From an eager young usher at Davenport’s RKO Orpheum Theatre to working as a producer in radio, television, theater and film, Doug Miller boasts a vast network of connections and a rich entertainment biography. For 30-plus years delivering film production management services has been his vocation and his passion. In his latest venture, he is […]
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From an eager young usher at Davenport’s RKO Orpheum Theatre to working as a producer in radio, television, theater and film, Doug Miller boasts a vast network of connections and a rich entertainment biography.
For 30-plus years delivering film production management services has been his vocation and his passion. In his latest venture, he is tasked with channeling his experience and talents to help City of Rock Island Economic Development Manager Tarah Sipes launch the fledgling Quad Cities Regional Film Office.
Clearly, Mr. Miller, who owns the entertainment consulting agency, Two Rivers & Associates, is in his element there. And it’s obvious that his lifelong love affair with all things arts and entertainment is as deep and wide as ever before. In a wide-ranging interview with the QCBJ, he traced its roots to when, as a starstruck youngster, he met a pair of celebrity idols.
As a young man, he was obsessed with jazz, and especially Louis Armstrong. As a birthday gift, a friend of his father got him tickets to see his musical hero. Not only were he and a friend ensconced in the third row, but Mr. Miller recalled how afterward he was taken backstage to meet the great “Satchmo” himself. He was so tongue-tied to be in his idol’s presence, Mr. Miller said he could manage only this: “My dad is a friend of Bix’s brother, Burnie.”
Why just that? He knew well that Mr. Armstrong and Davenport native and jazz genius Bix Beiderbecke were contemporaries and fans of one another. The meeting was no doubt a valuable lesson for a young man who later made a career of building relationships and bridges between people in the entertainment industry and those in state and local communities and governments.
Another pivotal brush with a celebrity came in 1964, Mr. Miller said. Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars featuring Gene Pitney and Fabian came to the Orpheum. Before the performance, a young and resourceful Mr. Miller went to the Black Hawk Hotel, where he knew the teen music idol – who had recently co-starred with John Wayne in “North to Alaska” – was staying.
“I knew Fabian’s last name was Forte,” Mr. Miller said. So he went to the front desk and asked for Mr. Forte’s room number. Mr. Miller knocked on the door of his 10th floor room and asked for an autograph. The man who answered the door obliged.
“I was thrilled,” Mr. Miller said. “I go back to the elevator and someone yells, ‘Hold the elevator.’ I hold the elevator and up walks the same man who had just given me the autograph and Fabian. Now I’m riding down in the elevator with Fabian.”
It’s hardly surprising, then, that at age 15 he dreamed of working at the Orpheum and hobnobbing with the stars. As soon as the 16-year-old Davenport teen saw a newspaper ad for ushers for the theater, he applied and got a job making 50 cents an hour. His friends who were making the princely sum of $1 an hour laughed at him, but he didn’t care.
He called his father who was at the University of Iowa Hospitals where his mother was hospitalized in the final stages of her life due to an inoperable brain tumor. Mr. Miller said he told his dad to pick him up at the Orpheum that night because he had a job.
After his father handed the phone to his mother, “She said, ‘Proud, proud, proud’ over and over,” Mr. Miller recalled. “That’s the last thing she ever said to me. So that’s what launched me.”
Since then, he’s been on a long and fascinating ride that is detailed in part in his biography on IMDb, the popular online source for movie, TV and celebrity content. (To find it search for J. Douglas Miller.) After his time at the RKO Orpheum Theatre, Mr. Miller was a production assistant for the Broadway Theater League and GMT Productions in the Quad Cities.
Later while serving with the U.S. Army and assigned to the Commanding General of Support Command Headquarters in Da Nang, Vietnam, Mr. Miller served as production coordinator for the Bob Hope Christmas Show.
Stateside again he was a production assistant at Davenport’s WOC, then became a producer and the director of community relations and was later promoted to director for corporate development of WOC’s parent company, Palmer Communications Inc. (PCI) in Des Moines, Iowa.
He also co-founded Signal Hill Communications Inc. and developed a video production unit known as Signal Hill Productions. Those properties were eventually sold with the radio ultimately joining iHeartRadio/Entertainment, his bio said.
His clients and associates have included: the former Iowa Film Office; Produce Iowa – Office of Media Production; Illinois Film Office; the former Quad Cities Film Coalition; the Quad Cities Production Coalition; ABC; Disney; VH1; RAI; Filmauro; Medusa; and the State of Illinois.
He also has served for years as a production director and a manager for the award-winning Italian production company, Duea Film SRL (limited liability company). His friends and associates, the Avati brothers, would eventually produce nine motion pictures in the Quad Cities. Some of them, including director Pupi Avati’s Biopic “Bix: An Interpretation of a Legend” about the jazz great’s short life, were listed as “in competition” at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals.
Other Two Rivers & Associates projects have included Mr. Miller serving as a field producer for the PBS documentary series “The Mississippi, River of Song” and “Sugar,” the film by the award-winning production company Journeyman Pictures and HBO.
He’s also been an advisor or worked with politicians including: Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton; and performers including Mark Russell, Bruce Williams, Sonny and Cher, Dick Clark, The Beach Boys, The Yardbirds, Steely Dan, Rare Earth, Leon Russell, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jimmy Dean, Eddy Arnold, Liberace, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Burl Ives, Brooke Shields, Anthony Quinn, Milton Berle, Arthur Fiedler and Cary Grant.
He’s also served on a long list of Quad Cities community boards and organizations. Mr. Miller also has a deep commitment to the importance of arts education in the schools and the Quad Cities community.
One of his top goals for the new Quad Cities film office is to serve as “an incubator for the next generation of local filmmakers and help them along with their education whatever way we can.” That includes connecting young filmmakers with people like Bettendorf’s Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, who co-wrote “A Quiet Place,” and the creative people behind Urban Exposure and Fresh Films in Davenport.