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Longtime Academy Awards producer Gil Cates found dead in parking lot

11/1/2011, 7:50 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--Film and stage director-producer Gilbert Cates, who helmed 14 Academy Awards shows and headed UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television in the '90s, was found dead in a parking garage at the university, authorities confirmed today. He was 77.

Cates, who produced the Oscar broadcast most recently in 2008, was found dead at 820 Westwood Plaza about 6:30 p.m. Monday, according to a coroner's investigator. The cause of death was not immediately available.

Cates was dean of UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television from 1990 to 1998 and producing director at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

"Our entire TFT community is overwhelmingly saddened by the loss of our beloved mentor, colleague and friend," said Teri Schwartz, the current dean of the school.

"Today we mourn our great loss but also celebrate Gil's extraordinary vision and countless contributions, not only to TFT as founding dean and distinguished professor but to the entertainment and performing arts industries and education of our students, who benefited from his remarkable talent, insights, generosity, experience and wisdom," she said. "Our deepest condolences and love go out to Gil's beloved family at this very difficult time."

Cates also was active with the Directors Guild of America, serving two terms as president. He was treasurer-secretary when he died.

His first year producing the Oscar broadcast was in 1990, the same year he became the founding dean at UCLA, where he was a faculty member when he died.

"Gil was our colleague, our friend and a former governor of the Academy," said Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "He was a consummate professional who gave the Academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar history. His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry, and our thoughts go out to his family."

According to the Academy, Cates was responsible for hiring Oscar hosts such as Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Chris Rock and Jon Stewart.

Born Gilbert Katz in New York City, he produced or directed the feature films "I Never Sang for My Father" (1970), which got three Oscar nods, and "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams" (1973), which got two nominations.

Other films included "The Promise," "Once Summer Love," "Oh! God Book II" and "Backfire." He also produced on- and off-Broadway shows early in his career.

At the Geffen in 2006, he directed an adaptation of "Paint Your Wagon."

He was an uncle to actress Phoebe Cates, probably best known for her role "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."