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In the Wings With Itzhak Perlman

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Violinist Itzhak Perlman gave an intimate performance at Wednesday night’s opening party for Wings at DC3, a new 299-seat concert venue attached to the restaurant overlooking Santa Monica Airport. The sold-out party was a benefit for TreePeople, with tickets going for $500 and $1,000. The evening also inaugurated a subscription concert series to take place at the new venue.

Who Was There: Angela Bassett, Ray Parker Jr., Robert Zemeckis, David Zucker, Lawrence Kasdan and enough other guests to fill the 299 seats.

The Party: Arriving guests were served cocktails and canapes in the adjacent Museum of Flying. After opening remarks from benefit co-chairwomen Lauren Shuler-Donner and Marlene Grossman and TreePeople founder and President Andy Lipkis, dinner was served in the restaurant, followed by the brief but exhilarating concert in the new music hall. Afterward, the dining room was transformed with a lavish dessert buffet and super abundance of potted trees. Sounds of the rain forest provided ambience for post-concert chatter, probably a wise choice as no form of musical backdrop could properly have followed Perlman’s performance.

Quoted: The elegant party was a departure for the environmental organization. Said Lipkis, “Our events are usually a little more down-home, boots and jeans. Most people have never seen me in a suit before.”

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The Cause: TreePeople is a nonprofit organization that has been planting trees throughout Los Angeles for 22 years. Lipkis started the organization when he was 15; it currently involves more than 100,000 youths in tree planting. “It’s probably the best forestry organization I’ve ever heard of,” said Shuler-Donner. “It gives us cleaner air in Los Angeles. It helps us breathe; it’s shade; it’s food, all kinds of good stuff.” Indeed. As actor Michael York remarked over dinner, “What kind of person could hate a tree?”

Ambience: Instead of the usual banquet tables, guests were seated in small groupings at the restaurant’s tables, which made for an intimate and lively flow of conversation.

Musical Notes: No guest was seated more than 30 feet from the stage, so the evening provided a rare opportunity to see a musical great up close. Perlman was relaxed and humorous, playing LeClair, Dvorak and a selection of unscheduled pieces including John Williams’ theme from “Schindler’s List.” Perlman was impish and clever, and when he played Dance of the Goblins by Batsini, he drew hearty laughs with his ironic flourishes. At the end of the brief performance he received a standing--and stomping--ovation. Fifteen minutes later, he was out of his black tie and out the door in his Patagonia parka.

Chow: No rubber chicken here. Were it not for the numbers on the tables, one would have been hard pressed to remember this was a banquet dinner for hundreds of people. Chef John Wedig prepared a salad of asparagus spears, endive and cherry tomatoes followed by Chilean sea bass on a bed of sauteed vegetables.

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Last Word: The combination of good food and environmentalism inspired many a conversation about culinary politics. Upon hearing a diner mention a new kind of synthetic oleo on the market, York exclaimed, “Ugh, that’s like eating credit cards.”


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