City Center: West Coast Whiz!

Classic Arts Features   City Center: West Coast Whiz!
Columnist Liz Smith recently chatted with New York City Center Board member Douglas S. Cramer, who will be honored at City Center's 2008 Gala with the Fiorello LaGuardia Award for distinguished service to New York City and to New York City Center.

They say Hollywood never does Broadway any favors. But in the case of producer-genius Doug Cramer, that turns out not to be true. Many people on the Great White Way now think of Doug as a godsend, a gentle wind from the West Coast. He is one of the philanthropic forces behind the popular Encores! series. No wonder they'll be giving him the Fiorella La Guardia Award on May 12 at City Center.

If you don't know Doug's name, then you weren't a television aficionado from the 1960s on.

After graduating from Columbia University, Doug went to Los Angeles and had become ABC's vice president for program development by 1962. He later moved to Fox and then Paramount. During these tenures, Doug developed "Peyton Place," "Batman," "The Odd Couple," "Love American Style," "The Brady Bunch," to name a few.

He also married Los Angeles Times columnist Joyce Haber and raised a family. He became well known in La-La land for his genial personality, his score of fabulous stories about the rich and famous, and his parties‹which were the stuff of legend. (I can still picture him all dressed up like a cowboy for a big barbecue cook-out!)

He personally produced scores of hit TV programs and the first ever mini-series, "QB VII," which won seven Emmys. He originated many TV movies. From 1976 to 1989, the dynamic team of Mr. Cramer with his equally famous partner Aaron Spelling was inescapable. They created "The Love Boat," "Hotel," "Dynasty," "Vegas," "The Colbys," "Matt Houston." They were unbeatable.

Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins found their fiction introduced to television by Doug Cramer. He was king of all he surveyed on the West Coast. In his private life, he managed to collect and donate art to museums around the world. In his time he has garnered Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, as well as contemporary artists. He spotted and celebrated artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Joel Shapiro and David Salle. And he has been hailed and honored by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, as well as MoMA in New York. The American Ballet Theatre, Los Angeles Music Center Opera Company and Los Angeles Center Theater Group have all benefited by his touch.

Doug moved to the East Coast in 1997 and embarked on feature films and legitimate theater. With his partner Hugh Bush, he has his eye on a big future along the Great White Way. Meantime, Cramer finds time to circulate on the Manhattan social circuit, as well as boasting a beautiful country estate house in Roxbury, Connecticut and a famous house once owned by the great Katherine Cornell in the most delicious spot on Martha's Vineyard.

When Doug Cramer moved back East from the West Coast, he moved with intent and a vengeance.

And he took up the idea of the Encores! revivals, which have become the hottest, most coveted ticket in the theater today. Doug's generous and open-handed effect on the Broadway theater is reverberating and luring others. He is possibly the world's most welcoming host for stars from Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer to art mavens such as Agnes Gund to the international set's Lee Radziwill. He knows everybody and remembers everything.

A day spent with Doug Cramer means a flow of good food and drinks, fabulous jokes, gags, anecdotes and true tales of Who's Who, What's What, Who's In and Who Will Be Out. Underlying this is the serious dedication of a patron of the arts. If the Medicis lived now, they might well be called: the Cramers.

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