Michael Butler (producer)

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Butler (front) with James Rado (in black t-shirt and cap) and a 2006 Hair cast in Red Bank, New Jersey

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.


In the early 19th century, 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 moved the J.W. Butler Paper Company from the Fox river in St. Charles, Il to State Street in Chicago, IL., the oldest family owned business in Chicago.[2] The family business would later diversify into dairy, ranching, aviation, and Butler, his father and family would be instrumental in founding the village of Oak Brook, Illinois and the Oak Brook Polo Club. [3]

Butler is the godson of Tyrone Power, and in his early twenties he lived with Power and his wife, actress Linda Christian.[4] Through Power's friend, film director Edmund Goulding, he befriended the Kennedy family, particularly Joe and John F. Kennedy. Butler and JFK socialized often in Hyannisport, Greenwich Village and in Newport, R.I. where they got fogged in on a sailing trip.[5]

Early career[edit]

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]


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.[6] 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.[7][8]


Around the time of his first association with Hair, Butler became a political 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.[9] Butler donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to left-leaning causes and was listed on Richard Nixon's Enemies List.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Butler dated Candice Bergen and Audrey Hepburn, whom he had a relationship with in the early 1950s 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]


  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 November 26, 2009
  3. ^ Interview on Culture Catch, culturecatch.com, Dusty Wright interviewer, Retrieved February 10, 2010
  4. ^ Pages From Michael Butler's Journal - Stories of the Papacy, orlok.com, Retrieved January 29, 2010
  5. ^ Michael Butler's Blog, "My Kennedy Memories", michaelbutler.com, September 2, 2009
  6. ^ Michael Butler: How and Why I Got Into Hair, michaelbutler.com, Retrieved Dec 1, 2009
  7. ^ Rado, James, Feb 14, 2003, "Hairstory - The Story Behind the Story", hairthemusical.com. Retrieved on April 11, 2008
  8. ^ King, Betty Nygaard. Hair, Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved on May 31, 2008.
  9. ^ 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[edit]