While the rest of this website has centered around the genius of his musical craft, this page of The Best of All Worlds celebrates some other important aspects of Earle Hagen's life.
Universally regarded as one of the nicest gentlemen in Hollywood, Earle Hagen is a person whose influence has gone far beyond the chords of his familiar tunes. The affection in which he is held by millions across America and beyond can only bring a smile to the face of anyone reading the jocular title of his autobiography, "Memories of A Famous Composer Nobody Ever Heard Of."
But that subliminal inspiration we feel when treated to his music is just the key of a door that opens to a life that is truly one to admire for fortitude and resilience In the face of many health challenges. Though not a well-known fact, all his incredible accomplishments just glow more intensely when viewed in this context.
Earle Hagen flanked by Best of All Worlds team
Deborah Young-Groves and Debby Lazar
When Earle Hagen faintly heard a doctor ordering an autopsy on his body when still in his teens, he couldn't know that it was the beginning of medical problems that would stay on his trail the rest of his life. However, these health threats have never gotten in the way of his joie de vivre, his prolific musical productivity and most of all, his capacity for humanity and friendship.
Among the many acknowledgements of his musical achievements in addition to his Emmy Award, Earle Hagen has received the 1987 BMI Richard Kirk Award for Lifetime Achievement and the BMI President's Award in 1995. In 2000 he was honored with the Irwin Kostal Award by the American Society of Musicians Composers & Arrangers. (Read his stylish acceptance remarks on film scoring on the page Earle Hagen Speaks About His Career.)
While the musical spheres of Earle Hagen traverse so many different fields, they only represent a few of his interests and accomplishments. A champion at all he's set his mind to, the worlds of Earle Hagen include fishing and golf, design, charitable work, art collecting and family life.
Jackson Five on staircase built by Earle Hagen
Few fans of the Jackson Five or readers of LIFE Magazine will fail to recall the classic 1971 cover of that periodical showing the rock group cascading down an impressive circular stairway in their Encino, California home. But how many realized that that unique construction was the design and fabrication of the composer of Harlem Nocturne?
Indeed this unique staircase was created by Earle Hagen when he owned the home later sold to the Jacksons. It was the focal point of a new addition he put onto the house as his den/study. The steel lighthouse-style staircase led up to a mezzanine library. The supporting beams were hand face-routed solid oak. Every inch was the handwork of Earle Hagen, and stands alongside a host of original modern furniture and cabinetry he's designed and built as well.
Earle Hagen on the same staircase
As far as the deep sea fishing and exploits on the golf course, he has the trophies to prove his success. No devotee of the former sport will fail to be enthralled on his tales of fishing off the coast of Mexico related in the above-mentioned memoirs.
When it came to charitable work, the Hagens were renowned for one of the Must Evenings of the Year when they staged their annual jazz party for the California Educational Clinic.
But for six decades, the BEST of the Best was the remarkable and glamorous Lou Hagen. Her courageous and determined struggle against illness would be an inspiration to anyone. She gave that fight the same spirit she put into all the good things life also brought her.
Lou and Earle Hagen
At her funeral novelist and producer Ernest Frankel summed up her loving and beautiful presence with the words “She had the uncommon power to make us understand that the principal interest of life is to celebrate living, to enrich and enjoy each moment, to measure our lives in deeds, not years. And she did it all naturally, without pretense, by reaching out to all around her.”
The Hagen Family in 1977
Even more inspirational are the words of Earle and Lou Hagen's `adopted son,' Dr. Brom Beckerman, who was also her physician: “She set no conditions, sought no rewards, looked for no advantage. A rarity in this world today, she was never judgmental, never demanding, never unkind. She accepted you on your own terms, able to see the whole person, but choosing to respond only to the best in everyone, anxious to recognize and value what was good and positive and interesting and promising."
55th Anniversary toast
There could be no question that Lou's spirit has continued to remain with Earle. The serious heart surgery he underwent during the summer after her death required months of convalescence, but with his own indominable spirit and the help of Dr. Brom Beckerman, Earle made a spectacular recovery. Lou surely played a part in that, but also in the entrance of the endearing Laura Gunn into his life.
Just the kind of matchmaking Lou would enjoy, bringing two soulmates together. The warmth of the loving home Earle and Laura share is proof that Lou is still specializing herself in the happiness of others.
Earle and Laura Hagen
Not one, but two fairytale marriages, and there's no one who deserves The Best of All Worlds more!
And if you believe that Earle Hagen's retirement meant a life of leisure and golf, check out the page about his work on a Broadway musical. He's also turned his talents to that of impresario, putting on a series of jazz concerts which turned out to be the hottest ticket in the Palm Springs season. Besides assembling his autobiography in the new century, in 2005 Earle Hagen also turned DVD producer, creating a wonderful montage musical video featuring his singer wife Laura Gunn.
Approaching age 89, Earle Hagen continues to be the Miracle Man who survived that autopsy to have a life which has sparkled in every way, and added sparkle to those who've been touched by his music and his person!