The Entertainers
•  By Tom Nugent

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Like a Fine Wine

Film director Doug Barr, BA ’72, sits on the patio of a wine distillery surrounded by the glorious views of grape vineyards one might expect to find in Napa Valley, Calif. It is here that his company, Hollywood & Vine Cellars, makes its acclaimed wine, 2480, the intricate creation of which Barr is so lovingly explaining.

He is physically far enough away from Hollywood to enjoy some of the serenity that comes with being removed from it, but the industry is not far from his thoughts as he plans to leave for Vancouver to direct his next film.

“I’m incredibly lucky to have fallen into a fantasy business,” Barr says. “I never thought I’d be doing any of this Hollywood stuff, but it’s an exciting way to make a living.”

Before Hollywood came calling, Barr was a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native who began his collegiate studies at the University of Northern Colorado. It was there that he would meet his life-long best friend, Bruce Orosz, who would later also become his partner at Hollywood & Vine Cellars.

Doug Barr

Claire Duggan

The time was the 1960s, and Barr felt removed from everything that was going on in the country. “I wanted to leave that bubble and become political,” Barr says. So he transferred to The George Washington University where he was able to experience first-hand the height of the protests of the Vietnam War.

Barr graduated from GW in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He then spent most of his time in New York and London doing some modeling, a field he says he accidentally fell into. It was a good accident, as it was during this time Barr met his wife, Clare Kirkconnell, also a model who now devotes her career to painting.

Modeling led to acting gigs, and in the 1980s, Barr moved to Los Angeles and landed starring rolls in two television sitcoms. For five seasons he played Howie Munson in “The Fall Guy.” Together with Lee Major’s character Colt Seevers, Barr’s character fought crime and bad guys. After that series ended, Barr played Charlene’s hunky boyfriend, Col. Bill Stillfield, on “Designing Women” for two seasons until 1991. During these years, Barr also made several guest appearances on “The Love Boat,” “Hotel,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Murder She Wrote,” in addition to stints on a dozen other shows.

In 1992, the political side of Barr became prominent again as he joined Orosz in organizing more than 50 musical acts for President Clinton’s first inauguration. “It felt good to be back in D.C. and part of politics,” Barr says.

During down time from acting, Barr began writing screenplays. From there, he turned to directing. As a director of more than 15 films since 1994, Barr worked with such acclaimed actors as Louis Gossett Jr., Rosanna Arquette, Bradley Whitford, and Olympia Dukakis.

His move to writing and directing coincided with his move to the wine country. Barr and his wife purchased a home in Napa Valley that belonged to Maynard Amerine, a pioneer in Califonia wine. It was in the home’s wine cellar that Barr stumbled onto a book Amerine had written about wine that got him thinking. As is his nature, Barr ran with his new idea and together with Orosz, founded the business that now makes the 2480 label. The name of the wine came from the address of his home and is a way to pay homage to Amerine, he says.

Barr and Orosz began by selling bottles of 2480 Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon out of the back of a truck in 1998. Their business grew quickly, so much so that in 2001, they sold out of every bottle of wine they had made.

The grapes they use in their wine come from the premium vineyards of Atlas Peak, the historic J.J. Cohn Estate, and the pedigreed Davis Station in Oakville. Their cabernet also uses grapes from actor Robin William’s vineyards, Mt. Veeder, so even in the wine business, Barr cannot escape Hollywood.

But he would not want to if he could. “Now when I’m with Hollywood execs talking about a project, I sit in meetings and everyone wants to talk about wine,” he says. “It’s a wonderful crossover.”

And it’s one that has helped him bring his life full circle. “I’m still learning as I go along,” Barr says. “Wine is a metaphor for life: Better grapes come from rougher soil.”

Such is the journey that Barr has taken, always trying new things and never taking the easy road. It all sounds like a great plot for a movie….

Claire Duggan, BA ’98

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