By Gordon T. Hughes, Jr.
This article was born on a Monday morning when I met George Capsis in his wonderful backyard. And what a delight it was. After getting acquainted, George said, “You need to write a story for my paper.” That was quickly followed by, “and I don’t pay.” I was hooked by George’s charm, wit, and knowledge of the Village. So here goes.
I have produced and invested in Broadway plays and musicals for the past seven years. I have lived in the West Village for the past 18 years. I started in show biz at an early age in Hollywood. The apple does not fall far from the tree, as my dad taught me how to stick a line even then.
Dad, upon graduating college, came to NYC to make his mark on Broadway. He lived in the Village, but I’m not sure where. Times where tough and he took a job where he could. So, he landed at a little theatre in Des Moines, Iowa. Small theaters are where new plays are worked out before hitting the Great White Way. The norm is to hire the high school drama coach, and in those days, local radio talent. Dad hired a local sportscaster by the name of Ronald Reagan, who he called “Dutch.” They became fast friends until Dutch got a big break and went to Hollywood to make B movies.
Dad got his first big break by going to Chicago to work as a radio director at NBC. As a matter of fact, Dad was the first director to receive a national on-air credit. Dad’s second big break came in 1940 when he was tapped by CBS to move to Hollywood to direct some major radio shows, with talent like Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, and Gene Autry, among others.
I have had four careers in my lifetime. The first was as a child actor in radio and early television. However, I learned that acting was not for me, as I just could not remember my lines; I was better behind the camera. I graduated from California State University and got a job as a page at CBS Television City. My first real job was at CBS News working for Charles Kuralt. After that, I worked as a production assistant on a magazine show.
It was then that I decided my life goal, which was to run a television station. By 1986, I became Vice President of CBS O O’s Marketing Division and Station Manager at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia. In 1990, I was called to NYC to run the Marketing Division. This was an important step as it prepared me for my third career, beyond television—one that depended on sales, marketing, skilled management, and even Washington links.
The company was American Business Press—a B2B trade association magazine, which I led for 16 years while living in the West Village. Volkswagen vans with peace signs on them were all the rage. Fedora on West 4th Street was run by Fedora, and Ye Waverly Inn’s hamburgers were under $6.00. I could go on about the good old days but anyone who reads WestView already knows.
This job allowed me the creativity to make use of West Village haunts for parties and presentations with the likes of David Bell, Jay Schulberg, Ed McCabe, Nina DiSesa, and Burt Manning, all members of the Chumley Society—the real Chumley’s not to be confused with today’s knock off.
Now, on to career number four, and perhaps my final act, Broadway. My business partners and I formed a Limited Liability Company and were producers in La Bête, Time Stands Still, and Disenchanted. We invested in Ghetto Klown, Stick Fly, and others. Then I went out on my own. My first musical investment was Peter and The Starcatcher, the tour, then An American in Paris, and currently Come From Away.
Now, here I am in the West Village living my dream. Despite the changes, I can still go to the Village Vanguard, the Village Apothecary, and of course, the Corner Bistro and my favorite coffee spot, Cafe Panino Mucho Gusto, where you will see me and regulars like Claude-Noëlle.
I wish I knew where Dad had lived. It may have been in my building, as it was constructed in 1853.