Another Star Of Broadway’s ‘Hair’ left us

Broadways Butler Dies Film Hair Michael Producer Version

Posted November 8, 2022 by: Admin #News

Michael Butler, the Tony-winning producer who brought Hair to Broadway in 1968 and later produced the film adaptation and many other productions of the show, died Monday in Santa Barbara. He was 95.

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His attorney confirmed the news on behalf of Butler’s family, but did not elaborate.

As a producer, social figure, and international bon vivant, Michael Butler was an international celebrity in the 1960s and 1970s. Like his 1968 production of Hair became an international success, with 12 productions around the world, his friendships grew between exotic global figures such as the Shah of Iran and the Mahajarah of Jaipur. As a host at his lavish polo grounds in the UK, Butler included British royalty among his regular polo-playing friends. He admitted that his polo expenses consumed the entire $60 million profit from his stage play.

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Subtitled “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical”, Hair, which began life in 1967 at New York’s then-new Public Theater Off Broadway, not only was it the first Broadway musical to prominently feature nudity, but it was a hugely influential insertion of a 1960s countercultural sensibility into mainstream Main Broadway: It was banned in many cities and led to many lawsuits. The musical contributed a number of songs that would become radio hits (often in covers) and theatrical musical standards: “Aquarius”, “Let the Sunshine In”, “Hair”, “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life”. “Good Morning Starshine”, “Easy to Be Hard”, among others.

Hair he won the Tony Award for Best Musical for Butler in 1969, along with six other Tony Awards, and his cast album spent 13 weeks atop the Billboard 200, won the Grammy for best cast album, and spawned four hit singles. The record was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Fifth Dimension’s medley of “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” was the number 1 country pop hit for six weeks in 1969 and was the number 2 single that year. (Young man Riverdale fans can ask their grandparents about the 1969 title song, “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies). Cowsills’ “Hair”, Three Dog Night’s “Easy to Be Hard” and Oliver’s “Good Morning Starshire” all reached the national Top 5.

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Butler maintained friendships with Hair alumni including one-time cast members like Diane Keaton, Donna Summer, Ben Vereen and Keith Carradine. The show’s co-creator, James Rado, died in June and its original Broadway star, Robin McNamara, died last year.

Movie ‘Hair’ (1979), with Don Dacus, Treat Williams, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright

He was eager to produce and co-finance the film version of Hair and developed a script with Colin Higgins (harold and maude) as the writer and Hal Ashby (Coming home) as director with Peter Bart as producer. Although studio deals and financing were in place, Ashby fell ill and pulled out in pre-production, with Milos Forman directing and Lester Persky producing.

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Starring Treat Williams, Beverly D’Angelo and John Savage, the film failed to capture the period magic of the play.

Butler presented more than 30 productions of Hair over the years, including the latest: a planned 2021 edition at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood that told Los Angeles Magazine “It could be the best production of Hair I did.” Original Broadway choreographer Julie Arenal was on board, but that show was delayed by “production challenges” and has not been rescheduled.

NBC was ready to broadcast live hair! in 2019, but plans for the show were scrapped shortly after its producer Craig Zadan’s death and the network decided to refocus on family musicals.

Butler also produced the Broadway shows. reggae (1980), coquelito (1979) and Lenny (1971).

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Butler also produced the 1968 counterculture documentary. you are what you eat, which showed the Haight-Ashbury scene along with Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip and New York’s East Village. Butler also had a handful of on-screen credits including Harry and Tonto, Electra Glide in blue and televisions Guide light.

He was born on November 26, 1926 in Chicago. Billed as the “hippie millionaire,” his private life was a feast for gossip columnists. Weather Hair Butler shocked audiences with his portrayal of gay and trans characters, Butler had legendary adventures with actresses like Linda Christian and Audrey Hepburn and actors like Tyrone Power and John Phillip Law.

As a young man, the imposing and strikingly handsome Butler was a major social presence in Chicago. The Butler dynasty was built around two huge private companies, Butler Aviation and Butler Paper. In his early 30s, Butler opted for show business over his family’s corporate business, hence his investment in Hair, then a struggling show at the Public Theater. With additional funding and a new creative team, the show became a huge success, its nude scenes and brilliant music helping to fill theaters.

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At age 40, Butler divided his time between big houses in Santa Barbara and Hollywood.

Outside of his showbiz career, Butler held civic roles in local and national politics, serving as a special adviser to the then-Senator. John F. Kennedy on the Middle East and being appointed by Robert F. Kennedy to manage Illinois Governor Otto Kerner’s 1964 re-election campaign.

RFK and other high-ranking Democrats of the time endorsed Butler for a U.S. Senate bid in 1967, but Butler, though the favorite in the polls, chose to produce Hair for Broadway after seeing the Off Broadway production.

He also ran for the Illinois State Senate on behalf of Du Page County and served as Chancellor of the Lincoln Academy Charter School, Commissioner of the Port of Chicago, and in other public offices.

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At the time of his death, Butler was in talks to write a memoir.

She is survived by her son Adam Butler, daughter-in-law Michelle Butler, and grandson Liam Bartholomew Butler.

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