The passing of ART D'LUGOFF, founder of The Village Gate and so much more. . .
Dear Friends of Art,
In the event you haven't heard yet, I wanted to let you know before the radio and press begins reporting it that our old friend Art D'Lugoff passed away yesterday (Wednesday, November 4, 2009) from a heart attack.
The past five months had been very difficult for Art, as infection complications from a hip replacement left him seriously ill in the hospital for three months. This stress of this illness was compounded by his needed attention to the increasing health deterioration of his dear wife Avital of more than sixty years, and having to oversee their moving into a new apartment just this past month.
However, during the last few weeks, his vitality, energy and spirit returned as he began subwaying around the city for meetings on the development of the National Folk Music Museum, for which he was the Chairman, and working on a documentary film on his life. And just two days ago, he was down in Soho looking at spaces to open a new nightclub! As saddened as I am by the loss of dear friend, I am pleased that he had bounced back and while in his late `80s and was still shaking up the trees!
What can we say about Art D'Lugoff that the world doesn't already know. I had immense admiration for him, when in the 1950s, as the communist witch hunt scared other promoters from producing concerts with Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson, Art proudly presented Pete (with a young Mary Travers in her first concert), and then producing Paul Robeson's concerts at Carnegie Hall. And of course, his reputation as a brilliant producer of a wide variety of music and theatre took the national stage when he opened The Village Gate on Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village, and began forty years of producing the hottest acts and shows in the world, from Billie Holiday to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Josh White, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Nina Simone, Miriam MaKeba, Charles Mingus, Thelonius Monk, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, in addition to the comedians, Mort Sahl, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Chevy Chase and Jon Belushi, to name just a few of the acts who performed at the Gate. If one of his acts became too hot for the club, Art promoted them at Carnegie Hall.
And who could ever forget all the classic live albums recorded at the Gate, such as "Herbie Mann Live at the Village Gate"? Before long, he wisely expanded his operation to producing some of the most revered long running Off-Broadway musicals, such as "Jacques Brel Alive and Well in Paris," "Salvation," and "National Lampoon." As an heir to Sol Hurok, and in the best sense of the word, Art was a premier "Showman." And one with ethics and a heart. . .
In 1992, Art was most proud to be honored with the Paul Robeson Award.
In his later years, Paul helped raise the funds and launch the National Jazz Museum of Harlem, and then devoted his efforts to spearheading the creation of the National Folk Music Museum, which is currently in development. He also acted as a consultant the new club "Le Poisson Rouge," that now occupies the space of the old Village Gate, and most recently, he has been very active in the development of the new film documentary based on Art's life and the music and arts of Greenwich Village.
On a personal note, Art was as caring a friend as I could have. Despite whatever troubles he may have had he always called to make sure I was OK and to lift my spirits. When Odetta's health took a rapid decline last year, he called every day to get an update on her condition and for me to tell her that he was thinking of her. I loved his stories about his adventures while stationed in China during WWII, his family history in Palestine and Israel which went back hundreds of years, and his early days struggling as a promoter in the Village. Art was and is a good friend. I will miss his calls, I will miss his mischievous smile whenever telling a humorous story. I will miss the warmth of his spirit,
Art is survived by Avital, their three daughters and son, Sharon, Dahlia, Racheal, and Raphael, and a large extended family.
Memorial plans will be announced soon.
Loving you through Art,
Douglas A. Yeager Productions, Ltd.
300 West 55th Street
Suite # 15E
New York, New York 10019