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The rest of the audience burst into unintelligible catcalls.

In a rare encounter, a leader of the Valley’s secretive cultural crusade met face to face with Woodland Hills homeowners last week.

The purpose of the meeting on Thursday evening was ostensibly to clear up any misunderstanding about the Cultural Foundation’s plan to build three major performance halls in the Valley.

Underlying emotions, however, quickly produced a hostile confrontation.

For the homeowners view culture, like trash, as a necessity that someone should tend to as long as it isn’t done near them.

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At issue was the wisdom of building two theaters on Warner Park, a 20-acre city-owned field amid the rapidly spreading development of Warner Center.

Speaking for the project was Madeleine Landry, a member of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission and acting general manager of the foundation. Its directors, among them some of the Valley’s top businessmen, meet in private and share little information with outsiders about their operations.

Gordon Murley, president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, moderated the debate and, as the homeowners’ champion, interjected opinions of his own.

The setting was the cafeteria of Pacific Lodge Boys Home, a Woodland Hills facility for delinquent boys whose charges greeted their guests politely in a gesture of decorum that the homeowners somehow failed to pick up.

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Murley set a pugnacious tone by opening with a 15-minute diatribe against the evils of city government.

Then, pacing back and forth in a dark, three-piece suit, his roundish face rocking from side to side as his indignation rose, Murley went on to chastise the 40 members of his group who were present for the fact that many were not.

“I’m happy to represent you,” he said. “But you’ve got to take some of your time because I only get 24 hours in my day. God didn’t come down and give me 72 or 108 hours in my day. I only get 24 like you do.”

Then he called Landry forward.

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A small, bouncy woman in an olive cotton dress, she began quietly, arguing that the Valley has been cheated culturally.

“The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra wants to do a concert series of four concerts in our community, and the only place that we can put one of the great orchestras in America is in the Reseda High School auditorium,” she said.

Then she picked up a recent issue of the WHHO newsletter in which an attack on the foundation appeared.

“I would like to correct some errors in it if I might,” she said.

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Ticking off assertions that the project would use taxpayers’ money, increase traffic, turn the park into an asphalt jungle and cause pollution, she denied each one.

Finally, she came to the charge that parkland would be “sacrificed to satisfy personal egos or the insatiable appetite and greediness of developers.”

Her powdery voice turned shrill with emotion as she said, “I really resent being called greedy, being called a developer or being called someone who wants to satisfy personal ego.”

As soon as she was done, a man in the audience stood up.

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“If you build parking in Warner Park, you’re going to have an asphalt jungle,” he said angrily.

“No, we’re not going to have an asphalt jungle,” Landry replied.

“Yes you are,” he shouted. “If you want to talk about culture, why don’t you talk about culture. Why don’t you talk about UCLA. Why don’t you talk about the Hollywood Bowl. Or why don’t you go and build an asphalt jungle in Pacoima or someplace like that. Not where I live.”

A defensive smile streaked across Landry’s face.

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“And you can smile all you want . . . " he said.

“I’m only smiling because you’re standing up there saying we’re going to build asphalt . . . “

“Yes you are,” he said.

” . . . when you don’t know what we’re going to build, sir.”

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“I’m not kidding you, and this is disgusting that you come here and tell us how great it’s going to be for the people that live here,” he shouted. “It’s wrong. Dead wrong.”

The rest of the audience burst into unintelligible catcalls.

Many such exchanges that night were ended not by a logical point but by a similar chorus of yells.

In one, a woman in a checked shirt read a list of points, comparing the theater project at one point to the Venice canals and, at another, proposing that it be built on Devonshire Downs.

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Then, almost crying, she said, “How dare you just tell people, ‘Your egos are involved. You’re selfish. You’re greedy.’?”

“Excuse me,” Landry interrupted. “You didn’t hear me.”

“I heard you,” the woman shrieked.

“You have totally misunderstood what I have said,” Landry shouted back. “I wouldn’t say something like that. You said it.”

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Again, an eruption of voices cut the repartee.

At last, Melvin Perlitsh, whose impassioned public nay-saying is notorious from Burbank to Woodland Hills, got his turn.

“The city can’t even keep the 20-acre park clean from dog plop,” Perlitsh said in an emotion-cracked baritone. “How dare you tell us that you’re going to be able to keep it clean after you have a cultural center in there?”

In conclusion, he said, looking Landry in the eye, “I look forward to meeting with any of you people in open debate. But come prepared.”

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Sorry, Melvin, but I give the edge to Landry. She may have been impish, even insolent. But at least she had something to say.


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