RIP: Producer Celia Zaentz dies at 91
Celia Mingus Zaentz: 1925-2015
The colorful life of Celia Zaentz ended July 25, 2015, with her passing in her home in Los Osos at the age of 91. Born in Fresno, during the roaring 20's, Celia was a fearless, free-spirited woman, far ahead of her time. During the war years she trained to be a Rosie the Riveter and worked as a secretary at the Naval Supply Depot in Oakland. She married her childhood sweetheart, Jon Nielsen in 1948 and moved to New York City where Jon tried to break into the music business. Celia worked for opera singer Robert Merrill to support them. In 1951 she married famed jazz bassist Charles Mingus, and co-founded Debut Records with him in 1952. The label's biggest recording "Jazz at Massey Hall" featuring Mingus, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Max Roach, is still selling 65 years later. Celia later divorced Mingus and moved back to California, where she took a job with Fantasy Records in Berkeley. She met and married Saul Zaentz, and the two of them eventually purchased Fantasy. They struck gold in the 1970s with band Creedence Clearwater Revival. Later they founded Fantasy Films, which went on to produce major motion pictures, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, and The English Patient. Celia and Saul parted ways in the late 1970's and she began a period of travel and self-exploration. She began to produce documentaries about famous musicians through her company Blue Sea Productions. In 2007, Celia moved to Los Osos to be near family and was a busy volunteer with the Natural History Museum in Morro Bay and Circle of Friends. She produced two film shorts on Mneme Art Therapy which were screened at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Celia co-founded the local nonprofit environmental organization Ecologistics, Inc. and the Blue C Community Garden in Los Osos. Celia is survived by her children, Dorian Mingus Zaentz, Josh Zaentz, Athena Zaentz and Jonnie Zaentz; and seven grandchildren. An avid reader, music lover, gardener and film critic, Celia's wisdom, sharp commentary, and ever-present laughter will be missed by all who knew her. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Ecologistics, Inc. or to your favorite charity in her honor. Sign her guestbook at sanluisobispo.com/obituaries.
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