Lloyd E. Rigler, who made a fortune with Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer and built on that success a series of businesses and arts philanthropies including Hollywood’s American Cinematheque (and its main theater, named after him), died Dec. 7 at home in Los Angeles. He was 88.
His donations helped create or fund the Los Angeles Music Center and L.A. Opera and D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, support New York City Opera and found public television’s Classic Arts Showcase.
Rigler was prexy of the Lloyd E. Rigler-Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation in Hollywood, vice chairman of the New York City Opera and founder of the American Assn. for Single People, which fights for economic rights of the unmarried.
Depression-era salesman’s connection with television started with the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, where he demonstrated RCA’s new TV technology to astonished auds.
He and partner Lawrence E. Deutsch, who jointly made Adolph’s a national brand, began their philanthropy in the early 1950s, when they formed their foundation, which was innovative in promoting the matching-funds concept.
Significant contributions went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, the American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Ballet and the refurbishing of Carnegie Hall.
Lehr, N.D., native grew up working in his parents’ general store, which served a farming community. After graduating from the U. of Illinois, he tried to work in New York theater but found himself selling Waring blenders and promoting TV sets and records.
During WWII, he served in the Navy, then met Deutsch. The two eventually went into business as Rigler & Deutsch Food Brokers. Famously, they met Santa Barbara restaurant owner-chef Adolph Rempp and learned about his meat tenderizer. They repped Rempp as food brokers and in 1948 bought his recipe and the name; the rest is corporate history.
The foundation took off after the sale of Adolph’s. The partners helped the new Los Angeles Opera, of which Deutsch was president, bring the New York City Opera to the Los Angeles Music Center, where it performed regularly for 16 seasons.
They also began one of the most extensive collections and listings of voice recordings, going back to the first Edison cylinder. The result was the Rigler & Deutsch Index of Recorded Sound.
Rigler served on the board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 20 years and the board of the City Center of Music and Drama in New York.
Survivors include a sister, Audre Estrin; nephew James Rigler, vice president of the foundation and producer of Classic Arts Showcase; and friend Steven Davis.A memorial tribute will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18, at the American Cinematheque, coinciding with its weekend Kim Novak tribute, which is underwritten by the Rigler-Deutsch Foundation.