Perhaps no single event defines that vitality – and the history that continues to inspire it – more than the Milley Awards, the City of Mill Valley’s annual chance to honor creative achievement and distinguished accomplishments in the arts. The 2014 Milley Awards, produced by a volunteer board of directors under the auspices of the Mill Valley Arts Commission, is set for Oct. 19 at the Mill Valley Community Center.
It promises to be another star-studded affair.
The 2014 honorees include legendary comedian Mort Sahl, famed author Joyce Maynard, prolific music producer Scott Mathews, architect and former Mayor Chris Raker and Murphy Productions, the event production and promotion company that has been an engine for the local arts scene for more then a decade. The O’Hanlon Center for the Arts is receiving the Vera Schultz Award for its “lasting contributions to the cultural life of our community.”
In addition, Gage Schubert, longtime local supporter of the arts and the husband of the late, great puppeteer Lettie Schubert, is set to receive the Sali Lieberman Award, a lifetime achievement award for “individuals who embody Marin Theatre Company founder Sali Lieberman’s inspiration, courage and determination and who, like him, have contributed significantly to the cultural life of Mill Valley.”
Rita Abrams, best known for recording the song “Mill Valley” with her third grade class at Strawberry Point Elementary School in 1970, along with Milley Awards co-founder Abby Wasserman, will serve as emcees for the event. Abrams garnered a Milley in 1996 while Wasserman won the Sali Lieberman Award in 2009.
The Milley Award itself is a bronze statuette created by John Libberton of Sausalito. Here are brief bios of the 2014 Milley Award recipients:
Scott Mathews – Achievement in the Musical Arts
The list of artists who Mathews has produced at his Tiki Town studio in Mill Valley or elsewhere is staggering: Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Roseann Cash, Jerry Garcia, Huey Lewis, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Dick Dale and Milley Award winner Sammy Hagar. Mathews has also written songs and/or recorded with Barbra Streisand, John Lee Hooker, Keith Richards, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, David Bowie, Steve Perry, Johnny Cash, Todd Rungren, Robert Cray, Ry Cooder, The Tubes, Jefferson Starship and Raphael Saadiq. Mathews has tallied sales of more than 35 million records sold as a producer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist.
Chris Raker – Achievement in the Visual Arts
From the Outdoor Art Club to the Marin Theatre Company, Raker has put his architectural imprint all over the local arts scene for more than 25 years. The former two-term Mill Valley Mayor’s retrofit design “deserves significant recognition as it is under-the-radar kind of preservation work that has fully impacted the community, though not necessarily seen through the naked eye,” according to the Milley Awards committee.
That preservation work is on vivid display in his Raker’s latest project, the restoration of the Mill Valley Lumber Yard in conjunction with Matt and Jan Mathews.
Joyce Maynard – Achievement in the Literary Arts
A household in American literary circles and beyond, Maynard first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times Magazine cover story “An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back on Life” in the April 23, 1972 issue, when she was 19 and a freshman at Yale. In her 1998 memoir, At Home in the World, Maynard revealed the story of the relationship she had with author J. D. Salinger when he was 53 and she was 18. The memoir has since been translated into 15 languages.
Maynard has written nine novels and four non-fiction books, plus a bevy of columns, articles and essays, including a stint as a reporter and columnist for the The New York Times and as a syndicated newspaper columnist whose “Domestic Affairs” column appeared in 65 papers nationwide.
In 2013, the Times ran Maynard’s paean to the Sleeping Lady in an essay titled, “Echoes of the Savage and Sublime on Mount Tamalpais.” After she moved to Mill Valley in 1996, Maynard frequently led day-long intensive writing workshops at Book Passage. Her novel To Die For was made into a 1995 film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix, while her novel Labor Day was made into a 2013 film directed by Jason Reitman and starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Her most recent novel, After Her, is set in Mill Valley. She now lives in the East Bay.
