The Pasadena Playhouse announced Wednesday that Mike Stoller, half of the songwriting team Leiber & Stoller, and his wife, Corky Hale Stoller, were the anonymous donors whose $1 million gift in 2010 helped the theater emerge from bankruptcy that summer. Stoller and his writing partner Jerry Leiber penned such hit songs as "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Stand By Me" and "Yakety Yak." Leiber & Stoller's 1995 musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe" picked up seven Tony nominations and ran on Broadway for more than 2,000 performances before closing in 2000. The Grammy Award-winning songwriting duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Leiber died in 2011 at the age of 78. Corky Hale Stoller is a singer, pianist and harpist who has performed with Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Liberace. "Although I had met with Sheldon Epps on professional matters several years ago, it was only after reading that this wonderful theater was to close after 93 years that we decided we couldn't let that happen," Mike Stoller said in a statement.
The Pasadena Playhouse, which was established in 1917 and designated the State Theatre of California in 1937, went dark in February 2010 due to financial difficulties and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection three months later. The Stollers' anonymous matching fund donation allowed the Playhouse to emerge from bankruptcy in July 2010.
The couple became members of the theater's board in 2010 in conjunction with their donation. "Mike and Corky's tremendous gift to The Playhouse has incredible meaning to me in profound personal and professional ways," Artistic Director Sheldon Epps said. "Without doubt, it inspired others to come forward to match their donation at a vitally important time."