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21 Feb 2019

A True Renaissance Man: Michael Childers Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of 'Midnight Cowboy' While Preparing for His Star-Studded 'One Night Only'

Written by 
MIchael Childers. MIchael Childers.

Michael Childers is truly a renaissance man; Merriam-Webster’s definition—“a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas”—describes him perfectly.

The Coachella Valley resident is an award-winning photographer, producer, writer and documentary filmmaker—and his talents are being showcased in several upcoming events.

Childers was the photographer and production assistant on the movie Midnight Cowboy, the legendary 1969 film directed by his late partner, John Schlesinger. Childers and former Variety editor Peter Bart will be sharing memories and photos at a special 50th anniversary screening of the film on Saturday, March 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

On Wednesday, April 24, Childers will bring his annual One Night Only Broadway extravaganza back to the McCallum Theatre.

Childers has been very busy as of late; in fact, he just picked up the award for Best Short Documentary at the 2019 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles for I Knew Andy Warhol, which he produced. He’s also working on a documentary film about the late actress Natalie Wood. He recently took some time to speak to me about all these goings-on.

His gorgeous book of photography, Icons and Legends, graces coffee tables in homes across the country—but as far as the desert is concerned, Childers’ crowning achievement would have to be One Night Only, the musical-variety extravaganza he produces each year at the McCallum. He created the event 15 years ago as a fundraiser for local charities. Since then, more than 150 Broadway performers have participated in the show.

This year’s production, “Broadway Showstoppers,” features some of the best songs from Broadway musicals, including Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Dear Evan Hansen. Proceeds will benefit the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, which provides services for abused and neglected children. The nonprofit center was founded in 1986 by Frank and Barbara Sinatra and offers individual, group and family counseling, as well as outreach and prevention programs.

“Showstoppers” will be directed by Broadway choreographer and director Larry Fuller, with musical direction by Christopher Marlowe. This year’s cast includes Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Lucie Arnaz, Christine Andreas, John Barrowman, Davis Gaines and Sal Mistretta. The production will be dedicated to the memory of two desert icons we lost recently, Carol Channing and Kaye Ballard. Both appeared in his One Night Only shows, and Childers knew them both well. In fact, he told me that he photographed Channing’s wedding to her former high-school sweetheart, Harry Kullijian, at her Rancho Mirage home—and Ballard actually introduced Childers to his partner of 30 years, the aforementioned director John Schlesinger. She set them up on a bind date.

“Something just clicked,” he said.

Childers said he always has themes and dream casts for future shows floating around in his head. One Night Only is a huge undertaking, requiring seven months of planning and preparation. He said that having a great team around him, including the hard-working crew at the McCallum, makes it possible.

The show sells out every year, and because of its reputation, many Broadway stars are eager to join the cast.

“Who wouldn’t want to come enjoy the sunshine in Palm Springs when it’s cold and rainy in New York?” Childers said. Also worth noting: Performers are treated royally, with lots of perks and parties thrown into the mix. JetBlue is once again a main sponsor, offering a number of free airline tickets to those performing.

So what’s on Childers’ bucket list? He says he would like to produce more documentary films. In other words, it does not seem that the multi-talented Michael Childers will be slowing down anytime soon.

The 50th Anniversary of Midnight Cowboy takes place at 6 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $20 to $45. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit Eventbrite.com.

One Night Only, a show benefiting the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $75 to $175, with a limited number of VIP tickets, including an after-party, available for $495. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

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