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Michael Butler (born November 26, 1926 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American theatrical producer best known for bringing the rock musical Hair from the Public Theater to Broadway in 1968. During his time as Hair producer he was dubbed by the press as "the hippie millionaire".[1] Other Broadway production credits include the play Lenny in 1971 and the musical Reggae in 1980.

Contents

Biograpphy

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Family background

In the early 1800s, his ancestors Asa and Simon Butler were the first American paper makers to make paper for the U.S. Congress. In 1841, Julius Wales Butler founded the J.W. Butler Paper Company on State Street in Chicago, IL., the oldest family owned business in Chicago. They also were the largest landowners in Du Page County.[2]

Early life

Butler is the godson of Tyrone Power,[3] and through mutual friend and film director Edmund Goulding he befriended the Kennedy family, particularly Joe and John F. Kennedy. Bulter and Jack socialized often in Hyannisport, Greenwich Village and in Newport, RI where they got fogged in on a sailing trip.[4]

Prior to producing Hair, Butler served as Special Advisor to then-Senator John F. Kennedy on the Middle East, Chancellor of the Lincoln Academy, Commissioner of the Port of Chicago, President of the Organization of Economic Development in Illinois, Assistant to Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr., President of the Illinois Sports Council, and he was a Democratic Candidate in Du Page County for the State Senate.[2]

Hair

In 1967, Butler was preparing to run for the US Senate when he began to discuss the Vietnam War with a young student who worked as a gardener at his home. As a result of these discussions, Butler says, "I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the popular 'hawk' stand I had been taught as an axiom." Later that year in New York City on business related to Otto Kerner, Jr.'s Commission about Civil Disorders, he saw an ad in the New York Times for Hair at the Public Theater that featured a photo of five Indian chiefs. Thinking the show was about Indians he bought a ticket. Instead he saw what he described as "the strongest anti-war statement ever written" and decided to obtain rights to the show. [3] Hair opened on Broadway in April 1968 and became a huge success, running for 1,750 performances and spawning numerous other productions. By the time the Broadway production closed in 1972, Butler had overseen nine national productions and nineteen international productions.[5][6]

Activism

Through his association with Hair, Butler became an activist. Before the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago he arranged a meeting between Chicago mayor Richard Daley and Abbie Hoffman. Of the meeting Butler said "I told [Daley] that the city should smother the Yippies with tender loving kindness. He decided to go a different way. And what did we get? Richard Nixon."[1] He held "Cause" meetings in Oak Brook, Illinois in the summer of 1969 with Tom Smothers, Peter Yarrow, and Black Panther Fred Hampton, among others.[7] Butler donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to liberal cuases and was listed, twice, on Richard Nixon's Enemy's List.[1]

Personal life

Butler dated Candice Bergen and Audrey Hepburn, who he had a relationship with in the early 1950's before her marriage to Mel Ferrer. Butler was involved in Hepburn accepting a role in the New York production of the play Ondine, where she worked with Ferrer soon before marrying him.[1] He has a son, Adam, from his 1962 marriage to Loyce Stinson Hand.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Kogan, Rick; The Aging of Aquarius, Chicago Tribune, 6/30/96, michaelbutler.com, Retrieved 1/15/10
  2. ^ a b About Michael Butler, michaelbutler.com, Retrieved Nevember 26, 2009
  3. ^ a b Michael Butler: How and Why I Got Into Hair, michaelbutler.com, Retrieved Dec 1, 2009
  4. ^ Michael Butler's Blog, "My Kennedy Memories", michaelbutler.com, September 2, 2009
  5. ^ Rado, James, Feb 14, 2003, "Hairstory - The Story Behind the Story", hairthemusical.com. Retrieved on April 11, 2008
  6. ^ King, Betty Nygaard. Hair, Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved on May 31, 2008.
  7. ^ Michael Butler's Blog: AlterNet: What the FBI’s Murder of a Black Panther Can Teach Us 40 Years Later, michaelbutler.com, Dec 6, 2009

External links


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