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Expressing Thanks, Mehta-Style

August 11, 1993|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Zubin Mehta was back conducting in Los Angeles on Monday night, though with an hors d'oeuvre in his hand rather than a baton.

The first conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Music Center was presiding over a cocktail reception in his expansive back yard for the Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He's now its music director. The party was a way of thanking major donors who made this year's IPO tour possible.

Mehta is sanguine about his orchestra's need for money. "If a tour doesn't have a deficit," he said, "then there's something wrong with the tour. If we bused the musicians from New York and slept them three to a room, we might not have a deficit. But these aren't tourists--these are artistes. So we have a deficit."

These weren't just donors, these were major donors, so they were given a major treat: The opportunity to see Chez Zubin. What they discovered is that the maestro and his wife, Nancy, when in L.A., occupy one of those quintessential Brentwood mansions that might have had either a Greek god or a movie star as a previous occupant. In Mehta's case, it was the latter: Steve McQueen.

The locale made the house the star of the party. While a four-piece wind ensemble played Debussy from a second-floor balcony, guests strolled across a putting-green-quality lawn beneath 100-year-old pines, then down half a dozen steps to the pool area where two wicker lounges with white mattresses were set. Anyone resting thereon could see a rose garden to the left, a view through the palms that stretched to Catalina to the right, and, behind, a dramatic view of the Cliff May-designed, Spanish-style stone house the Mehtas bought in 1974.

Ginny Mancini said it all "looked like Tuscany." Clara Yust said it was "gorgeous and romantic." These were sentiments echoed by the 100 guests who included Leah Superstein (she's chairing a gala for the IPO on Aug. 23) Dan and Daisy Belin, Ernest Fleischmann, Lalo Schifrin, Max Zimmer, Monty Hall, Arthur Hiller, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and Suzanne Marx.

Mehta said he kept the house through his years with the New York Philharmonic and despite his many travels because he considers Los Angeles home. "I'm a Californian," said the Indian-born conductor. However, he has at least one major complaint about his adopted home: None of the local papers report cricket scores.

"How can they ignore that?" he said. "Australia is playing England right now."

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