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Cathedral Parties

September 15, 2002|ANN CONWAY

Capping a week of opening ceremonies for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, two benefits held on the same night raised $2.2 million for its educational, cultural and community outreach programs.

The black-tie $1,000-per-person "Celebration of Dedication" on the cathedral's Grand Plaza drew 1,300 guests, with the less formal $125 ticket "La Luz" bash--held later on another area of the plaza--drawing 400.

Attended by cathedral artists, donors, area clergy and business leaders, the Sept. 7 galas celebrated religious diversity in a multimedia program "A Journey to Light."

"We have sought in this first week to include every facet of the community--young and old, wealthy and poor, Catholics and those of other faith traditions," Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, told guests as they sat under the stars. "Tonight is the culmination of that effort."

Jew and Catholic, Buddhist and Protestant appeared onstage in the presentation that also featured performances by the USC Thornton Symphony, the Los Angeles Children's Choir and inspirational readings by Anjelica Huston, Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, Keith David and Peter MacNicol.

With the east facade of the 11-story cathedral serving as a gigantic movie-screen, projected religious images--brilliantly hued stained-glass windows, Gothic spires, gold-leaf angels--provided the backdrop as the actors spoke of the new structure built alongside the Hollywood Freeway on the northern slope of Bunker Hill.

When Huston addressed the audience, she described the cathedral's contemporary bronze statue of the Virgin Mary (which was cast by Huston's husband, sculptor Robert Graham ) as "a daughter of Los Angeles, a woman of the 21st century ... with the hands of a working woman, capable hands, strong hands--ready to help, ready to lift us up."

Moreno added: "She is Caucasian, Asian, African, Latina, Native American."

Arriving guests, serenaded by mariachis and greeted with hearty handshakes from Mahony, were invited to spend the two-hour gala reception touring the adobe-colored cathedral designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jose Rafael Moneo.

Slowly, reverently, the attendees made their way through the bronze doors and along the limestone floors into the nave, where, accompanied by the musical roar of the 6,000-plus pipe organ, they viewed its Turkish marble altar table, free-standing crucifix, tapestries and granite-clad baptismal font. "The minute we walked in, my wife, Sandi, started to cry," said L.A. Dodger announcer Vin Scully. "I guess that sums it up."

Afterward, guests dined on filet of beef and angel food cake at plexiglass tables lighted from beneath and spread with two layers of cloth--the color of the underskirt keyed to the walls of the cathedral, the overlay to its translucent Spanish alabaster windows.

Seated with Huston, Graham said the fact that there has been some controversy about his nontraditional statue of Mary--situated above the stunning 5-ton bronze doors that he also cast--was something over which he had no control. "I try not to think about it too much," he said. "My response to the whole thing is how wonderful the cathedral is, how the people are responding daily to the totality of it--to be a part of that is much more important than anything I have done."

Also among guests were gala co-chairs Helen and William M. Close, Patricia and Roy E. Disney, Gretchen and Bruce Willison and Phyllis and J. Michael Hennigan. Others attending included Moneo, John Nava, cathedral pastor Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, Kirk Douglas, Monica and James Hahn, Gayle and Ed Roski, Gretchen and Michael Wayne, Robert Maguire, Margie and Tom Romano, Susan and Timothy Strader, Carmen and Jose Lladro, Amanda and Anthony Mansour, Kathryn and Steve Sample, Annette and Peter O'Malley, Noelle and Edward Aloe, Shannan and Eric Binder and Constance and John Gavin.


Golden West

Its famous Jacques Lipchitz fountain disguised as a sprawling saloon, Music Center Plaza was turned into a town from the Gold Rush for Los Angeles Opera's opening night gala--traditionally the launch of L.A.'s social season. After a performance of Puccini's "The Girl of the Golden West" on Sept. 4 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 620 guests--including production stars Placido Domingo and Catherine Malfitano--and orchestra director Simone Young--swept along a gold carpet to the party scene where dancers sashayed to a fiddler and the landscape included a general store, covered wagon and stagecoach.

"I'm the sheriff," proclaimed Frank Baxter, co-chairperson with his wife, Kathrine, of the gala netting $600,000 for opera company operations. "The opera blew me away; it had everything--drama, conflict, deception and a happy ending."

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