Victory Vow : Beverly Hills Mayor Says He'll Finish Civic Center, 'Even If I Have to Do It Myself'

Times Staff Writer

Taking office as the 34th mayor of Beverly Hills, Maxwell Hillary Salter vowed to see the city's grandiose new City Hall finished within 12 months--or else.

Salter, a genial, bearded garment-district magnate, spoke at a Tuesday night ceremony that paled in comparison with the dramatics of Monday night's Beverly Hills Follies, a musical revue making fun of city officials for the benefit of Beverly Hills schools.

He won applause and laughter for his vow: "I solemnly swear, take an oath, commit, pledge that the Civic Center will be finished before I leave office even if I have to pour cement, paint and plaster it myself."

The City Hall was originally scheduled for completion a year ago this month. The latest predictions are for it to be ready sometime in 1990.

Other Commitments

In his speech, delivered under a white tent set up for the occasion in the driveway of a new fire station, Salter also committed the city to maintain balanced budgets, help fund the school district, make more parking spaces available downtown, take steps to fight traffic gridlock and draw up an emergency preparedness plan.

As is his habit, Salter quoted from the Talmud, an ancient work of rabbinical commentary, to bolster his case for emergency preparedness, saying: "He who saves one life, it is as though he has saved the world."

But none of it was as entertaining as the Follies on Monday night, when all five City Council members did a chorus-line version of "Puttin' on the Ritz," rewritten for Beverly Hills as "Puttin' on the Glitz."

Their version, which included the invaluable tip for politicos, "Kiss everybody," was closer to Peter Boyle's clumsy efforts as the monster in "Young Frankenstein" than to Fred Astaire's original.

But the sell-out crowd of 300, which paid $125 a head for the evening of inside humor, loved it, and they roared at raunchy references to a controversial statue that was installed in a park along Santa Monica Boulevard last year.

Other acts featured chiefs, policemen and firemen from the city's public safety departments and City Manager Ed Kreins, costumed as Henry VIII, revealing a forceful baritone in a song declaring, "I rule the city with a velvet glove."

'Fiddler' Parody

There was also a parody of Salter as Tevye the Milkman from "Fiddler on the Roof," a fictional character who also liked to cite Holy Writ.

"The most important men in town will come to pressure you," a Salter look-alike sang, holding his head and paraphrasing the lyrics of the song "If I Were a Rich Man."

"They will ask you for a favor: Will you change their zoning, so they'll stop this phoning . . . and they build a house that's 50 stories high!"

Outgoing Mayor Robert K. Tanenbaum poked fun at his own political ambitions, and his vision of Beverly Hills as Camelot, in an off-key takeoff that was even less musical than Richard Burton's original.

"In Beverly, the hills of Beverly. . .," he croaked. "If I'm going to be district attorney, to qualify to run politically, I know I'll have to take a little journey . . . from Beverly."

Produced by Salter's wife, Janet, and written by contributors including Joel Pressman, who chairs the performing arts department at Beverly Hills High School, Rabbi Jacob Pressman, Joel's father, and writers Stanley Ralph Ross and Loni Marston, the show was billed as a first annual event.

But Janet Salter said a new edition may have to wait for a new cast of targets to be lampooned.

"I think we should actually do it every other year, because we'll have a new council that way," she said Wednesday. "The phone has been ringing all day, and people said the show really helped bring people together."

Surplus Expected

She said that once expenses are paid, organizers hope to have a $10,000 surplus to be divided among the Madrigals, an amateur singing group, the Beverly Hills Education Foundation and the city's YMCA.

At the City Council ceremony Tuesday night, Allan Alexander was named vice mayor. In Beverly Hills, the office of mayor rotates annually among the five council members.

The mayor wields more influence than his colleagues because of his roles in setting the agenda and summing up the conclusions of the governing body once decisions are taken.

The mayor also gets more publicity because he acts as spokesman for the city of 32,000.

Council members, including the mayor, receive stipends of $330 a month.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Sunday April 23, 1989 Home Edition Westside Part 9 Page 2 Column 2 Zones Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction A caption on Page 1 of Thursday's Westside edition incorrectly identified Beverly Hills City Councilman Bernard J. Hecht as Allan Alexander, another member of the council.
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