my shit together and get going again."

In his studio, a converted living room, he's working on a logo for his bowling league, The Bowling Stones, and a birthday present for his daughter. "It's late," he says. Her birthday was in April. "I'll be up all weekend working on that."

Most of his paintings are stored at warehouses or the Art de Vignettes gallery in the Fashion Show Mall. He's not taking another chance.

"If it happened again, I just might lose it," Mazur says. He lost his 3,000-album collection of his designs in a fire five years before the New York incident. "Kill me, not my paintings."

When he's not painting, Mazur says he hangs out with Lance Burton and Clint Holmes. He also scans yard sales and thrift stores for a piece of his own history. His collection of his album designs now reaches a meek 100. He was excited to go to his daughter's house and find a mouth-and-tongue-shaped telephone. Any memorabilia is up for grabs.

"I said, 'It's mine,' because I lost all my Stones shit," he says. His daughter bought the phone for $3 at a yard sale. "It's crazy because now I'm spending $20 to $30 on an album. I just found a couple of Charlie Daniels [album covers] I did."

Mazur admits he can't remember every one of the more than 3,000 record albums he created. When he sees them in the bins at a thrift store, or on a table at a garage sale, "it clicks," he says.

But that may be because of all the drugs he did in the '70s.


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