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L.A. Opens WinterFest Gift Early : Music Center Benefit Kicks Off Free Holiday Program

December 11, 1986|JEANNINE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

That well-worn phrase, if at first you don't succeed . . . is certainly true in social circles, where the success of one party can dim the memory of a previous flop.

Such was the case with the Music Center's WinterFest kickoff Tuesday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, a program that included entertainment on the Music Center Plaza, a two-hour concert and a post-concert dinner for those who paid $250 a ticket. The event was partially underwritten by US Spring Communications Co.

Music and Decorations

WinterFest, presented as "a gift to the people of Los Angeles," continues through Dec. 23 with free entertainment on the Music Center Plaza, including carolers, African music, the Aman Folk Ensemble and madrigal singers. Cottonwood trees on the plaza blossomed with lights, and there is a decorated 60-foot California fir hailed as "Rockefeller Center-ish."

The party following the concert in the pavilion's Grand Hall was a far cry from the Music Center's attempt two years ago at another holiday concert, a 1984 New Year's Eve gala that was an admitted flop. About 250 people who paid $100 each went without dinner, the result of a miscalculation of the number of guests. Those who stayed for the buffet dinner had to wait an hour in line for food.

No such fiascoes occurred at this year's event. It was similar in content to many other Music Center fund-raising events: a concert followed by a low-key black-tie dinner attended by the Music Center regulars.

"I always feel that what I am going to do is going to be different from what's happened before," said Lili Fini Zanuck, co-producer and creator of the show. Zanuck, with never a single blonde hair out of place, socialized for most of the evening, thanking well-wishers and supporters. Finally her husband, producer Richard D. Zanuck, suggested dinner, even as TV camera lights tracked her moves.

Meet the Cast

The show Zanuck produced with Pierre Cossette showcased award-winning composers and musicians and an 80-piece orchestra playing movie scores. Composers Dave Grusin, Henry Mancini and John Williams, performed, along with trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, singer Diane Schuur, composer Lionel Newman and nephew, singer/composer Randy Newman and Vicki McClure, who sang "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand" with the International Children's Choir.

"I've been doing benefits since I was 4, and I have sort of an aversion to performing without being paid for it," Randy Newman said. "But I found out that a woman was handling this one, and I thought it was just so cute that I thought I'd do it and see if they could get it together."

Those in the audience who didn't get Newman's drollery hissed loudly. Said Zanuck later on, "I think he said it with great affection. It's the same humor that's in his songs."

Ticket prices for the concert were $8 to $15 and about 2,400 people attended. About 600 stayed for the dinner upstairs. The estimated $150,000 in proceeds from the event will benefit the Music Center's resident companies.

An Appealing Event

"I started to think of an event at the Music Center that would appeal to me. I imagined what would bring me downtown," Zanuck said. "I wanted to do a concert with incredible motion picture composers. And I thought it would also be great to have someone like Wynton Marsalis."

Will she be involved next year if WinterFest continues? "If you asked me that earlier I would have said no. Now . . . maybe."

Guests dining on chicken pot pie and poached pears included gala chairman Chardee Trainer and husband Tuck, WinterFest coordinating chairwoman Anne Johnson and husband Franklin, Terry and Dennis Stanfill, county Supervisor Ed Edelman and Dr. Mari Edelman, Bud Yorkin, Music Center president Frank Dale and wife Kay; Music Center executive vice president Esther Wachtell with husband Tom; Leonard Goldberg of 20th Century Fox and wife Wendy; former 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis and wife Barbara; Music Center board of governors chairman F. Daniel Frost and wife Camilla, Disney chairman Michael Eisner and wife Jane; Fran Bergen, director Mark Rydell, attorney Greg Bautzer and wife Nikki, producer Irwin Winkler and wife Margo, producer David Brown, Marianne Rogers, the wife of singer Kenny, and Charles E. Brown, president of the pacific division of US Sprint, with wife Karen.

Other Programs

Music Center officials hope to make WinterFest a tradition. They believe the plaza entertainment will draw people to the Music Center for other programs.

Bob and Donna Epp drove from Sunland with their two children, Matthew, 4, and Amanda, 2, to see the WinterFest activities (they didn't stay for the concert). "I heard about this on the radio," Bob Epp said as his children's eyes were fixed on a talking Christmas present. "We don't usually have time for this at Christmas."

The Epps mingled with a diverse crowd outside; women in sequined gowns and gigantic fur coats that swallowed them up, men in tuxedos, young couples in jeans and down parkas and little girls in fur jackets. Musicians wearing ersatz Dickensian costumes entertained, along with mime-elves, a walking Christmas tree and of course, the talking Christmas present that possessed a husky voice and a philosophical nature. "Where am I going?" it said in response to a child's question. "It's where I've been that worries me."

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