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The Star-Studded Birth of the Music Center on Its Fiftieth

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Several months of parties and shows kick off this week to honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Dorothy Chandler Music Pavilion in the Civic Center. The venue owes its existence in large part to the tireless efforts of the woman for whom it's named, but the long road from conception to construction also roped in luminaries including the Irvine family and director Cecil B. De Mille, as explained in a retrospective on County Supe Zev Yaroslavsky's website. "The Music Center was a major turning point in L.A. coming into its own in the postwar era as a major American city," says a preservation consultant who's worked on restoration projects at the venue. Here's a look at a few things that everyone should know about the cultural icon.

· Fundraising for the Music Center (before it even had the name) began in 1955, when Chandler and the local Symphony Association starting asking for private donations to build a permanent home for the LA Philharmonic. They threw a huge party at the Ambassador Hotel, raffled off a new Cadillac, and raised $400,000 in one night, which would be an accomplishment even today. "When we raised $400,000 in a few hours ... I knew southern Californians wanted a music center badly enough to build it themselves," Chandler was quoted as saying.
· The Pavilion could have been built at First and Hope (that's where the city wanted to put it), but Chandler campaigned successfully for the current location (formerly "the summit of Bunker Hill").
· Opening night at the Pavilion building was December 6, 1964. Guests entered the pavilion, designed by architect Welton Becket (who'd earlier "master plan[ned]" the UCLA campus with Chandler), oohed and aahed at the crystal chandeliers and gold leaf on the ceiling, and were treated to music by the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by its 24-year-old conductor, Zubin Mehta.
· The project cost $33.5 million; $19 million of that came from private donors (no doubt corralled and coerced by Chandler), including $2 million in small donations from regular, non-millionaire Angelenos, who would drop cash into "buck bags" (highly visible at cultural gatherings and events) specially designed by Walt Disney.
· From 1969 until 1999, the Academy Awards were frequently hosted at the Pavilion, and thousands of people came early, Rose Parade-style, to stake out a spot in bleachers and spot celebs. It was at the Dorothy Chandler that Sally Field famously and excitedly said "You like me! You like me!" and some guy streaked the stage (and national TV) behind David Niven. History!
· Turning 50, to applause [Zev Yaroslavsky]

Los Angeles Music Center

135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, California 90012