Ava Ostern Fries, a producer who used her own experience as a Girl Scout troop leader to create the hit 1989 Shelley Long comedy Troop Beverly Hills, died Oct. 2, her family has announced. She was 87.
Her passing comes less than six months after the death of her husband of 33 years, longtime TV and film producer Charles “Chuck” Fries.
Born in Dexter, MO, Ava Fries earned a degree in Theatre Arts and English at the University of Tulsa before moving with her young family to Los Angeles, where she taught English and theater at schools while beginning her career in show business, first as a television actress and off camera.
After serving as a development executive with Danny Thomas Productions, she formed her own production company, Avanti Enterprises, which in 1987 produced the documentary series Born Famous, about the children of the rich and famous.
Two years later, Fries created Troop Beverly Hills, a feature film comedy based on her experience as the leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout troop. Directed by Jeff Kanew from a screenplay by Pamela Norris and Margaret Oberman (Ostern Fries was credited with the story), the comedy became a starring vehicle for Cheers actress Long and co-starred Craig T. Nelson and Betty Thomas. Fries was a producer on the film, which was executive produced by her husband Charles Fries. A planned sequel was announced in 2020 by TriStar, with both Charles and Ava then on board as producers.
Ava Fries served on the board of directors for Los Angeles’ Center Theater Group for more than two decades and chaired the Development Committee (now Institutional Advancement) and the Education & Community Partnerships Committee, in addition to serving as a vice president of the Board. She was also president of the Center Theatre Group Affiliates and was a spearheader of CTG’s biennial fundraiser Angels’ Night gala.
She also was a founding co-chair of American Film Institute Associates and the International Film Society, served on the board of the Children’s Burn Foundation and was a member of the Producers Guild of America and Women In Film. She was honored by NOW, the National Organization for Women, for her contributions to the community and the arts, and as vice chairman of the board and a longtime member of People Assisting the Homeless chaired a 1994 event honoring Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Following the death of her daughter, Camela Ostern Markman, who had been a supporter of the Westside Children’s Center in West Los Angeles, Ava Fries organized and chaired the WCC’s Big Hearts Club, a fundraising event that raised well over $1 million dollars in its first four annual luncheons, with proceeds going toward family-preservation services and vital programs for children in the foster care system.
Fries is survived by daughter Diane Sherry Case; stepchildren Charles M. Fries, Suzanne Fries-Hostka, Chris Fries, Dyanne Fries, Mike Fries, Alice Fries, and Jon Fries; 22 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by stepson Thomas Fries in addition to to her husband Charles and daughter Camela.
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