On the Town: Meeting an entertainment legend

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As a part of the Burbank Public Library's continuing “Meet the Author” program, the library this past week gave Burbankers the opportunity to spend an evening with legendary nightclub owner and filmmaker Fred Weintraub.

Staged by Library Assistant Joan Cappocchi at the Buena Vista Branch Library, Weintraub discussed and signed copies of his book, “Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me: From the Man Behind a Half-Century of Music, Movies and Martial Arts” (Brooktree Canyon Press, 2011).

“I've had a serendipitous life with more failures than you can imagine,” Weintraub told the assemblage after being introduced by Cappocchi. “I believe success and failure go hand-in-hand, and you can never go wrong in failing. You'll always come out of a failure as a better person. I agree with Winston Churchill, who said, ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.' You have to be willing to stick your neck out. Always do new things. Try anything. You never know when something life-changing will come your way.”

From his ownership of a jazz club in Cuba at the dawn of the Castro regime to his attempts to start an underground newspaper and a traveling circus, Weintraub, accompanied by his wife, Jackie, and daughter, Barbara, who works at Burbank's Video Symphony, entertained the audience with anecdotes recalling his memorable adventures and misadventures.

Weintraub's The Bitter End coffee house, in New York's Greenwich Village, provided a launching pad for the careers of numerous then-unknowns including Peter, Paul and Mary, Lenny Bruce, Neil Diamond, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Frankie Valli and Billy Crystal, who all went on to become entertainment legends.

Leaving New York for Hollywood in the late 1960s, Weintraub created, wrote and produced television programs including “Hootenanny” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”

In 1970, he moved to the big screen when he was offered a position as an executive vice president with Warner Bros. In that role, his first project was the documentary, “Woodstock,” which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

In the wake of the success of “Woodstock,” Weintraub became an independent producer and introduced the world to Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon.” Ushering in the martial arts craze of the '70s, Weintraub produced dozens of movies, many with a martial arts theme, and oversaw the 1993 Bruce Lee documentary, “Curse of the Dragon.”

Having worked on more than 40 film projects with Steve McQueen, George C. Scott, Robert Duvall and Kirsten Dunst, Weintraub also did the 1976 documentary, “It's Showtime,” which consisted of film clips profiling various animal actors, such as Rin Tin Tin, Flipper and Trigger.

Among those who enjoyed last week's event was Annie Burks. Joined by her 6-year old daughter, Eden, Burks told Weintraub during the evening's question-and-answer period that she was born on Nov. 27, the same day as Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Lee.

“I always felt I had somewhat of a connection to them because we were born on the same day, and it was important to me that I was here tonight to meet you,” she told Weintraub.

The Burbank Public Library plays an active role in the community by presenting a variety of cultural and educational events designed for all ages throughout the year.

These programs are made possible by the work and funding of the Friends of the Burbank Public Library.

For information on upcoming library events, go to www.burbank.lib.ca.us/events.

DAVID LAURELL can be reached by email dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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