» In town this weekend to enjoy the Omaha Community Playhouse production of “Hairspray” is a guy who knows the show well — Adam Epstein, who won a Tony Award as one of the producers of the mega-hit on Broadway.
Adam, 37, has an Omaha connection and said he has visited probably 15 times. While here, he stays with John and Sara Young, whom he calls his “Midwest parents.”
In 2000, he served as “honor attendant” at the Omaha wedding of their daughter Joanna Young, a former classmate at New York University. (Joanna, a Westside High grad, made her Broadway debut in 1996 in a revival of “Grease.”)
Epstein, who majored in political science but decided on a career in show business instead of becoming a lawyer, spoke Friday at a luncheon for the playhouse support group Act II.
Mounting shows on Broadway is expensive and difficult, he said, and much of the revenue today is taken in by blockbusters such as “The Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys” and “The Book of Mormon.”
“It's not as though everybody is thriving,” he said. “It's such a fragile business.”
On Broadway, he said, the producer is the CEO who oversees the budget and hires the creative talent. “The best producers set the stage and then get out of the way.”
A native of Miami, Adam spent 16 years in New York but has relocated to Los Angeles to produce films and TV shows. He is engaged to marry British actor Rik Barnett.
In response to an actor's question at the luncheon about breaking into show business, the producer replied that discouragement is normal: “You have to be relentless. You cannot stop.”
» Brett Smith, 28, a former quarterback at Papillion-La Vista High School, graduated this week from Yale University — nine years after surviving a car-truck accident that killed four friends and left him in a coma for nearly a month. He received Yale's student-athlete award for “spirit and courage in transcending unforeseen challenges.”
At the time of the Jan. 17, 2003, accident, Brett was a freshman on the Yale football team, returning to campus after a night in New York. The vehicle he and friends were riding in slammed into a jackknifed tractor-trailer on the icy highway.
With broken bones in his face, a broken sternum and a brain injury, he was flown to Omaha to be near his family. His father, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bruce Smith, was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base.
Brett was in a coma for nearly a month and couldn't walk or talk for two months. After much therapy, he was readmitted to Yale in 2008. The Yale News said he eventually will apply to medical school.
» Throwing out the first ball before today's Brown Park Memorial Tournament in South Omaha will be another survivor of terrible injuries in his youth — Rex Gruber, retired Douglas County deputy sheriff.
His wounds came in the Korean War, where the Marine was badly shot twice and had to inject his own morphine. In the snowy Battle of Chosin Reservoir, he was shot through his right ankle and out the heel and, he said, lay in the hills for days.
When the 5th Marine Division arrived, he said, the dead were thrown into a truck and the injured on top of them.
He and wife Alene, who died in January, raised four children. The ceremony before the ballgames today is at 12:30 p.m.
» Family and friends on Sunday will celebrate the 90th birthday of retired businessman and World War II combat veteran Stuart Muskin.
Muskin landed in France a week after D-Day and fought with Patton's Army. He and wife Bettie have been married nearly 65 years. He was a co-owner for 37 years of the Youngtown stores, selling children's clothing and toys.
Bruce Muskin said his dad stayed busy in his retirement, helping small businesses as a volunteer with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and for 20 years teaching literacy to adults. Friends and family will honor him from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at his Swanson Towers home.
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