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LEE VON RHAU
Born: March 8, 1940
Lee Von Rhau began with our class in September 1958. His home was in West Redding, Connecticut, and he was a resident of Vanderbilt Hall. His roommates were Bill Chenoweth, Charlie Eisendrath, and Richard Nelson. Subsequently, he was a member of Silliman but beyond that Yale has provided us with no records of his graduation or of his departure from Yale prior to graduating. Our searches thus far have not located anyone who stayed in touch with Lee after the 1960s.
We do have these snapshots of his life which we share with his classmates:
After freshman year he was on the tech crew at Wellesley Mass. summer theatre with David Honneus. Also on that crew as an acting apprentice was Sam Waterston. At Yale Lee was active in the Dramat.
From classmate Victor Miller: "Lee called us from Woodstock. We were living in Stratford, Connecticut. He told us to get some rum and bourbon and come up and meet him and his then mate (name since forgotten). We drove up with our year-old baby in the back of our Volvo. The long traffic jams finally dropped us off behind the bandstand with the clutch burning out so we never found Lee and had to drink the rum ourselves."
Vic Miller continues, "I lost track of him after that and only recently learned that he was being called Baron von Rhau while running a restaurant south of Alameda, California. Lee was many things but self-disciplined was not one of them. I had spent many times in Greenwich Village where he had a variety of friends. He introduced me to Noel Stookey in Washington Square Park after Noel's set as stand-up comedian and singer/guitar player at The Café Wha. Noel told us that his agent or manager was going to team him up with two other musicians and have them put together an act in a hotel suite someplace in Manhattan. That was how I met Noel Stookey who would become Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. Hanging around with von Rhau was a reward in itself."
In 1969 Lee directed a revival of the not yet famous Ronald Tavel play, Boy on the Straight-back Chair, at the American Place Theatre in NYC. The Partisan Review stated that "Tavel was greatly aided by a clever director Lee von Rhau ..."
Aside from 3 years in Washington State in the early 1980s, a year in Houston in the mid-80s and another year in Washington in 2000, he lived the reminder of his life in northern California.
In the 1990s Lee was president of the One-Ended Rope, incorporated in Las Vegas, while he was living in California. Later he ran a company Fuego & Hielo, Inc., in Freedom, California.
He was also a successful chef and restaurant owner, first at Rosa's Rosticeria at the Yacht Harbor in Santa Cruz. From a review in Metro Santa Cruz on September 29, 1999: "Owner Lee von Rhau is present more often than not, prowling the upstairs restaurant like some pirate on the high seas, smiling at friends, tasting a salsa here and there, mixing drinks behind the bar. He's the creative genius behind the eclectic Caribbean/Creole/Cuban/Mexican menu ..." By 2001 he was operating The One-Eyed Rope also in Santa Cruz.
From John Stewart: "I knew him a little. He kept his marvelous Norton Black Shadow motorcycle outside of Silliman across the street from TD where I lived. He was a harbinger of the late 60s and 70s. I liked him - easy, laid-back and friendly."
Lee died January 4, 2005, in the town of Mount Shasta, in far northern California. Unfortunately, we have no further information on Lee, his activities, his family or survivors, if any. If any classmates have additional information, please send to your scribe.
Author, John Stewart