Bill Budd, labeled by several local theater reviewers as Santa Barbara’s “Mr. Gilbert & Sullivan,” died on Feb. 13, 2013.
Among his many and varied achievements, Bill founded the Gilbert & Sullivan Company of Santa Barbara in 1982, and directed all of its shows until 1994. During that 12-year period, this local theatrical troupe of 500 singers and instrumentalists performed the entire canon of G&S musical comedies at the Lobero Theatre.
In addition to directing, Bill also exuberantly performed in most of them. The company presented two new productions each year to the delight of thousands in their audiences.
For his effort, Bill was designated as one of the Santa Barbara Independent’s “Local Heroes” in 1987.
Bill was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1932. (He liked to brag that he was born several minutes before his twin sister, Margie.)
He sang as a featured soprano soloist with the St. Paul’s Boy’s Choir from the age of 7, performing in such places as Carnegie Hall and the New York Metropolitan Opera House.
He held a BBA degree from Hofstra University and did his graduate studies at the University of Oregon.
During the Korean War, he served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Bill was president of Budd Publications in New York City for 20 years, specializing in periodicals in the import/export and tradeshow fields. During this period, he continued his musical/theatrical career in light opera with a New York City area G&S Company, where he met his wife, Betty Farrelly.
Before he raised himself to “president” of the company, he won Betty’s heart as she witnessed his unbridled enthusiasm during a performance of The Mikado. As Koko, he “groveled” at the feet of Katasha with the same over-the-top comic intensity and energy that he brought to all of the roles he played.
Bill and Betty both moved to Santa Barbara in 1982, and within days of their arrival, they formed the Gilbert and Sullivan Company of Santa Barbara.
Bill had a great zest for life. With his wife, he traveled extensively throughout the world, frequently writing magazine articles for airline companies. He had many interests and vocations, in addition to his publishing and theatrical careers.
He owned a travel agency in Manhattan, a printing company in Westchester County and produced movies in the Caribbean.
He was a private pilot, a raconteur and joke-teller extraordinaire, but his prime avocation was musical comedy. He often told of his disbelief at losing to a unicyclist when he appeared in a barbershop quartet on TV’s Ted Mack Amateur Hour, and also how he won the most money as a contestant on To Tell the Truth (he being the most convincing “impostor”).
With his infectious smile, genial spirit and unbounded optimism, Bill definitely saw “life as a stage,” and he enjoyed performing on it. He also never lost a chance to use the stage to brighten the lives of others.
Many have attested to the enrichment and joy Bill brought to their lives. This includes adults who were children when Bill introduced them to Gilbert and Sullivan through “Peanut Gallery Productions.”
Bill Budd formed Performance Memories, a video production company, in 1977. Joined by his wife Betty, he moved the company to Santa Barbara where it continues today with more than 20,000 local customers.
The company now specializes in video recordings of performances of children, and has recorded more than 5,000 shows in schools and other Santa Barbara venues. This recording business has been a longtime love of the couple, since with Performance Memories they have been able to continue sharing and preserving for families special moments of their children’s performances.
Bill is survived by his wife and business partner, Betty Farrelly; his twin sister, Margie Dome, of Florida; his niece, Tracy; his favorite in-laws, Peggy, Roy and Fran; and his nephews; plus several more generations made possible by his sister, Margie.
He is predeceased by his brother, John, his daughter, Bonnie, Arthur Sullivan, W.S. Gilbert, Abraham Lincoln and too many others to list.
A “Celebration of Bill’s Life” will be held at 2 p.m. March 17 on the grounds of Bishop Diego High School, 4000 La Colina Road in Santa Barbara. In lieu of flowers, or any donations, please just take a moment to remember Bill and how he made you laugh.