Bertrand Castelli - Biography - Hair and Later Career

Hair and Later Career

At the time Hair opened off-Broadway in 1967, Castelli was the director of the Harkness Ballet Company, where he incorporated experimental ideas from Andy Warhol and eventual Hair director Tom O'Horgan. When the Hair team was unable to find a Broadway theater owner that would accept the controversial show, Castelli met with Michael Butler's father Paul and convinced him to use his considerable political clout to make the Biltmore Theater available. Shortly after Hair opened on Broadway in 1968, Butler gave Castelli the job of leading the many foreign language productions of the show. Castelli made the decision to translate Hair into the local language of each country at a time when Broadway shows were always done in English. He produced and sometimes directed companies in France, Germany, Mexico and several other countries, unearthing local and international talent such as Donna Summer and the French singer Julien Clerc.

After Hair, Castelli returned to producing ballet, opera and musical comedy for a decade. In 1972, he wrote and produced Richard, a pre-Watergate lampoon of President Richard M. Nixon, starring John Carradine, Vivian Blaine and Mickey Rooney. He also invented a game similar to table-tennis called Plaff, for which he invented a paddle with two parallel surfaces connected by a hand grip. He married and later divorced Lorees Yerby, who was a co-director of Richard. They had two daughters, Pandora and Josephine.

During the last 15 years of his life, Castelli lived mostly in the Yucatán, Mexico, where he was artist in residence at the Maroma Resort and Spa in Riviera Maya, not far from Cancún. He spent his retirement writing and painting abstract, Spanish-influenced, colorful artworks whose subject was often dancers and human movement, surrounded in retirement by his artistic young friends. He created a painting for every room in the resort. The New York Times described him as "a friend of the famous and not-so-famous, a cultivator of people, an avid pot smoker and devoted sensualist". His friend Michael Butler described him as a "crazy showman... the guy with the business suit and beads".

Castelli died at the age of 78 in a hospital near the resort after being hit by a speedboat during his daily swim.

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