As legend goes, Llloyd Kavich spelled his name with three L's "just for the L of it."
That motto is reflected in many of Kavich's outlandish and lively paintings covering the walls of The Sink on University Hill. Friends and frequent Sink customers remembered Kavich and his penchant for comical paintings Monday after learning that he died last week in Santa Barbara.
Though friends didn't know his exact age, they guessed that Kavich was in his 80s. He first became part of The Sink's 90-year history in 1952 when he and Mike Dormier painted the restaurant's walls with brightly colored, cartoonish scenes and figures.
Their artwork was covered up when The Sink became Herbie's Deli in the 1980s. In 1989, when the deli became The Sink again, Kavich restored his murals to their original boldness. He came back again in 1995 when current owners, brothers Chris and Mark Heinritz, remodeled the restaurant.
Mark Heinritz said Kavich was originally from Omaha and lived for many years in Denver. A friend called The Sink over the weekend to let Mark and Chris Heinritz know that Kavich had died Oct. 17 in Santa Barbara, where he'd been living most recently.
Kavich wore a long beard and never went anywhere without his dog, Streamline. The dog could stand on Kavich's head, dance and say "I love you," Chris Heinritz remembered.
Kavich was outspoken, friends said -- if not through his raunchy or politically charged jokes, then through his art.
"He was an irreverent kind of guy," said Mark Heinritz. "He wasn't one to be contained by social norms or conventional thinking. ... He picked on everybody equally. If it was funny, it was funny."
Kavich's artwork makes clear that he wasn't afraid to depict anything -- paintings about politics, sex, current events and anxiety adorn the walls at The Sink.
"It's sophisticated but a little bit juvenile," said Mark Heinritz. "You've got jokes about nudity and jokes about nematodes. I don't think you can come into The Sink and be here for an extended period of time looking at the artwork and not have it make you think a little bit about something."
Chris Heinritz remembers fondly the night Kavich painted the "Sinkstine Chapel" on the restaurant's ceiling.
In 1995, when the two brothers called Kavich in to paint after remodeling the restaurant, they asked him why he hadn't yet painted them on the restaurant's walls.
"He said, 'Oh, yeah, don't worry about it," Chris Heinritz said. "'I've got a place for you. I'm going to put you up next to God.'"
Kavich added that he needed scaffolding --'like Michelangelo,' so the Heinritz brothers set it up in the front room. The next morning, they looked up and saw themselves painted on the ceiling, right next to God and Adam, in Kavich's reproduction of Michelangelo's famous painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
The paintings remind Pat Redman to laugh once a month or so when he eats at The Sink. Redman, who works as a manager down the street from The Sink at Meininger Art Materials, remembers his uncle going to The Sink back in the 1960s. The paintings are part of Boulder's living history, he said.
"It's like walking into an animated comic book," said Redman, 55. "A lot of really bad puns and jokes, which I can't help but enjoy. It really does add to the ambience."
Kavich's murals at The Sink are part of what has drawn University of Colorado students, faculty members and alumni there over the last 50 years. CU Visual Arts Department chairman Kirk Ambrose eats at The Sink twice a month and said the artwork is "pivotal" to creating a sense of community at the university.
"Those murals and drawings give a sense of identity and community to the student community but also the faculty and staff and alumni, which is invaluable," Ambrose said. "There's a way in which the humor of those works are a real contribution to that sense of nostalgia and community as well."