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Matty Simmons, who co-founded the National Lampoon magazine and produced films including Animal House and the Vacation movies starring Chevy Chase, died Wednesday, his daughter announced. He was 93.
“Yesterday I lost my hero,” daughter Kate Simmons wrote in an Instagram post. “My dad had gone from the sharpest, healthiest 93-year-old most people have encountered to abruptly having every imaginable issue except corona.”
The Brooklyn-born Simmons, a top executive with Diners Club, the first credit card company, was brought on to assist Harvard Lampoon alumni Doug Kenney and Henry Beard in the publication of National Lampoon, with the first issue arriving in April 1970.
From that emerged the John Landis-directed Animal House (1978), starring John Belushi as one of a bunch of Delta Tau Chi misfits who battle their dean and a rival fraternity’s president to keep their spot on campus. Simmons and Ivan Reitman produced the movie at Universal.
Simmons then guided National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) and Vegas Vacation (1997), all featuring the Griswold family.
His credits also include the features Movie Madness (1982), Class Reunion (1982) and Pucked (2006), starring Jon Bon Jovi, and the 1979 ABC comedy Delta House, a continuation of Animal House.
When Diners Club was acquired by Continental Insurance, Simmons exited and in 1967 founded Twenty First Century Communications. It published a Weight Watchers magazine and then National Lampoon, eventually changing its name to the publicly traded National Lampoon Inc.
The company also was behind The National Lampoon Radio Hour and Lemmings, a 1973 off-Broadway show that featured Belushi, Chase and Christopher Guest and ran for 350 performances at the Village Gate.
Simmons also wrote several books, including 2012’s Fat, Drunk, and Stupid: The Making of Animal House, and in the 1960s had an interest in the NBA’s Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors.
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