MICHAEL BUTLER is an American theatrical producer born on this date; he is 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”. Other Broadway production credits include the play Lenny in 1971 and the musical Reggae in 1980.
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. Butler’s father helped found the village of Oak Brook, Illinois and the Oak Brook Polo Club.
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.
Butler was the godson of Tyrone Power, and in his early twenties he lived with Power and his wife, actress Linda Christian. 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.
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. 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.
Butler dated Candice Bergen, Nati 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. He has a son, Adam, from his 1962 marriage to Loyce Stinson Hand. He was also involved with Rock Hudson.