Just as I was about to write a few paragraphs about the Oct. 22 Chairman’s Circle dinner benefiting the Geffen Playhouse, I heard the news that Gil Cates, the theater’s producing director, had passed away.
I’ve always admired the Geffen Playhouse and most especially, Gil Cates, well-known for his accomplishments as a director, film and television producer credited with, among other things, revitalizing the Academy Awards telecasts.
In looking through notes from stories written these past few years for my Los Angeles Times “Scene & Heard” columns, I discovered a quote from a conversation I had with Barry Meyer, chairman and chief executive of Warner Brothers, that seems to sum up a sentiment shared by so many people I’ve met at the Geffen Playhouse over the years.
“Gil Cates could ask me to do anything and I’d do it,” said Meyer. “He’s a wonderful man.” That conversation took place Mar. 22, 2010 at “Backstage at the Geffen,” the theater’s annual fundraiser. On that same night, Rita Wilson announced – on behalf of Frank Mancuso, chairman of the board, and the entire board of directors – that the main stage would henceforth be called the “Gil Cates Theater.”
“From now on, this stage will bear the name of the man who made it great,” Wilson said that night.
The announcement came as a surprise to everyone in the theater, Cates included. Later in the lobby, (as I wrote in my L.A. Times story after that night,) when we spoke about the honor, Cates looked over at the wall bearing his name. “I’m really stunned,” he said. “But I have to say it looks good.”
It looks good to all of us, Gil.
Readers can learn more about Gil Cates’ accomplishments during his illustrious career in the Nov. 2 Los Angeles Times story by arts writers Reed Johnson and Susan King here, and by theater critic Charles McNulty here.
In the photo above, Frank Mancuso and Gil Cates toast the theater with Louis XIII Cognac at the Oct. 22 Chairman’s Circle dinner at Fay and Frank Mancuso’s home, which included cuisine by chef Stephan Richter, a musical performance by Nathan Pacheco and a special tasting of the Louis XIII Cognac. (Photo: Jordan Strauss/ WireImage)
More photos from the dinner, plus a few from other memorable occasions, are in the gallery below.
Published November 3, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA