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Music Center's Mercado for Discount Shoppers : Spectacular Bazaar to Entice Buyers to Weekend Fund-Raiser

June 04, 1986|GARRY ABRAMS | Times Staff Writer

Deep in the heart of every bargain-lover lurks a patron of the arts. Maybe.

And even if there isn't an altruist-in-hiding down there, his or her money is still good.

Roughly sketched, this is the theory behind the Mercado, the Music Center's biennial fund-raiser. On Saturday and Sunday, the Mercado will transform the center's plaza into a mixture of bazaar, bandstand, food fair, discount clothing and furniture store, celebrity hangout and--for the first time--a bookstore and literary seminar.

Below Retail Prices

In what appears to be an attempt to create a shoppers' paradise for nearly all economic and consumer persuasions, the Mercado--Spanish for marketplace--will offer for sale, at well below retail prices, donated goods and services ranging from appliances to apparel, grand pianos to pots and pans, an Arabian stallion to an African safari.

If this sounds like a bit much, it's supposed to be. Organizers are billing the third Mercado as an extravaganza designed to woo up to 75,000 shoppers with the charms of Cecil B. DeMille-style merchandising.

It will, they hope, also do much to broaden the appeal of the Music Center, which they concede may need a more accessible image.

"This is an imposing place to a lot of people," said W. M. (Marc) Marcussen, a retired Arco vice president who is co-chairman of the Mercado with Sandra Ausman, Los Angeles County's protocol chief. The betting is that many of those 75,000 people--eyes gleaming at the thought of cut-rate French designer fashions or a shopping cart full of books for a few bucks--eventually will return to buy tickets to plays, musicals, ballets and orchestra performances, or donate time and money, Marcussen explained.

Total Goal $9.5 Million

Whether the Mercado puts a dent in the center's intimidation factor, the fund-raiser is expected to net about $750,000 for the Performing Arts Council's Unified Fund, which supports the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Center Theatre Group-Mark Taper Forum, the Joffrey Ballet, Music Center Opera Assn. and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The total goal for the Unified Fund this year is $9.5 million.

As final preparations for the event were being made, organizers estimated that the Mercado had received goods and services valued at about $2.5 million from about 3,500 donors, who take tax deductions for their gifts. In 1984, some 3,000 donors contributed more than $1 million in goods and services. Major local retailers have been among the big contributors, providing warehouse space and other support as well as merchandise.

Expenses for staging the Mercado were estimated to total about $577,000, according to the City Social Service Department Information Card accompanying invitations to the opening party. However, that figure was an estimate made last summer, a spokesperson said, and includes the value of services provided free-of-charge by companies and others supporting the Mercado. While this appears to be more expensive than other benefits around town, Mercado organizers past and present have maintained that the event is not simply a money-raiser but also a major public relations exercise that should not be rated by dollars raised or spent alone.

Co-chairman Marcussen said the Mercado is being operated on a cost-conscious basis, using donated computers and other equipment in its cramped administrative offices. Nearly all of the labor has come from 1,500 volunteers, he added. A final tally of expenses won't be available for several months, but Marcussen said that expenses totaled about $150,000 at the last accounting. And Sidney Petersen, financial consultant to the Mercado, said the $750,000 goal is a "pretty safe" one that might be exceeded.

Most of the money raised will come from the sale of merchandise. But the $250 per seat preview dinner and auction Friday evening, featuring works by 41 California artists--plus luxury goods and services such as a safari cruises and foreign trips--is expected to net about $350,000. The 1,200-seat outdoor event is expected to be sold out, a Music Center spokesperson said, noting that fewer than 20 seats remained with about a week to go.

The book sale is expected to raise "no less than $60,000" by offering some 200,000 hardback and paperback books at prices ranging from three for a dollar to a maximum of about $10, said co-chairman Joyce Rosenblum. Money from the book sale will benefit the Music Center's Education Fund and will be matched, $1 for every $3 in books sold, by a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Collected over the past several months through donation drives and corporate donations, the books include a leather-bound set of Alexander Dumas, a volume signed by the last czar of Russia, Nicholas II, a large selection of books on the arts, several hundred books on tape, books in foreign languages and a selection of 3,000 Bon Appetite cookbooks.

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