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'Hair' Co-Author James Rado Fetes 80th Birthday at the Copa

By Mary Johnson | January 25, 2012 6:56am

TIMES SQUARE — James Rado, co-author of the musical “Hair,” is still a hippy, even though he’s 80 years old.

That was the consensus on Monday night when his friends and family gathered at the Copacabana near Times Square to celebrate the birthday of the Aquarian (Rado’s astrological sign) who helped pen the epic song "The Age of Aquarius."

The crowd of guests included original "Hair" cast members, as well as others who got their start in regional productions of the show that centers on a group of young New Yorkers in the 1960s.

In the musical, which debuted in 1967, the crew of flower children question authority and preach about peace in words and song. The festival of love culminates in a legendary nude scene that has drawn attention, and sometimes ire, virtually everywhere it has been performed around the world.

Rado, who lived in New York City for years before moving to Hoboken, wrote the play along with Gerome Ragni, who died in 1991.

But even though his writing partner has passed, Rado has not stopped creating. At his birthday bash on Monday night, he treated guests to an excerpt from a new show he has written with his brother titled “American Soldier.”

"I know everybody in this room, but seeing them altogether is amazing," Rado said at the event. "Thank you for being here."

"Hair" was a launch pad for multiple careers, and several people at the event applauded Rado for giving them a chance.

Robert I. Rubinsky, for one, was part of the original cast of "Hair" and most recently starred in a one-man show titled “Bobby the Middle-Aged Celebrity.”

"He got me my start in show business at 19," said Rubinsky, who played a small part in the preview show at the party.

"And," he added with a laugh, "he’s helped me make my comeback tonight in this little performance."

André De Shields, a Tony-winning actor who has spent more than 40 years on the stage, said his spot in the Chicago production of "Hair" in 1969 marked the beginning of his professional career.

"Not many of us reach that seminal age to be an octogenarian and still be a hippy, which means we’ve got the best of both worlds," said De Shields, who affectionately refers to Rado as "King James."

"We have the worldly experience, yet we have remained young at heart."

Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined in the celebration, albeit via official, mayor's office letterhead.

"Your work on Broadway has been vital to making New York the most exciting place in the world to experience theater, and I would know — I starred in my office’s take on 'Hair' right alongside the cast!" the mayor wrote in a letter to Rado.

"On behalf of all New Yorkers (and from one Aquarius to another), congratulations on reaching this impressive milestone."

Later in the evening, the tribute to Rado continued with dinner and performances from those close to Rado.

Shelley Ackerman, who organized the event along with Merle Frimark, first met him back in 1986 while she was singing on top of a 6-foot ladder in a restaurant called Lox Around the Clock, she recalled.

"He’s very much a New York cultural theater folk hero," she said. "He’s one of the most loving, humanitarian, accepting, beautiful friends a person could have."