Local Obituaries

Miami Beach designer Leonard Glazer, who lit up famous hotels, dies at 93

Leonard Glazer, a Miami Beach electrical engineer from 1948 to 1992, designed the lighting at iconic hotels like the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc, Deauville, as well as the runway lights at Miami International Airport.
Leonard Glazer, a Miami Beach electrical engineer from 1948 to 1992, designed the lighting at iconic hotels like the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc, Deauville, as well as the runway lights at Miami International Airport. Glazer family

Leonard Glazer put the “Magic” in the Magic City.

This man heard “Let there be light” at some point and made it his career and legacy.

Glazer, an electrical engineer and lighting designer, worked alongside noted architects Morris Lapidus and Alfred Parker Browning during the boom years of Miami and Miami Beach in the 1950s and ’60s. Together, they rolled out visually distinct landmarks.

Been dazzled by the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc, Deauville and Carillon hotels in Miami Beach? Glazer set their lights dancing. He also designed the lighting for the Miami-Dade County Courthouse and the runway lights at Miami International Airport and lit numerous projects in the Dominican Republic, Acapulco, Bermuda and Ecuador.

If all of that wasn’t enough to earn Glazer the “Magic” Man handle, his cultural savvy and style also inspired the stories in the set-in-Miami TV drama and forthcoming spinoff movie, Magic City, that his son, producer-writer Mitch Glazer, created. The show’s moral “Arthur Evans” grandfather character, played by the late Alex Rocco, was patterned after Leonard Glazer.

I would go with him at 8, 9 years old into these hotels as they were being built and he would tell [stories]. As a writer, you squirrel away the best tales and I used almost all of them. He got a huge kick when he came by the set.

‘Magic City’ writer/producer Mitch Glazer on the influence of his father, Leonard Glazer, who designed the lighting at many of the Beach’s iconic hotels.

Glazer, who died at 93 Monday in Coral Gables, lit Miami Beach from the time he arrived from Philadelphia in 1948, to his retirement in 1992. For the man Lapidus referred to as “my engineer,” it was his own love affair with the city that sparked his creativity.

All of his classic-era work was done via eight simple drafting tables at his office, his son said. “Everything being built in Miami was coming across his desk. Anything of any size or reputation was happening there because Miami was on fire. It was an exciting time for him and, I think, he was really proud of his own legacy in the city.”

For instance, the original chandeliers at the Eden Roc were designed by Glazer and put together in Havana, under Glazer’s supervision. Decades later, one of these chandeliers would be featured on the 150,000-square-foot set built to replicate the Collins Avenue hotel of the 1950s for Magic City. Glazer, a frequent visitor to the set, “looked up and recognized the chandelier as an original from the Eden Roc,” Mitch Glazer said. The elder Glazer, who participated in sit-ins at Miami’s old McCrory’s store during the Civil Rights struggle in the ’60s and lived for his beloved Miami Dolphins, was moved to tears.

Glazer and his wife, the late English teacher Zelda, raised an artistically creative family from their home of 50 years on Miami Beach’s Hibiscus Island. In addition to their producer son Mitch, who also wrote for Rolling Stone, daughter Amy is a writer/director (Seducing Charlie Barker). “They were so proud of the city becoming more of a cultural hub, we were exposed to that at an early age,” Mitch Glazer said.

In addition to his day job, which made his projects attractive to the glitterati of the time like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and The Beatles, Glazer was a foreign film aficionado who, in 1965, created his own film society in a theater tucked inside downtown Miami’s DuPont Plaza Hotel.

“I was an usher in sixth grade and watched [Jean-Luc Godard’s] Alphaville and the other great foreign films out of the catalog of 16mm prints. He would send out fliers and people paid to come and he did that for a few years. It was the first of its kind in Miami and even though he was an electrical engineer, my father’s taste was really interesting. As far as movies, he definitely influenced me and my sister,” Mitch Glazer said.

To the end, Glazer marveled at the city he helped light.

“There was no place else he wanted to live. Miami was it. To his last breath, he was at The Palace and he would look out and say, ‘Isn’t Miami beautiful?’ At 93, he still was a booster.”

In addition to his son and daughter, Glazer is survived by his grandchildren Liam Connolly and Shane Lynch. Donations can be made in his name to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen