Hillard Elkins, 81, a producer who broke down sexual barriers and created one of the biggest hits in Broadway history when he brought the erotic revue
to the stage, died Dec. 1 of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles.
Mr. Elkins started out in the mail room at William Morris in New York and quickly rose to become a top agent, heading the company's theatrical division.
After forming his own company, whose clients included Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Mel Brooks, he set up as a producer and in short order developed a string of notable plays and films, including the musical Golden Boy with Sammy Davis Jr., the film Alice's Restaurant, and the Broadway premieres of two plays by Athold Fugard. With Al Goldin, he made his Broadway debut in 1962 with Come On Strong.
Mr. Elkins wrote a chapter in the history of the 1960s counterculture when he produced Oh! Calcutta!, Kenneth Tynan's musical sex revue, and, with Arthur Penn as director, produced the film version of Arlo Guthrie's shaggy-dog song "Alice's Restaurant" in 1969. Oh! Calcutta! made by far the bigger splash. Consisting of sexual fantasies sketched by notables such as Samuel Beckett, John Lennon, and Sam Shepard, it offered copious nudity and simulated sex acts.
It opened at the Eden Theater in the East Village in 1969 and two years later transferred uptown to the Belasco, where it became an enormous hit, running for more than 1,300 performances despite often-withering reviews.
More seriously, and to greater acclaim, Mr. Elkins staged the Ibsen plays Hedda Gabler and A Doll's House on Broadway in 1971.
- N.Y. Times News Service