Part-time Southampton Village resident Tom Gregory wears many hats: Actor, internet and radio personality, sociopolitical commentator, columnist, curator, and now, having helped bring the classic 1950s musical “Guys and Dolls” back to the Great White Way last month, Broadway producer.
“‘Guys and Dolls’ really resonates when you walk out of the theater,” Mr. Gregory said in an interview at his home on Lake Agawam. The story of street gamblers and romance features a high roller’s bet that he can take a Salvation Army-style missionary to Cuba for the weekend and a showgirl’s bid to get her longtime boyfriend to curb his career as a floating craps game impresario and tie the knot.
“I was always intrigued by old film, and that’s why ‘Guys and Dolls,’ interested me,” Mr. Gregory said. “In the old days, it was all about heart and what the heart has to say.”
He traced his involvement in the musical to a party he attended four years ago in Sag Harbor, where he met “Sweeney Todd” producer Darren Bagert. He recalled telling Mr. Bagert that night he would like to work with him sometime; on March 1, 2009, they opened “Guys and Dolls” at the Nederlander Theatre.
To earn the title of producer, Mr. Gregory invested financially in the show and helps market it, he said. Other than that, he said it’s just little decisions. “Mostly, I’m concerned with making sure the cast remains happy,” he said. “I know what it’s like to look out there and see empty seats.”
“I’m a cynic,” Mr. Gregory admitted, a characterization that seems to run counter to his outwardly jovial nature. “I think it’s going to fail because I’m involved.” But “Guys and Dolls,” despite initial less than rave reviews and the faltering economy, is still finding an audience.
“Anybody who did anything during the last eight months, people thought they were crazy,” Mr. Gregory said. “The economy may be difficult and challenging, but people come if you put on a great show.”
He said it’s been a fun ride, and he’d love to produce again. Whether he does, or finds himself turning in another direction, only time will tell. He’s almost 50 years old, he pointed out, adding, “I’m still waiting to tell my ninth grade guidance counselor what I’m going to do with my life.”
He said he wished his parents had just pulled him out of school when he
was six years old and sent him to the movie theater instead. “Just watch this,” he joked. “You don’t need to learn algebra.”
He recalled his mother watching films as she ironed and telling him the names of all the actors and actresses. “Who the hell is Susan Hayward and why is she telling me this?” he remembers thinking.
Then when his grandmother bought a house way out in rural New Jersey and he came upon a collection the previous owner had left behind, he was set on a journey. The collection was of publicity photos of film stars, many of them signed. He decided to track down the stars and starlets who were still alive and get them to sign their photographs.
He expanded the collection as well, and it now includes a signed photograph of Abraham Lincoln and a personalized photograph from Marilyn Monroe to James Dean.
“It’s probably the most significant collection of signed photographs in the world,” Mr. Gregory said, adding that he’s on his way to publishing a coffee-table book with some 60 photographs from his collection of 350.
Mr. Gregory also collects 1930s American clothing and, when they catch his eye, outfits from films. In fact, one of Mr. Gregory’s claims to fame is his payment of $101,100.51 in 2006 for two cowboy shirts Heath Ledger hugged at the end of “Brokeback Mountain.” And just last month, he was the high bidder on a suit that Sean Penn wore in “Milk” as gay rights activist Harvey Milk.
After he bought the “Brokeback Mountain” shirts, he received a wave of media attention that led to him being invited on cable news networks as an entertainment commentator and earned him regular gigs as a columnist for The Huffington Post and as a guest on Leeza Gibbons’s radio show, “Hollywood Confidential.”
Mr. Gregory is also the face of ovguide.com, or Online Video Guide, a catalog of the best videos on the internet. He creates original material for the website and for his YouTube channel, youtube.com/ovguide.
Though most of the videos are shot on the West Coast, Mr. Gregory has also made many videos around Southampton and East Hampton, including a peek inside the WLNG studio in Sag Harbor, an interview with the late shark hunter Frank Mundus and a tour of “The Antique Shop” in Bridgehampton.
“I started coming out here about 1994. A former partner introduced me to it,” Mr. Gregory said of the East End. Then, in 2000, he introduced his current partner, David Bohnett, to the Hamptons. The two have had a house on Lake Agawam since 2007.