LONDON — The funeral of the colorful — and sometimes controversial — theater and film producer Michael White will take place this weekend in Brentwood, Calif., following his death last week at 80. White died of heart failure, in Ojai, Calif., where he was staying with his ex–wife and son.
White produced more than 100 theater shows in London’s West End, including “Annie,” the original version of “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Sleuth” and “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” His production of “Oh! Calcutta!” raised many an eyebrow because of its nudity.
White was never a stranger to controversy. In 1967, he staged the play “America Hurra” at a private club in London to avoid problems with the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, which concerns itself with matters of protocol. Before 1968 it was the official censor for nearly all plays performed in Britain.
White was also widely known for the films “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
A memorial service will take place later this year in London, where White began his career. Last Wednesday, venues across London’s West End dimmed their lights for two minutes, following the announcement of his death.
Famous for his animated personality, White was a regular figure at social events in the British capital and over the years often appeared on WWD’s Eye Page.
He was a regular at horse-racing events. “Ascot is more like a cocktail party for people to see and be seen. At the Derby most people actually like to see the race — and to have a good time as well,” he told WWD in 1977 at the Jubilee Year’s running of the Epsom Derby.
White was also famous for the parties he threw. In 1978, he celebrated the success of “Annie” at the private Turf Club in London. He got even the most cynical of critics to give it rave reviews. Nicky Haslam, who was in attendance, told WWD: “Michael’s parties get better and better. This is lavish on a pre-war scale.” Jack Nicholson, who was also among the guests, said he had seen the production three times and would have loved to have invested in it, “but no one asked me.”
That party continued at Tramps, the Mayfair private members club, where White was received with a standing ovation.
White was friends with characters as diverse as Naomi Watts, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Anna Wintour, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. His life was documented most recently in “The Last Impresario,” a 2013 documentary by the Australian director Gracie Otto.
The film chronicles the producer’s life from his childhood in Glasgow, where he was born to Eastern European Jewish parents, to his career successes. It also records his bankruptcy, and the auction of his memorabilia at Sotheby’s in 2011.
“A true inspiration and generous soul. You changed my life forever,” Otto posted on Twitter.
In 2014, his longtime friend Kate Moss presented White with the lifetime achievement Olivier Award in London.