Lenny Lipton, ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ Lyricist and 3-D Film Pioneer, 82, Dies

Leonard Lipschitz was born on May 18, 1940, in Brooklyn. His father, Samuel, owned a soda shop and died when Leonard was 12. His mother, Carrie (Hibel), a teletype operator, later changed their surname to Lipton.

His mother inspired his love for film by taking him to some of Brooklyn’s many grand old movie palaces, like the Ambassador and the Paramount, while his father inspired his love for filmmaking by bringing home a toy film projector. Leonard soon assembled his own, using aluminum foil, a toilet-paper roll and a magnifying glass.

He entered Cornell intending to study electrical engineering but quickly switched to physics, where he felt more freedom to experiment.

After graduating in 1962, he got a job at Time magazine in New York, then became an editor at Popular Photography. After work he would head to a small theater in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, where he and some friends presented the latest movies to emerge from the city’s underground film scene.

He did much the same in California, though without the need for a day job. He wrote a weekly film column for The Berkeley Barb, an alternative newspaper, and made several short documentaries shot on 16 mm film, including “Let a Thousand Parks Bloom,” about the clashes surrounding People’s Park in Berkeley, and “Children of the Golden West,” a rambling, touching portrait of his countercultural friends.

In addition to “Independent Filmmaking,” Mr. Lipton wrote several other books, among them “The Super 8 Book” (1975), “Lipton on Filmmaking” (1979) and, in 2021, “Cinema in Flux: The Evolution of Motion Picture Technology from the Magic Lantern to the Digital Era,” an 800-page opus on the history of movie making.


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