Lenny Litman who started out as a sports writer became a promoter of music and sports. As a music writer for Billboard and Variety he reviewed national acts appearing in Pittsburgh and gave national attention to Pittsburgh performers. As the owner-producer of Mercur’s Music bar and Lenny Litman's Copa, he brought major performers such as Miles Davis, Art Tatum, and Ella Fitzgerald to Pittsburgh between 1945 and 1959. During the 1960s and 1970’s he brought the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, the Band and other acts to Pittsburgh concert venues. In sports he promoted fights and founded Pittsburgh’s first ABL team the Rens.
The son of Eastern European immigrants Norman Leonard Litman was born in 1914 in North Braddock. He began his writing career while in high school in 1931 covering high school sports for the Braddock Daily News Herald, The Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1937. After he wrote a story about cowboy movie star Hoot Gibson, he became Gibson's press agent and promoter. Moving to Hollywood he worked as press agent and promoter for boxers, small circuses, and a donkey ball troupe. He returned to Pittsburgh to attend Law School at Pitt for one year. Enlisting in the Navy in 1941 he served for years until 1945.
In 1945 Lenny and his brothers Archie and Eugene bought Mercur's Music Bar. It was major jazz venue from 1945 to 1948 presenting Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Ethel Waters, Reid Jaynes, George Shearing, Mary Lou Williams and Walt Harper. Lenny and his brothers purchased the Villa Madrid club on 818 Liberty Ave in downtown Pittsburgh in 1948 renaming it the Copa. Bringing Frankie Laine, Vic Damone, Ella Fitzgerald the club became a popular night spot. Lenny has talent for discover unknown performers and signing them with “options” that gave him the right to bring them back at low rates. The club sat 287 and held three shows a night, Monday through Saturday. The clubs headliners over the years included: Johnny Mathis, Cab Callaway, Mel Torme, Conway Twitty, Patti Page, Andy Williams, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Henny Youngman, Pearl Bailey, Johnnie Ray, Rudy Vallee, Artie Shaw, Bela Lugosi, Marty Allen, Bill Haley's Comets, and Miles Davis. The Copa closed on at midnight on New Year's Eve, 1959 too small to pay five figure fees to performers. Litman continued his interest in music promotions with shared ownership in several other Pittsburgh area clubs.
After the Copa closed Litman began promoting larger concerts are various venues. He brought the Rolling Stones to West View Park . He booked Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, The Band, The Kingston Trio, and Mort Sahl at the Syria Mosque. At the Civic Arena he produce shows with Harry Belafonte, d Sammy Davis Jr., the Bolshoi Ballet Joan Baez and Jefferson Airplane were booked at the Loews Penn Theater. Lenny brought “Hello, Dolly!" starring Carol Channing to the Stanley for a full month. Working partners he produced concerts in Cleveland, St. Louis, Albuquerque and other cities. Lenny produced concerts through the 1970s.
Lenny was the Pittsburgh correspondent for Billboard Magazine from 1948 until 1960. He became the correspondent for Variety in 1960, covering the Pittsburgh entertainment scene for 30 years, giving reviews to everyone from Ben Vereen to Philip Glass. Lenny also wrote a night life column from 1970 to 1984 in the Pittsburgh Press. He wrote about small clubs and new talent such as Bobbie Vinton and
In 1960, Mr. Litman and his brothers started the American Basketball League team the “Rens” named after the Pittsburgh Renaissance. Lenny signed the legendary star Connie Hawkins to the the roster 1961. Connie had been expelled from college basketball and banned by the NBA at age 19. Lenny gave Connie his professional start. The RENS played at the Civic Arena through 1963 before folding. Connie later led the Pittsburgh Pipers to an ABA championship in 1968.