Mort Sahl – Achievement in the Performing Arts
For the past four years, one of the most important comedians of all time has called Mill Valley home. Sahl, widely considered the father of political comedy, was the first comic to appear on the cover of Time magazine. He was the first non-musician to receive a Grammy award and, in fact, he hosted the first-ever Grammy Awards in 1959). He’s poked fun at every president from Eisenhower to Obama, and managed to maintain friendships with quite a few of them, too.
Sahl – a self-described political radical – began as a speechwriter for President Kennedy and later for President Johnson. He began performing at the hungry I music club in San Francisco’s North Beach in the early 1950s, before comedy clubs even existed. Sahl’s 1955 performance with Dave Brubeck, which was recorded and released, without Sahl’s permission, and was sold as Mort Sahl At Sunset, was recently recognized by the Library of Congress as the first stand-up comedy record album.
At the age of 87, Sahl continues to perform regularly, taking the stage at the Throckmorton Theatre every Thursday night during the theater’s year-long 19-year anniversary celebration.
Murphy Productions – Contributions to the Arts Community
Known for their successes at developing unknown venues, Erma Murphy and Daniel Patrick have created a unique and original style of producing musical events that are inclusive of a larger community.
Erma Murphy began as a local impresario in 2000, hosting a monthly musical party called First Friday at her home in Mill Valley. The evenings provided an opportunity for local and aspiring musicians to play together in an ensemble arrangement while sharing potluck, talking and dancing. Daniel Patrick met Erma at First Friday in 2001 and bonded over their love of music and community. Together, they became Murphy Productions in 2002. Over the years, they’ve produced shows all over, including the Larkspur Cafe Theatre, the Falkirk, the Belrose, he Stage Door Dance Studio, the Masonic Hall in downtown Mill Valley and the old Palm Ballroom in San Rafael.
The company also serves as a publicity firm for the likes of Marin Open Studios, Marin Art Festival, The Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival and The Larkspur Flower and Food Festival.
Sali Leiberman Award – Gage Schubert
The Sali Lieberman Award was created by the Milley Awards Board of Directors to honor lifetime achievements of those individuals who embody Marin Theatre Company founder Sali Lieberman’s inspiration, courage and determination and who, like him, have contributed significantly to the cultural life of Mill Valley.
Gage Schubert is receiving this award for his numerous contributions to the community. The list of recipients of Gage’s largesse is long: Kiddo, Slide Ranch, Marin Theatre Company, Tamalpais Conservation Club, Mountain Play Association, West Point Inn, The Dipsea Race, Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, the City of Mill Valley plus numerous other projects as well as the Milley Awards.
Schubert always sought to remain in the background, referring to himself as a “table and chair” man. He no longer moves the tables, but is still actively involved with the Mountain Play Association. Gage and his late wife Lettie, a puppeteer and early Milley Awardee, started their community volunteering with the Alto School summer fairs and also worked to found the Scott Valley Swim and Tennis Club. After that the community involvement never stopped.
Vera Schultz Award – O’Hanlon Center for the Arts
In 2002 the Vera Schultz Award was created to honor the achievements of organizations which embody the late Marin County Supervisor’s activism, leadership, courage and vision, and like Vera Schultz, have made lasting contributions to the cultural life of our community.
The O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, located in a sylvan setting in Mill Valley’s Cascade Canyon, offers workshops, performances, classes, discussions and events for people of all ages who desire to express themselves creatively or who simply love the arts. In an accepting and supportive atmosphere, they feel free to discover new ways of seeing and doing. Continuing the teaching legacy of founders Ann and Richard O’Hanlon, who started the non-profit organization on their property in 1969, facilitators and teachers emphasize process over product, fellowship, and individual growth. Professional artists and those who want to explore their creativity for the joy of it find O’Hanlon an egalitarian oasis. It is Mill Valley’s art center—where community and creativity meet.
The 411: Tickets for the Milley Awards are $75. They will go on sale in early September.