The Postmaster General Gives Fourth-Grader Danny La Boccetta a Personal Stamp of Approval

updated 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

When you're 7 and you draw a Santa Claus and your mother says it's the best ever, that's nice. If your teacher agrees, that's really nice. But when the Postmaster General gets excited, invites you down to Washington, and decrees that your picture will grace some 700 million stamps during the holiday season, that's...well, who says genius isn't recognized in its own time?

Certainly not 9-year-old Danny La Boccetta of Queens, N.Y. Since that day in 1982 when his art teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School sent Danny's Santa in to the National Card and Letter Writing Week project and it beat out some 500,000 other student entries, Danny's had to become as adept at signing autographs as he is at wielding a crayon. There have been TV appearances, newspaper stories and even an entry in Collier's Encyclopedia.

Actually Danny is an old master of the art contest scene by now. Two years ago he won another competition, sponsored by a New York City television station, by drawing a picture of Mayor Ed Koch. Appropriately, he has developed a keen sense of his own vision. To answer those who contend that his Santa is on the skinny side, he says, "I wanted him to be different. I pictured him that way." El Greco couldn't have said it better.

For now, the artist lives with his mom, Arlene, his dad, Frank, who is a bus driver, two brothers, a dog and a rabbit in the family home in Richmond Hill, and, says Arlene, Danny's success "hasn't changed him at all." An athletic fourth-grader, he maintains his same modest ambitions—to play baseball with the L.A. Dodgers and to be a running back (like Marcus Allen, his hero) for the L.A. Raiders. On the other hand, he's not going to give up a good thing. Danny has entered a "draw an imaginary land" contest. After all, he admits shyly, "I would like to stay famous."

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