Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Stage Lefts and Animal Rights

On May 27, 2007, Gretchen Wyler, Broadway actress and animal advocate, passed away from complications stemming from her battle with breast cancer. She was 75.

The Hollywood Office of The Humane Society of the United States has created this BlogSpot so that her friends and fans could share stories and find inspiration by remembering her.

Memorial services will be held in Los Angeles in June. Please check back soon at GretchenWyler.com for the announcement of date and time.

Thank you.


pam said...

I was only blessed to be in Gretchen's presence a few times, but she definitely lit up a room, that's for sure. Her spirit is amazing and will live on. She is an inspiration for all to fight for what's right, and to make your life really mean something worthwhile. Thank you for this page, and thank you Gretchen Wyler.

Laura Dicterow said...

Memorial services will be held to celebrate the life of animal activist/actress Gretchen Wyler on
Saturday, June 23, 2007

4:00 – 4:30 Arrivals
4:30 – 5:45 Memorial Service
5 :45 – 6:45 Reception

Paramount Theater
5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90038
Please enter through Bronson Gate

You MUST RSVP to attend.
(Paramount will not let you through the gate unless you are on the RSVP list)

Please leave a message at (818) 501-2275 ext. 20, with your name and phone number or you can RSVP by e-mailing contact@hsushollywood.org

In lieu of flowers, Gretchen requested that donations be sent to:
The Hollywood Office of The Humane Society of the U.S.
5551 Balboa Blvd., Encino, CA 91316
Please include a note with the check or on your check that your donation is "In Memory of Gretchen Wyler".
You can also call (818) 501-2275 to make a donation over the phone with a credit card.
All donations are 100% tax-deductible.

Jerry Lenander said...

I met Gretchen when I volunteered to handle media relations for the first few years of the Genesis Awards. She was always warm, open and giving and gifted in making animal welfare a common objective for a very large audience. Gretchen was a postive advocate, apowerful principle that benefitted those she was committed to serve. May God bless her and comfort her family and friends.

Mary Cummins said...

I met Gretchen at some galas and animal events. I remember how passionate and vocal she was about animal issues. At the LA City Zoo Commission meeting she was begging them to release Gita and Ruby to an elephant sanctuary. Sadly, Gita died of complications from her captivity but Ruby was allowed to go to the sanctuary just days before Gretchen passed away. I was so happy that Gretchen was able to see the fruits of her hard labor for animals. She really made a difference for animals and people. She will be sadly missed.

Susan Weingartner said...

For the past five years, I worked with Gretchen on the screening committee of The Genesis Awards. I always looked forward to our time spent together, often talking about our other shared loves of dance and acting. She was a bright and shining example of compassion, a friend and mentor. I am so grateful to have known such an incredible woman. Her light will continue to shine in my life and the lives of all she touched, especially the animals in need, to whom she offered herself so fully....

Suzyn Barron, Pres. said...

Gretchen always remembered her animal advocacy roots in Warwick,NY where in 1966, she was a principal player in changing the course of the Warwick Valley Humane Society. She with a few other compassionate people worked with the Town to build a real animal shelter. Every October, Gretchen would call to wish us a Happy Birthday and every Christmas, she would send us a huge poinsetta to display in our lobby. I was proud to meet her when she visited "her beginnings" in 1997. We became fast animal welfare friends. I truly hope that we have honored her by being one of the most respected Humane Societies in Orange County, NY. The Warwick Valley Humane Society will hold and keep Gretchen and her passionate spirit in our hearts.

Fawne said...

I just saw the announcement of Gretchen's death on the Tony's. I'm just in tears. To those who love Gretchen, I've known her since we were on NBC's SOMERSET (a soap opera out of NYC) in the 70's and she practically adopted me. She introduced me to a fabulous group of gentlemen (can't remember the name of the club) in NY who "dined" at the very best restaurants and invited ladies of the theatre/tv/film to their very high end lunches. I met EVERYONE. I was in my mid-twenties and Gretchen was my heroine. I moved to LA and so did she. She introduced me to the Wildlife Waystation where I, too, participated in animal rights and was at the Beverly Hills Hotel when Gretchen returned from Sacramento in 1977-78 having passed the "Animal Bill of Rights".
She was my hero. Dear Gretchen, I release thee lovingly into the universe. Love, Fawne

santiago said...

I first met Grethen in NYC in the mid 60's.I was a young photographer making the rounds of NYC theaters and used to see her walking her huge dog between performances of Bye Bye Birdie.We struck up a friendship right away which continued when we both moved to CA. She was as charming and friendly off stage, as she was entertaining on stage. I will always remember her fondly.

Unknown said...

