Home News celebrity news Lee Guber: How He Became a Theater Impresario and a Broadway Legend

Lee Guber: How He Became a Theater Impresario and a Broadway Legend

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In this article, Lee Guber was an American theater impresario who produced several Broadway theatre productions and developed a chain of entertainment venues in suburban locations along the East Coast. He was also the husband of famous television journalist Barbara Walters for 13 years. How did he achieve such success and fame in the entertainment industry? Here is a brief overview of his life and career.

Lee Guber: How He Became
lee guber

Early life and education

Lee Guber was born on November 20, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Central High School, where he met his future business partner Shelly Gross, when they were assigned to sit next to each other in alphabetical order. He attended Temple University, where he majored in sociology, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees.


Guber went into the nightclub business, and joined his childhood friend Shelly Gross and Frank Ford in creating a musical theater in Devon, Pennsylvania in 1955 called the Valley Forge Music Fair. The original tent was replaced by a permanent structure, which was subsequently razed and replaced by a supermarket.

The group was advised to open a second theater in Westbury, New York, a suburb of New York City, but Guber asked “Where’s Long Island?” when told the proposed location. The original Westbury Music Fair was housed in a tent that was constructed on what had been the site of a lime pit, with a $1 million building constructed several years later that included 3,000 seats in a theater in the round format.

Guber and Gross built their business to become one of the biggest purveyors of live entertainment, using their venues in Valley Forge and Westbury, as well as the Painters Mill Music Fair near Baltimore and the Shady Grove Music Theater near Washington, D.C. The group also operated a wax museum and advertising agency, both based in Philadelphia, and operated a theater in the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida.

The group brought in many star performers, including Jack Benny, Maurice Chevalier, Perry Como, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Vinton, Dionne Warwick, Andy Williams and Stevie Wonder, along with such Broadway shows as traveling productions of Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, George M! and Man of La Mancha, to their suburban venues.

Broadway theatre

In 1977, the pair produced a 696-performance run of The King and I, with Yul Brenner in the lead, in which investors were paid back after 14 weeks and weekly grosses exceeded $200,000. A production of Lorelei starring Carol Channing ran for a year. A 1965 production of Catch Me If You Can ran for 103 performances, while their 1967 Sherry! musical based on the play The Man Who Came to Dinner ran for 71 shows. 1981’s Bring Back Birdie, a sequel to Bye Bye Birdie that earned Chita Rivera a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical, ran for only four performances, as did the 1986 musical Rags about immigrants to the United States that cost over $5 million to produce.

Personal life and death

Guber married Edna Shanis (divorced), Barbara Walters (1963-1976), and Lois Wyse (1982). He had three children: Zev, Carol (first marriage); Jacqueline (second marriage); Robert, Katherine (stepchildren from third marriage). He died of a brain tumor on March 27, 1988, in New York City at the age of 67.


Lee Guber was a visionary who brought live entertainment to millions of people across the country. He was also a successful producer who brought some of the most memorable shows to Broadway. He was a theater impresario and a Broadway legend who left behind a lasting legacy.

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