Mike Nichols, who died last week, undoubtedly was one of Broadway’s and Hollywood’s very greatest directors. His awards for excellence as a director are numerous: nine Broadway Tonys and Oscars for “The Graduate” and others. I felt a distant kinship with Mr. Nichols for two reasons. The first was the original 1963 Broadway production of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” which he directed. The comedy, co-starring Elizabeth Ashley and Robert Redford was such a sold-out hit that my late father, drama critic and columnist Ward Morehouse, asked the house manager of the Biltmore Theatre to let his young son sit on a folding chair in one of the aisles.
And I was mesmerized as cascades of laughter erupted continually from the packed house. Subconsciously, at least, this prompted me to follow my father’s footsteps in writing plays and as well as writing about them for The Christian Science Monitor, New York Post and New York Sun. Over the years, I’d see Mr. Nichols at the theater. He was always very friendly and once I asked him if he would consider directing a musical I had written with Platinum award-winning songwriter David Romeo. It was called “A Night at The Plaza” and I thought Mr. Nichols would take a liking to it in the wake of “Barefoot in the Park” which of course is set in New York’s Plaza Hotel. My my family lived here for 11 years in one stretch and for two weeks a bear cub my father purchased for $35 joined us. And much later I wrote two books about the famed hotel.
Mr. Nichols sent me a hand-written note graciously thanking me for letting him read the musical but saying he wasn’t directing plays anymore. I cherish his note as I do the many greats moments he gave me and millions of others in the theater and movies.
For a nice sum-up of his career go to the article that appeared in The Christian Science Monitor this week.