February 7, 2012
On January 30, the DGA held a special tribute honoring the late Secretary-Treasurer and Past President of the DGA, Gilbert Cates, who passed away in October 2011. The event took place at the DGA’s Los Angeles Theater and celebrated Cates’ active service in the Guild which extended more than half a century. In addition to his DGA service, the event recognized Cates’ dedication to the community at large which included serving as Producing Director of Los Angeles’ The Geffen Playhouse, Dean of the UCLA School of Theater Film and Television from 1990-1998, and producing the annual Academy Awards show on 14 occasions.
“The Guild is particularly honored to host all of you here today, because this man meant so much to us,” said DGA President Taylor Hackford in his welcome to the audience. “For over 50 years his wise voice echoed off these walls, in thousands of meetings and DGA events, inspiring so many Directors, including me, to become involved in Guild service.”
Hackford then turned the podium over to Cates’ widow, Dr. Judith Reichman, who spoke eloquently and movingly about the kind of man he was as a husband, father and friend. The celebration was illustrated by several video montages, including one of Cates’ life behind the camera produced by his sons, Gil Cates Jr. and Jonathan Cates; others of his work at the DGA, Academy Awards, Geffen Playhouse, and UCLA produced by Chuck Workman, Douglass M. Stewart, Jr., and John Webb; and a final montage of Cates with his family produced by Jon Cates.
The event also featured sincere and often humorous tributes from co-workers, collaborators and friends including DGA National Executive Director Jay D. Roth who said, “To him the Guild was a brother and a sisterhood brought together to protect the arts and artists. If you were touched by Gil, as most of us were, you could look forward to a great train ride. I happily rode that train with him for thirty years. We may not have our conductor, but Gil’s train continues to go on the path he so well set.”
Other speakers included Congressman Ed Markey; UCLA Chancellor Gene Block; Actors/Directors Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, and Alan Alda; actors Jon Stewart, Annette Bening, Dana Delany; singer Celine Dion; Cates’ college roommate Dr. Dan Present; Writer/Director Lionel Chetwynd; and The Geffen Playhouse’s Chairman of the Board Frank Mancuso. The evening also featured a special dance performance entitled Requiem for Gil, introduced and choreographed by Debbie Allen, and a musical performance of “Smile” by Josh Groban on vocals and Bill Conti on piano. The final tribute to Cates came from his son Gil Cates Jr, and grandson Harrison Cates.
Cates joined the DGA in 1960 when the Radio and Television Directors Guild, of which he was a member, merged with the Screen Directors Guild to form the modern Directors Guild of America. Cates was elected to the National Board in 1975 and served as President from 1983-1987 and as Secretary-Treasurer from 1997 until his passing. He chaired the Negotiations Committee for the Guild's 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2011 contract negotiations and served on the Western Directors Council for more than 30 years.
For his decades of extraordinary service to the Guild and its membership, the Guild recognized Cates with the Robert B. Aldrich Award in 1989, the DGA Honorary Life Member Award in 1991 and the President's Award in 2005.
photos by Byron Gamarro