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A House Full of Stage Presence


The old line about location, location and location being the three most important qualities of real estate applied in a way to Tuesday's kickoff reception for the Center Theatre Group's 30th anniversary.

The event was held at Lew and Edie Wasserman's Beverly Hills home. This is the modern, Harold Levitt-designed house that's been the scene of countless political fund-raisers, presidential dinners and business meetings during the 33 years Lew Wasserman was chairman of MCA. Though it's surely a mansion, it's also only five spacious rooms. When one woman came up to Edie Wasserman and thanked her for opening her home, she replied, "Honey, the only reason they asked us to do it is people want to see the house."

Though some of the guests could probably afford comparable accommodations, they still seemed impressed. There were the sculptures, the paintings by Matisse, Degas, Utrillo--art one guest lumped together as "all the good stuff."

With its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the interior flows out onto a exquisitely landscaped multilevel garden that slopes down to a koi pond. The backyard is of a size that led one guest to use the words "national park" as she walked along the path.

Most of the guests were outside on the veranda overlooking the pool when Lew Wasserman called them inside, using a microphone connected to the sound system. It's probably a sign that your home has been a frequent fund-raising venue when a microphone is at hand for living room speeches.

Wasserman began by recounting the story of his being coerced by Music Center founder Buffy Chandler into accepting the CTG board's first chairmanship, then immediately being thrust into a crisis when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors found the Mark Taper Forum's premiere production of "The Devils" obscene. Wasserman asked the late Cardinal James McIntyre to intercede. Wasserman ended the story by saying the play did open. Then he shook his head and said, "terrible notices."

Other speakers included Charlton Heston, who spoke on the joys of acting at the Ahmanson. Patrick Stewart, who was in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1969 performances at the Ahmanson with Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren, said, "Any civilization will be judged by the health of its live theater." Richard Dreyfuss recounted how he always thought of Los Angeles as a two-horse town: aerospace and film. "And both worlds meet at the Music Center."

CTG Artistic Director / Producer Gordon Davidson introduced the anniversary honorees: Charles and Audrey Skirball-Kenis, Nancy Olson Livingston, Barbara and Garry Marshall and Lawrence Ramer. He also mentioned the anniversary events, which include a gala dinner on Nov. 16 followed by a preview performance of "Showboat," February's Salon at the Taper V saluting Irving Berlin, a weeklong series of events in April that highlights past and future CTG productions and Angels' Night '97 in May, a fund-raiser for youth programming that honors Neil Simon.

"We want to keep theater going in Los Angeles," said Louise Taper, who's chairing the 30th anniversary celebration. "We want to keep it growing and exciting and a place where people want to bring their children."

Among the 100 guests at the kickoff were Annette Bening, Caroline Ahmanson, Anne Douglas, Sid Ganis, Phyllis Hennigan, Joan and Allen Burns, Shel and Sandy Ausman, Robert Ahmanson, Janice Taper Lazarof and Judith Krantz.

When asked why he became involved with the Music Center, Wasserman said, "If you live in a community, you should be part of it." And that support includes opening your home for a fund-raiser 30 years later.

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