Michael Butler (producer)

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Michael Butler
Red Bank Hair.jpg
Butler (front) with James Rado (in black T-shirt and cap) and a 2006 Hair cast in Red Bank, New Jersey
Born (1926-11-26) November 26, 1926 (age 92)
OccupationTheatrical producer
Notable work
Hair, Lenny, Reggae

Michael Butler (born November 26, 1926) is an American theatrical producer best known for bringing the rock musical Hair from the Public Theater to Broadway in 1968.[1][2] During his time as Hair producer he was dubbed by the press as "the hippie millionaire".[3] Other Broadway production credits include the play Lenny in 1971 and the musical Reggae in 1980.

Early life[edit]

Butler was born in Chicago, Illinois into a wealthy family. In the early 19th century, his ancestors started a paper company on the Fox River in St. Charles, Illinois, and supplied paper for the U.S. Congress. The business was later moved to Chicago, where it was at one time one of the city's oldest family owned business, and later diversified into dairy, ranching, aviation.[4] Butler's father helped found the village of Oak Brook, Illinois[5][6] and the Oak Brook Polo Club.[7]

Butler is the godson of Tyrone Power, and in his early twenties he lived with Power and his wife, actress Linda Christian.[8] 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.

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.[9]


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.[10] As a result of these discussions, Butler developed an anti-war focus. Later that year in New York City, while on business related to Otto Kerner, Jr.'s Commission about Civil Disorders, he attended the show Hair at the Public Theater, and, realizing its strong anti-war statement, decided to obtain rights to the show.[4] Hair opened on Broadway in April 1968 and became a huge success, running for 1,750 performances and leading to many productions. By the time the Broadway production closed in 1972, Butler had overseen nine national productions and nineteen international productions.[11]


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, recommending that the party cultivate the Yippie vote.[3] 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. Butler donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to left-leaning causes and was listed on Richard Nixon's Enemies List.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Butler dated Candice Bergen, Naty Abascal and Audrey Hepburn, with whom he had a relationship 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.[3] He has a son, Adam, from his 1962 marriage to Loyce Stinson Hand.[3]


  1. ^ "Flow It, Show It: 50 Years of ‘Hair’". American Theatre. October 17, 2017. By Amy Saltz
  2. ^ " Review: 'Hair' shows much has changed but it's still great to be young ". Chicago Tribune, Aug 4 2017, by Chris Jones.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kogan, Rick; The Aging of Aquarius, Chicago Tribune, 6/30/96, michaelbutler.com, Retrieved 1/15/10
  4. ^ a b Elizabeth L. Wollman. The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical, from Hair to Hedwig. University of Michigan Press; 10 November 2009. ISBN 978-0-472-03402-4. p. 45–.
  5. ^ "Memoirs of a Millionaire Hippie: Michael Butler, 88, on Chicago politics and why Hair still matters". Chicago Magazine, By Lauren Williamson May 11, 2015
  6. ^ "In Village It Created, Butler Family Feels Loss Of Clout". Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1986|By Barbara Mahany.
  7. ^ Interview on Culture Catch, culturecatch.com, Dusty Wright interviewer, Retrieved February 10, 2010
  8. ^ Pages From Michael Butler's Journal - Stories of the Papacy, orlok.com, Retrieved January 29, 2010
  9. ^ "The Butlers of Oak Brook, Five". Classic Chicago, March 7, 2016. . By Megan McKinney
  10. ^ Kat Sherrell. Experiencing Broadway Music: A Listener's Companion. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 29 September 2016. ISBN 978-0-8108-8901-9. p. 111–.
  11. ^ "Hippie replacement - Hair returns to London's West End". Telegraph, By Mick Brown, 27 Mar 2010

External links[edit]