I worked with Gretchen on a committee called C.A.R.E. (Community Animal Rescue and Evacuation). Through her leadership and commitment we created a website, Evacuatemypet.com.
After Katrina, we wanted people to have the information they needed to care for their pet, during a disaster. Despite her illness, Gretchen produced celebrity PSA's and rallied support from HSUS for this worthy cause. As a result, the program is spreading from city to city.
I was, and still am, in awe of her spirit and determination. I only wish I had met her sooner. She would leave wonderful messages of encouragement and praise on my cell phone. I still have them. Thank you, Gretchen, I will treasure your memory and friendship close to my heart. We'll continue the fight. The animals still need us.

GregS said...

My friend, Keith Hoffman and I went to see Luke Yankee (Eileen Heckert's son) do his one-man show about life with his mom. Sitting next to us that night was Gretchen Wyler. We didn't immediately know who she was, but before the night was over, we were fast friends. She was a lovely lady and she had known and worked with Eileen Heckert, so she had a great time that night listening to Luke.

About a week later, I was going through my grandmother's mementos and saved among all of the "treasures" was a St. Louis Post Dispatch Arts section from 1966. And right there, when I opened it up, wondering why my grandmother would have saved it, was an ad for Gretchen and Peter Marshall at the Muny Opera in BYE BYE BIRDIE along with a full-page story about her.

I couldn't help but wonder why I had just found that paper then...why my grandmother (who'd died only months prior to that) had saved it in the first place or how it came to be that I had met Gretchen Wyler at a show.

Anyway, I, too found out about her passing on the Tony Awards and got a lump in my throat. She couldn't have been nicer to chat with as she shared her own stories about the theatre with us. Rest in peace...

LeighO'Bryan said...

I worked for Gretchen for 8 1/2 years, first at The Ark Trust, and then at The Hollywood Office of The Humane Society of the U.S. She was a very special lady to both the people and animals that surrounded her. I will miss her greatly and that sense of loss will compound annually at the Genesis Awards which she founded. I recently stated to a friend that "the humane movement won't be the same without her." She poignantly corrected me by saying, "the humane movement won't be the same BECAUSE of her." Truer words were never spoken.

Barry Pearl said...
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Barry Pearl said...
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Barry Pearl said...

In reading the first eleven entries that have been posted on this blog to this date, June 21, 2007, I was surprised at the notion that mine will be about knowing Gretch the longest. I KNOW there are others out there that can rival this fact. Gretch became my role model back in 1961 when I was cast in my first professional job, replacing Johnny Borden as "Randolph MacAfee" in BYE BYE BIRDIE. Gretch had replaced Chita as "Rose" starring opposite the late Gene Rayburn as "Albert". I was the youngest in the cast and oft times had a hard time with that. Gretch was always so available and loving. She never failed to let me into her dressing room to play with her EEEENORMOUS Great Dane, Kahn...heck, he was a HORSE! I was most impressed with her openness, honesty,...the genuine loving way she dealt with everyone from her dresser to the stage hands to her fellow cast mates. She taught me, at the tender age of eleven, though I KNOW I didn't articulate this notion in this way at the time, that this "business of show" is, indeed, a collaborative art. One in which all involved had an innate need to feel like an important spoke on the wheel. Gretch had the ability to make all whom she came into contact with feel just so. I was impressed by her way of being and adopted this behavior immediately. We had the opportunity to share the stage one more time 33 years later in The Long Beach C.L.O. production of CAN-CAN. What a thrill! I then had the distinct honor to introduce her from the stage as she sat in the audience some four years later watching me play "Harry MacAfee" (the late Paul Lynde's role)on opening night in a production of BIRDIE in Thousand Oaks. I was able to share the above story with all in attendance. I will continue to honor her in this way whenever and wherever I can. Gretch, you ARE my hero!

Elliot M.Katz, DVM said...

Few people have touched my heart as Gretchen has. Her incredible energy, dedication, and devotion to making the world a more just and compassionate place is without comparison. Her legacy and caring, her vision of a better world, and her founding of the Genesis Awards, has been, and will forever continue to be a source of inspiration and motivation to millions of people across the world.

barbara sands mower said...


LeighO'Bryan said...

The following was written by Anthony L. Rose, Ph.D. who asked me to post for him.

Remembering Gretchen Wyler

It was the "March for the Animals" in Washington DC, June 1996, when a beautiful woman called to me with a compelling voice that echoed both urgency and intrigue: "tell me about this bushmeat crisis in Africa ... it's horrible; we must do something about it!" Magnetized, I walked up to the Ark Trust booth and began talking with Gretchen Wyler ... it was a breathtaking conversation that inspired me to continue for a decade, speaking, writing and working to stop the slaughter of endangered wildlife in Africa. I was honored to participate in two Genesis Awards ceremonies where the bushmeat crisis was featured, and a third in which the award winners were given copies of our coffee table book - Consuming Nature. For me the highlight of those events was watching Gretchen sparkle on stage!

