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The hottest tickets in town

Walt Disney Concert Hall opens in October and three galas will mark the occasion. How much pull do you have?

September 22, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

It has become The Question: "Are you going?" Going to the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Going to one, two or all three of the galas that will launch the $274-million ode to culture.

"All you have to do is drop a big name and they're coming," says Ginny Mancini, chairwoman of the events. Put another way: If you're not planning to attend an Oct. 23, 24 or 25 extravaganza, better draw the drapes and make like you're in Darjeeling. "I wouldn't pretend I was out of the country, I'd get out of the country -- fast," quips Carol Henry, gala co-chairwoman.

Arts benefactor Eli Broad is going. Look for Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Gov. Gray Davis, Mayor James K. Hahn and former Mayor Richard Riordan, and perhaps national security advisor Condoleezza Rice -- "She's a concert pianist. I hope to invite her," Broad says -- at tables he purchased as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's $125,000 Gala Trio Patron package.

But don't look for President Bush on opening night. "With the world the way it is, it would have presented too many problems," Mancini says. Adds an L.A. Phil insider: "They couldn't provide the security. Guests would have had to arrive at 4 p.m."

Philanthropist Barbara Davis has the kickoff in her date book. "Gotta go," she says. "It's history in the making." She'll be a guest of Occidental Petroleum's Ray R. Irani. Howard and Roberta Ahmanson have it inked in. Like Broad, they bought the Trio table for 10 for all three nights. So has arts patron Richard D. Colburn. And, of course, the boards of the Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Music Center will be there, along with hall architect Frank Gehry and a sprinkling of the Disney clan.

Also expected on various nights: actors Tom Hanks and Warren Beatty; philanthropist Wallis Annenberg; actresses Catherine Zeta-Jones, Annette Bening and Rene Russo; former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley; filmmaker Steven Spielberg; TV producer Aaron Spelling; author A. Scott Berg; Disney kingpin Michael Eisner; UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale; Paramount chief Sherry Lansing; billionaire TV mogul Jerry Perenchio; former astronaut Buzz Aldrin; and King World Productions Vice Chairman Michael King. Not to mention former U.N. Ambassador Lester B. Korn and Virginia Hearst Randt -- granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst -- who will be guests of Curtis Tamkin, head of the Philharmonic's Board of Overseers.

Nancy Reagan can't make it. Ditto Placido Domingo. L.A. Police Chief William J. Bratton will be in Philadelphia. Cardinal Roger Mahony is not on the roster. And neither, yet, is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The first round of invitations went out to the creme de la creme of L.A. performing arts society -- "a select group of major donors to the Music Center and the board of the L.A. Phil," Henry says. Then they were mailed to other big donors and the boards of the center's resident companies, along with subscribers, and finally "the list was broadened until it was pretty much out into the community."

While responses began to trickle in, a few of the initial invitees failed to RSVP -- in protest of the opening night's hefty price tag, a minimum $1,500 per ticket. Concerned, committee members rang them up personally. "One said he'd rather spend it on his casket," Henry says. Stunned, she shot back, "Don't you believe in cremation?"

There has been talk that mega-donors such as Broad, who besides helping to raise $100 million for the hall gave $10 million of his own to the project, should have been comped for the christening festivities. But the billionaire was glad to dig deeper into his pockets, he says. "I wanted to buy tables for all three nights to show support for those who have been supportive."

Lois Aldrin, wife of Buzz Aldrin, was not surprised by the ticket prices. "I have a box full of invitations at $1,000 a ticket and more," she says. One example: a VIP party hosted by Spielberg at a benefit for the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica at $2,000 per person.

Sure, the performing arts community is feeling pressure to attend the Disney galas -- it can't be easy to send regrets when Henry enthusiastically intones, "I wouldn't want to be sitting home those nights. I'd feel so left out!" But mostly the events are selling themselves, say organizers, who hope to net $7 million.

"The first night is virtually sold out. You'd have to have some incredible pull to get into the first gala right now," says co-chairwoman Joan Hotchkis. As of Friday, night two was nearly 90% sold and night three almost 60%, says Henry. Gala three, with Hanks and Zeta-Jones among the celebrity hosts, is Hollywood-themed, with symphonic tributes to composers of film scores. "Those in the know say it will sell out once people in Hollywood figure out if they're going to be in town," Henry says.

Or out of the country.

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