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Billy, give regard to Broadway

October 30, 2005|Brady Westwater | Brady Westwater is president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.

IN THE 1910s, 1920s and 1930s, L.A.'s Broadway District pulsated with entertainment. In its dozen still-standing theaters, Lily Langtry, Sarah Bernhardt and Lillian Russell sang, and the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope and Jack Benny made people laugh. Wyatt Earp and Albert Einstein were in the audience, among others.

Today, these theaters are vacant. In New York, meanwhile, 6 million people flock to theaters and inject more than $4 billion into the city. Yes, $4 billion.

Broadway is the No. 1 reason tourists head for New York City. They stay in hotels and dine and shop till they drop. Theater is also why many people visit London and, increasingly, Las Vegas.

How do we do this in Los Angeles? Start with Billy Crystal's one-man show about his father, scheduled to open in January at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills. He should have opened it on Broadway, and could still move it there later. With guaranteed ticket sales, any theater owner will upgrade to top standards. Cut to 100 years from now and a celebration to commemorate the historic moment that L.A.'s Broadway again became Broadway. The moment Billy Crystal's play about his dad opened. Not a bad legacy, huh, Billy?

Next we do a story about a young couple living in an edgy downtown area. Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," except with the New York jokes changed to L.A. Now we have a second theater.

Add a third with the "Odd Couple" starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. It opened in New York on Thursday, and the entire run is sold out, $21.5 million.

Mix in a revolving production fund set up by those who benefit from theater districts (airlines, Amex, hotels, Amex, The Times, Amex) and by civic leaders who support the arts. (If I can just find that napkin with Eli Broad's number on it.)

But before that happens, two courageous landsmen have to cross the sands of Fairfax, part the Harbor Freeway and lead us to the promised land. So Billy? Neil? You can reopen Broadway, fill our hotels, save the Convention Center, produce thousands of jobs and have time left over for peace in the Middle East and curing cancer.

So would it hurt to pick up a phone and call me?

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