An early, 1930s-1940s nickname was "Leaping Louie." The model's name was Leonardo Nole.
Among other public art in the complex, Paul Manship's highly recognizable gilded statue of Prometheus recumbent, bringing fire to mankind, features prominently. It stands above a below-level plaza which is used as an ice-skating rink during winter. Manship was not fond of it.
30 ROCKEFELLER PLAZA
THE GE BUILDING (formerly the RCA Building)
(between 49th and 50th Streets, the Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue)
Developer: Rockefeller Center
Architect: Reinhard & Hofmeister; Corbett, Harrison & MacMurray; Raymond Hood, Godley & Fouilhoux
Erected: 1932 - 1940
By Carter B. Horsley
The world's finest Art Deco commercial complex and best private urban renewal project, Rockefeller Center abounds in good design and craftsmanship and its centerpiece is 30 Rockefeller Plaza, its tallest structure that looms over the famous sunken plaza with its gilded statue of Prometheus, shown above, by Paul Manship.
The tour was very interesting. They passed out headphones sets, and the guide for a transmitter, so we could hear her clearly while we were wandering around outside, but it was a little surreal being outside in the middle of a crowd and hearing a voice in my head. Guess I should be glad that's unusual. We learned all sorts of things, including the nickname for the statue of Prometheus by the ice skating rink — "Leaping Louie". We also saw where the famous Diego Rivera fresco had been, before it was destroyed and replaced.
In its original form, the plaza was a failure. The statue of Prometheus by Paul Manship was universally criticized; the Federal Writers' Project reported that it had been nicknamed "Leaping Looie." Manship him-self was disappointed by the statue, explaining that because of the tight construction schedule and an inadequate budget, he had not been allowed to erect a full-scale plaster model on the site.
The stock market had crashed, and the golden statue of Prometheus in front of Rockefeller Center was dubbed "Leaping Looie" because he appeared to be frozen in mid-plummet himself.
27 February 1998, New York Times, pg. B8:
Leonardo Nole, 91, Prometheus Statue's Model
By ROBERT McG. THOMAS Jr.
Mr. Nole, who was paid $1 an hour for what turned out to be a satisfying three-month assignment, was also surprised to find that although standing on one foot with his other leg stretched back, his arms out-stretched and his body held almost horizontal could be demanding, the work was actually easier than posing for college art classes.