Theatres, dance, and music venues open-up, and as ‘Queen Corona’ is about to abduct, let’s focus our gaze at another royal: Princess Grace….
We rubbed shoulders with the Monaco royalty back in 2001, when our documentary ‘ISRAEL ROCKS!’ won the URTI Grand Prix for Documentaries, Prix Arman and the Gold Medal at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival.
When we celebrated the festival and our winning in Monaco, we met a lovely lady, who claimed to have been the PR lady of John Lennon, among numerous other celebrities. Over lunch in her millions-of-dollars tiny studio apartment in one of Monaco’s high-rises, she told us that there’s a crazy guy in the Netherlands, who’s about to produce a musical about Princess Grace. She also knew that this Dutch millionaire, who started as a stallholder in the Waterloo flee market, actually made his fortunes in the Eastern Block, selling cheap knick-knacks in huge quantities to the communist governments.
twenty million Guilders
We decided that we must meet this crazy guy, and maybe there’s a documentary!
The result was ‘On Grace Kelly, Money and Dreams’, an uplifting documentary about Bert Maas (yes, a Jew), a most colorful, optimistic person. He invested twenty million Guilders in his dream – and lost it all… Yet, he remained enthusiastic to the very end, and cherished every minute of that adventure.
For half a year in 2001, we followed almost daily, the creation of the musical, and the building of the theatre that Maas erected in Amsterdam, in honor of Grace Kelly.
One of those days was the 11th of September….
We filmed in the bare skeleton of the theatre that was being built, when the light man, an American from New York, mentioned that an airplane has just hit one of the Twin Towers in Manhattan… He was wondering aloud “How will they ever manage to take it out?”
We wrapped the filming for that day and came back home, and remained glued to the television, as the second airplane hit the second tower, both collapsed, along with one more nearby building… So that was how they managed to take it out…
In the following days, the TV was open in the rehearsal room, following the evolving crisis, while Bert Maas was dealing with the numerous crisis that accompanied the production of his ‘Grace, the musical’.
The original play was written by Seth Gaaikema, and it took an interesting angle on Grace’s story, focusing on one event: when Hitchcock (played by Rob van de Meeberg) tried to get Grace Kelly (played by Joke de Kruijf) to participate in his next movie. Grace was torn between her lost career and her new love, Prince Reinier (played by Ernst-Daniël Smid).
The music was written by the legendary Cy Coleman and the choreography was done by Patricia Birch, who was also the choreographer of the musical Grease.
After a festive opening, the musical got mixed reviews and tickets sale went quite badly. Maas suspected that Dutch producers were behind the plot of hampering tickets sale, and indeed, numerous people complained about long waiting times on the telephone lines.
Bert Maas didn’t complain. He cherished the opportunity to dive into this wild adventure. Money was not an issue.
craving for herring
For example: We set to film Bert and his wife, Marlies, in the tiny apartment they shared during the first years of their marriage, in East Berlin, before Bert was a millionaire.
We booked the flight to Berlin, for the crew and for Bert (Marlies was already in Berlin, waiting for us) but after check-in, on the way to the gate, Bert had a craving for herring… When we finally reached the gate, the airplane was getting ready for takeoff, after our suitcases were already taken off it.
On the spot, Bert booked 5 new tickets and paid for them in cash.
During the production months, Bert rented a marvelous villa in Aalsmeer. From there he managed the production, hands on, day in day out.
As he couldn’t rent any theatre in the Netherlands for a period of 2 years (which was the time needed to break-even) he decided to build his own theatre. Within half a year he got all the permits and built a huge metal box that contained the 1200 seat theatre, a vast lobby, dressing rooms and offices. Marlis came with the idea to drape the metal box with fabrics painted so as to resemble the façade of the palace on Monaco. It was amazing. Bert also insisted that the audience of Grace the musical will feel like Royalty. The theatre lobby was dressed in red and gold, marble sculptures, and royal furniture –imported from China.
Indeed, each ticketholder got a glass of Champaign upon entering and one more during the intermission. Next to the building of the theatre a restaurant was erected in a tent, all dressed, again, royally.
Well – it was all a grand experience, but sadly, it all ended 3 months after the festive premiere, with major losses and a bitter bankruptcy.
We kept contact with Bert and Marlies all these years, and I can tell you that to this day, Bert doesn’t regret a moment of those years, and not a cent of the 20 million, that he put into realizing his dream.
You can enjoy watching the documentary ‘On Grace Kelly, Money and Dreams’.
Stichting Rainbow is celebrating this year its 25th anniversary, 25 years of social and cultural activities.
As part of the celebrations, I’m happy to share with you all the unknown stories about our projects – and the impact they created on people’s lives. I’m Erga Netz, the initiator and director of Stichting Rainbow. In our early projects, I was the producer and editor and later became the director, too. Thank you for participating in our celebrations and if you have any questions – I’ll be happy to answer them and tell you more!
Stichting Rainbow is now headed by a board of three Israelis who live in the Netherlands: Nir Geva, Gilad Nezer, and Yankale Bader, and our activities in the past years focused on Israeli cultural and societal activities for the Israeli, Dutch Jews, and the general Dutch public.
You can read all about Stichting Rainbow its mission, and projects.
cover: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in “To Catch a Thief”: no need to watch the road while driving in movies, Paramount 1955