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Center’s First Night Attracts Celebrities, Doers, Fans : Spectators Turn Out to See Stars, Furs

Times Staff Writer

Pearl Brooks was clearly miffed.

After hearing for months how every conceivable need had been anticipated for the opening of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Brooks ventured from her Seal Beach home Monday only to find no provision had been made for one segment of the public: the stargazers.

“I thought there would be some grandstands or at least some place to sit,” said Brooks, who was accompanied for a few hours of celebrity-watching by her friend, Rose Baskin of Westminster.

Standing on a ramp overlooking the Center’s main entrance, hoping to spot some famous faces, the two women said they would have preferred being on the inside looking out rather than vice versa. But “not at these prices,” Baskin said, referring to opening-night ticket prices of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250.

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Brooks and Baskin were among about 100 onlookers at the Center who were not there for the inaugural performance--Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“We just saw him (Mehta) at the Hollywood Bowl anyway,” said Jo Janosik of Fountain Valley. Her husband, Stephen, added with a chuckle: “At $2,000 a shot, I think we can wait a little longer to hear him again.”

The comment was echoed by others, some of whom said the event gave the impression that the Center was catering only to the elite.

‘Prices a Little Steep’

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“I’d say the prices are a little steep for the commonwealth,” said Penny Davis of Irvine, who walked over to get a look at the Center while “waiting for some printing to be finished.”

“To be quite frank, when I saw the program it looked to me like a rich man’s program,” said George Cheron of Costa Mesa, who teaches Russian at Caltech in Pasadena.

But Cheron’s mother, who was born in Latvia and moved to Costa Mesa in 1961, good-naturedly chided her son for his comments.

“I’m very impressed,” Mary Cheron said, getting a look at the Center’s arch and the Richard Lippold “Fire Bird” sculpture from a vantage point at the adjacent South Coast Repertory Theatre.

Thirteen-year-old Katherine Irvine rode her bicycle from her home less than one mile away in Santa Ana to “see all the fur coats. My mom’s going to come over later and watch with me. We’d like to (attend the opening), but I don’t think we could afford to.”

After 5 p.m., security personnel cordoned off the celebrity-watchers, allowing only those there for the performance into the immediate vicinity of the Center. So the die-hards set up folding chairs or simply sat on the curb and watched the parade of limousines from a distance.

Noticeably absent were any signs of ticket hawkers.

Not Bonanza for Agencies

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Indeed, although the Center’s opening provided neighboring restaurants and parking lot operators with extra business, it was not a commercial bonanza for ticket agencies.

An informal survey of several Orange County ticket brokers uncovered little buying or selling of the opening-night tickets. Most brokers said they had received few requests for tickets to upcoming events at the Center, with the notable exception of the American Ballet Theatre’s winter performances of “The Nutcracker.”

“I’ve had a few calls in the area for opening night, but that was completely sold out,” said Nora Clark of Executive Tickets. “The owner of the hotel we are in asked me about getting him a season ticket for his personal use. But most of the tickets are sold by subscription, and I think most people don’t want to buy season seats at a marked-up price (through a broker).”

Laurie Dolan of Preferred Tickets said that so far season-ticket holders aren’t selling off seats to individual programs. “I haven’t had any offers,” she said. “But we’ve had a lot of requests for ‘The Nutcracker.’ There’s definitely interest in (American Ballet Theatre director Mikhail) Baryshnikov.”

Barry Goldstein of Good Time Tickets said of the opening: “At (a minimum of) $250 a pop, this event is just for the subscribers. Now if the opening was Elton John and I had backstage passes, I’d be getting calls.

“At the more popular events, there may be a market for better seats. We do deal in events at the Ahmanson (Theatre in Los Angeles) and some others. Only time will really tell if there’s demand.

“Now call me at Super Bowl time if you want to hear some great stories about people willing to spend $2,000 a ticket just to rub elbows.”


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