Michael White: The Most Famous Person You’ve Never Heard Of

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Michael White The Most Famous Person You’ve Never Heard Of

The Last Impresario” is a wildly entertaining film tribute to Michael White. Since the “swinging ’60s,” celebrities have surrounded White at party after party. Sniffing out talent was his talent, and he became the most revered producer in London during the ’60s and ’70s. White produced more than 200 movies and shows, including game-changers like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Oh! Calcutta!” and “Monty Python and The Holy Grail.” He is the man who introduced Yoko Ono to London audiences and Kate Moss to fashion icon Anna Wintour, and his world is a mix of movies, theater, drinking, drugs and lots of sex.

Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere having nothing but a good time. (Photo courtesy Michael White)
Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere having nothing but a good time. (Photo courtesy Michael White)

Australian filmmaker Gracie Otto interviewed 50 of White’s closest friends including Moss, Wintour, Ono, Naomi Watts, Mick Jagger, John Cleese, Rachel Ward, Lorne Michaels and John Waters. “Impresario” celebrates and animates White’s collection of 30,000 snapshots that chronicle his extraordinary life of hedonism. White is the quiet nucleus of London’s bacchanal.

I found it bittersweet to be taken on a journey back to the beautiful people — when they were indeed beautiful. We see happening parties full of peeps, like a young and sexy Jack Nicholson and David Bowie jotting something down on a magazine (a song lyric, perhaps?) while a cigarette seductively dangles from his mouth.

A 20-something Susan Sarandon flashes titty as she sits next to a stunning Richard Gere groping another beauty’s breast. We see baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio with a big fat cigar and then Johnny Depp looking scrumptious next to Moss. A smiling Andy Warhol is frozen in time, holding a camera and seated in a club next to a ravishing Rachel Ward.

I’m tickled to say I landed an exclusive interview with filmmaker Otto for TheBlot Magazine.

Dorri Olds: How did you meet Michael White?

Gracie Otto: I went to Cannes to feature a film, then it was all by chance. I happened to sit next to Michael, and he started asking me all of these questions. Celebrities swarmed around him. He gave me his number and told me to call. He invited me to dinner. I went and got to meet all of these famous people. So, to figure out who this man really was, I read his book, “Empty Seats,” and it was amazing to learn how important he’s been.

That book is being re-released now because of the film, right?

Yeah. The other great thing was he got the Laurence Olivier award this year, which he totally deserved. I was so happy I was able to quickly add that to the film, because not only does he have the film, but he has this recognition. People always said he’d never get honored because he was so avant-garde. He totally deserves to be Sir Michael White.

Is he still drinking and drugging despite his health problems?

Yeah, he isn’t afraid to go out and have a great time. Even now.

Did he talk to you about being sent away as a child to the boarding school?

He was open about that. I think he got to a point in life where he wanted to tell his story without talking bad about anyone else. He wanted to talk about his family in a positive way. Maybe some things weren’t so great, but there were a lot of positives from being sent away. He learned all of those languages, and it obviously gave him the drive to do what he did. That’s just who he is and what his childhood was.

Michael saw one article where some writer called Michael’s father a glove maker, and Michael was so upset. Michael called me and screamed, “How dare you say that!” I said, “But I didn’t say that. I think somebody just did some research and came to that conclusion.” Then I added, “Look how great the rest of the article turned out!” But Michael said it again, “But my father wasn’t a glove maker.”

Sniffing out talent was White's talent. (Photo courtesy Michael White)
Sniffing out talent was White’s talent. (Photo courtesy Michael White)

What did Michael’s father do?

I’m afraid to say anything. I don’t want to get it wrong again!

When Michael got angry did you get upset or take it in stride?

I always get upset when he gets angry with me because I care about him a lot. He got really upset with me recently. We had our premiere, and he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t make it. That was the first time he missed something. I couldn’t get in touch with him because he was sick. I was trying to make the guest list, so I just invited all the people that he invited last year. They’re all really famous people. Then he sent me a text about how dare I only invite celebrities to the opening. I kind of laughed because I thought, ‘Well, they’re all your friends.’

Has meeting Michael and making this film opened doors for you?

I don’t know if I’d put it like that. I get invited to a lot of parties by really famous people now, [laughs], but what was always important to me was to make a very positive film about Michael. I wanted to do that for him.

 This award-winning indie “The Last Impresario,” is available On Demand Friday, Dec. 5. Not rated. 89 min.

Watch the movie trailer:

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