Fred Weintraub, whose club The Bitter End was instrumental in kick-starting the careers of numerous artists, died on Sunday from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 88.
Originally, Weintraub took over the family business, Darling Furniture and Toys, and expanded it into a multi-store chain before just walking off, at the age of 26, for a life of adventure. Over the next few years, he worked in a bordello as a piano player and worked a Cuban fishing boat before returning to New York where he opened The Bitter End in 1961.
Weintraub was responsible for starting the careers of such artists as Peter, Paul and Mary, Lenny Bruce and Randy Newman with appearances at the club along with featuring early performances of many other acts including Neil Diamond, Woody Allen, Frank Zappa, Kris Kristofferson, George Carlin and Harry Chapin.
Fred sold the Bitter End in 1974 but, in the mid-60’s, he actually left New York for the west coast where he became a producer both for television (Hootenanny, The Dukes of Hazzard) and in film. In 1970, he became an executive vice president at Warner Brothers with his first project being the documentary Woodstock. The film, one of the most important movies in rock history, was an huge hit for a documentary, going on to become the sixth highest grossing film of the year.
Weintraub was also instrumental in bringing Bruce Lee to American audiences, including producing the 1973 film Enter the Dragon. He went on to produce a long list of films, many that would be considered b-movie classics.
In 2011, Fred wrote his autobiography, Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me: From the Man Behind a Half-Century of Music.
Weintraub is survived by his fourth wife, Jackie, and four children from previous marriages.