Music News

Celebrity Theatre Owner Rich Hazelwood Has Died

The late Rich Hazelwood in a 2019 photo.
The late Rich Hazelwood in a 2019 photo. Jim Louvau
Rich Hazelwood, the owner of legendary Phoenix concert venue Celebrity Theatre, died on Monday from unspecified causes. He was 74.

A statement released by the venue and Hazelwood’s family announcing his death reads: “The Celebrity Theatre family is devastated to share the news that our owner, Rich Hazelwood passed away this morning. Rich Hazelwood cared deeply about his family, his Celebrity Theatre staff (which he considered family), everyone associated with Celebrity Theatre, and all the Valley supporters who attended concerts and events. He was very proud of the venue and what it means to the community.”

Hazelwood, a Valley native and entrepreneur, owned a number of hotel gift shops in Arizona and four other states and was also involved with other local business ventures over the past few decades, including owning now-defunct Arcadia sports bar Hazelwoods First Place.

In the '80s and '90s, his screen-printing business made T-shirts commemorating important Valley events, including a visit by Pope John Paul II in 1987 and the Phoenix Grand Prix in 1990. When Phoenix’s hottest day ever recorded happened on June 26, 1990 (when temps hit an all-time high of 122 degrees), his company was selling shirts by that afternoon.

“We had to get them out there that day to strike while the iron was hot. I had them at all my stores, all my competitors’ stores, and on street corners," he told Phoenix New Times last year. "Boy, I made a lot of money.”

click to enlarge The Celebrity Theatre has been an institution for nearly 60 years. - CELEBRITY THEATRE
The Celebrity Theatre has been an institution for nearly 60 years.
Celebrity Theatre
Hazelwood is best known for his ownership of the Celebrity Theatre, the long-running concert venue that first opened as the Star Theatre in 1964 and features an in-the-round format for performances. Its hosted performances by such countless famous names over the decades, including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Guns N' Roses, Cheap Trick, Janelle Monáe, and Fleetwood Mac.

Hazelwood, a longtime fan of the venue, purchased the property in 2002. "The theater is very special to me," Hazelwood told the Arizona Republic last year. "I watched it being built on my paper route and thought, 'One day I’m going to own that.'"

According to the statement released by the Celebrity Theatre on Monday, Rich’s daughter Heidi Hazelwood will take over day-to-day operations.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.