A few months ago I learned that Gretchen had retired from her profound quest to shine the spotlight on cruelty to animals. This time I called her, and this time we spoke of the artistic life and musical theatre and the ecstasy of performance. Gretchen was delighted to know that my daughter had played the title role in the musical "Annie". She related how much she had loved performing Miss Hannigan in that same show. During the conversation I heard again the urgency, this time coupled with unbridled joy: "Your daughter must never loose confidence. Tell her to give all she's got, on stage and off. Most important, never reject an offer to understudy a leading role. And when a break comes, grab it and shine."

Our wonderful friend and leading lady has left the stage after a lifetime of brilliant and inspiring performances. We can never replace her. But in her memory, we do our best to shine.

Anthony L. Rose, Ph.D.

ng2000 said...

Another resource for you: http://www.ng2000.com/fw.php?tp=animal-rights

Keith Oliver said...

I remember seeing Gretchen in "Sweet Charity" at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London 40 years ago.

It was the last night performance and people were standing on their seats giving her standing ovation after standing ovation.

I remember the tears running down her cheeks at the final curtain.

A memorable night at the theatre I will always treasure.

Thankyou for the memory Gretchen, and may you rest in peace.

dave said...

I grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and my mom worked at the YWCA and I seem to recall that Gretchen was a local girl and was starting her career....and if memory serves, she was in "Damned Yankees"...this was in the late 50's, early 60's.

Also, ran into a Gretchen Wyler on staff of Tulsa World....I wonder if they are related?

Winnie said...

I grew up in Warwick NY and at the age of 12 or 13 I volunteered at the Warwick Valley Animal Shelter. Gretchen was there, I knew she was famous, and at 13 I was awestruck by that fact. 35 yrs later, long after my family left Warwick, I went back to visit my roots. I stopped by the shelter and was surprised to see that it was still the same, small, and overpopulated shelter I remember. Since that visit, I donate annually; they need help. Gretchen was always nice to me and after reading her accomplishments on her site, I deeply admire her and wish I had followed her career in animal advocacy during my own struggle to save animals. Funny, now an LA resident myself, I feel somewhat "reconnected" with her. I am sure all animals everywhere miss her and all animals in heaven adore her.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite people in my Broadway: The Golden Age Film Trilogy - Gretchen Wyler (1932 - 2007), who would have been 84 years young today. Gretchen could tell a story like nobody's business and certainly does here in this tale of how she got her first starring role on Broadway in Cole Porter's Silk Stockings. Gretchen (Guys & Dolls, Where's Charley? Silk Stockings, Damn Yankees, Rumple, Bye, Bye, Birdie, Sly Fox), never believed in waiting for your ship to come in or to be in "the right place at the right time." Gretchen also didn't believe in luck - she believed that we all made our own luck.

Enjoy this story of how Gretchen made her own luck and how she artfully created the opportunity for her first big break. Gretchen became a great pal and helped promote the first film of the trilogy every chance she got. She did her final interview before her death with me at her home and is a great part of the new film, "Broadway: BEYOND the Golden Age," coming out later this year. And don't ask me how, but riddled with cancer, with minimal make up and wearing a t-shirt and jeans, Gretchen looks even more beautiful in that final interview, and somehow - over 5 years later - looks even younger.

If time permits, I'll be including a wonderful continuation of this story in the new film. And if it doesn't make it into the film, count on seeing it in the out-takes on the DVD!

Happy Birthday Dear Gretchen! Click this link (or copy/paste it to your browser) to hear Gretchen tell you herself: https://youtu.be/fuCBgYRumAE

From Producer/Director Rick McKay and "Broadway: BEYOND the Golden Age" mega-producers Anne Bernstein​, Jamie DeRoy​, Richard Eric Weigle​, Jane Klain​, Fran Bator​, Michael Anastasio​ and Celia Castevens.

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR BROADWAY FILM TRILOGY BY MAKING A 100% TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION AT: http://thefield.org/form/make-donation?sa=549356

See the trailer for our the upcoming second installment, "Broadway: BEYOND the Golden Age", of our trilogy at: http://www.broadwaythemovie.com/trailer/bbga

Or get the award-winning first film of the trilogy, BROADWAY: THE GOLDEN AGE on DVD at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000649YA2/ref=nosim/broadwthegold-20

Gretchen on Vinyl and CD said...

I bought a Gretchen Wyler album last month titled Wild-Wyler-Wildest which I love. My only knowledge of this wonderful actress was through Broadway: The Golden Age. Then I searched the internet and found that she had reissued the album on CD, which I bought. She personified the quintessential Broadway leading lady. Very fun! Thanks.