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Angry Ticket-Holders Threaten Suits Over Canceled New Year's Eve Concert

One man says he is devastated because he didn't get to propose to his girlfriend during a performance -- wearing a squirrel costume.

January 04, 2006|Chris Lee | Special to The Times

The last-minute cancellation of the Giant Village New Year's Eve celebration in downtown Los Angeles didn't just throw people's Saturday night plans into disarray. In some cases, it disrupted lives, as in the case of the man set to propose to his girlfriend from the stage.

Some disappointed, angry ticket-holders are talking about a class-action lawsuit against the organizer, whose home address and phone number were posted on the Web by disgruntled fans.

Some ticket-holders said the cancellation had less to do with city officials' safety concerns than with poor advance sales. A spokeswoman for the event said Tuesday that the charge was untrue.

The heavily hyped music festival had been expected to draw more than 15,000 people. But festivities were canceled by event planners at the last minute after a Los Angeles fire marshal advised that Saturday's heavy rains posed a significant safety hazard for the public.

A message posted on Tuesday afternoon said: "We would like to reassure all of our customers that everyone whom purchased tickets for the Giant Village NYE 2006 from will be eligible for a makeup events package ... or a full refund for the face value of your tickets."

Information about the event's other ticket sellers, such as the Virgin Megastore chain, would be posted later, an organizer said.

Although the website promised a makeup event, Giant Village organizer Dave Dean said Tuesday that there would be no such event.

"In the exhaustion of the moment, it was considered," he said. "The only makeup gig we could do is to do a better New Year's event next year."

News of the refund came as little consolation to James Smith, a journalist from England. He planned to propose to his girlfriend onstage, during a set by the alternative rock band the Flaming Lips, while wearing a squirrel costume. The group is known for its outlandish live performances involving animal outfits, lights and video screens.

He said he spent more than he could afford to buy plane tickets from London and rent a hotel room. But once at the event site, he and his girlfriend were turned away by security.

"It was one of the most crushing disappointments I've had," said Smith, 29. "It blew my plans out of the water. I was completely gutted."

"To dance onstage with the Lips was my life's ambition," his girlfriend, Tara Street, added. Smith later proposed at the hotel and she accepted.

Other ticket-holders have taken steps to participate in a class-action lawsuit against Giant Los Angeles Inc., Giant Village's organizers.

"Refund or not, my New Year's was shot," said Dana Hayes, 24, of Anaheim. "It's not about money. It's about the point. The ticket said, 'rain or shine.' "

She said she planned to set up a website for others interested in participating in the lawsuit.

Chris Scanlon, 29, of West Los Angeles said he spent nearly $190 on two tickets -- tickets cost $80 to $150 -- but had to spend an additional $200 for two tickets to an event at the Los Angeles Sports Arena after he discovered Giant Village had been canceled. He said he would take part in a lawsuit if it was organized.

"Somebody canceled my and 10,000 other people's New Year," he said. "Someone stood to make a lot of money from this."

Dean denied that assertion.

"There's no payoff for me," he said in a telephone interview. "I don't have insurance. I have to pay for a show that had no income.

"I'm in a critical situation after this, financially. It was a seven-figure event. The idea I would benefit from this -- it's the opposite of what's going through my head. It's beyond ruinous."

Many of the event's performers were paid in advance and will keep the money.

One of the scheduled acts, DJ Z-Trip, a "mash-up" turntablist who regularly performs at huge music festivals, was on his way to Giant Village for his sound check when he heard organizers had canceled the event.

Z-Trip said he didn't feel bitter about the eleventh-hour cancellation.

"At the end of the day, I feel bad for the promoter," he said. "All that work and planning, just to have it come to a point where Mother Nature dumps on you. The rain dumping down wasn't anybody's fault."

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