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Nick Vanoff, 61; Producer Won Tony, Five Emmys

March 22, 1991|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nick Vanoff, a dancer who went on to produce award-winning Broadway theater and television variety shows, has died. He was 61.

Vanoff died Wednesday night at UCLA Medical Center of cardiac arrest.

He earned five Emmys for his television productions, "The Julie Andrews Hour" in 1973, "The Kennedy Center Honors" in 1984, 1987 and 1989, and Julie Andrews' special, "The Sound of Christmas," in 1988.

Last year, the versatile Vanoff also won Broadway's prestigious Tony award for best musical for his "City of Angels." The production opens June 12 in Los Angeles--the city of its setting.

Vanoff also produced Jackie Mason's Broadway show, "The World According to Me," in 1986.

Born in 1929 in Macedonia, Greece, Vanoff began his career as a dancer with the Charles Weidman Dance Theatre. He performed with the New York City Opera on Broadway in "Kiss Me, Kate." He started his television variety show career with Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows."

In the early 1950s, in only four months, Vanoff rose from cue-card holder to associate producer of "The Perry Como Show." At the age of 24, he produced NBC's enduring "Tonight Show" when Steve Allen was its host.

Vanoff also produced variety series for Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Don Knotts, Milton Berle and Sonny and Cher.

With the decline of the genre in the 1970s, Vanoff concentrated on specials, winning praise for such programs as John Wayne's "Swing Out, Sweet Land." In 1978, he began producing the annual "Kennedy Center Honors" program, featuring Washington's highest awards in the performing arts.

"The '70s was the 'me' decade. Traditionally, variety is a sharing experience, something a whole family watches together," Vanoff told Los Angeles Times television critic Cecil Smith in 1980. "But there was a lot of isolation in families in the '70s. Everybody went off to do his own thing. Instead of a one-family TV set, you had eight, each tuned to a different show."

Vanoff made occasional forays into film, co-producing the 1985 movie "Eleni."

He was nominated for a Directors Guild Award in 1974 and was named Showman of the Year by the Publicists' Guild of America last year.

Vanoff was a board member of Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group and a founding director of the Foundation for the Joffrey Ballet.

He is survived by his wife, Felisa; his sons, Nicholas and Flavio; his mother, Fima, and three sisters and a brother.

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Los Angeles Mission, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, or the UCLA Medical Center.

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