Lest anyone still believes Gov.-elect Gray Davis will lapse into the eccentric tradition of the governor he served as chief of staff--Jerry Brown--consider their respective inaugurations.
Brown shunned pomp and circumstance, preferring a simple ceremony and a chowder-and-beer lunch in Berkeley that was Dutch treat.
In detailed plans to be disclosed today, Davis is embracing fanfare in a three-day bash, Jan. 2-4, leaping from Los Angeles to Sacramento that more closely resembles the celebrations held by his Republican predecessors. Estimated cost, all from private donations and ticket sales, is $3.7 million.
But there will be some key differences from previous GOP no-holds-barred affairs. In an effort to be more representative of the state’s diversity--a major Davis campaign vow--guest lists will include unions, poor people, even children.
Though private donors will be asked to contribute between $25,000 and $250,000 to help underwrite the events’ cost, ticket prices will be as low as $25 for a Sunday night gala at Arco Arena or a Sunday afternoon “Family Unity Celebration” at the California State Railroad Museum, both in Sacramento.
Dress codes also will be relaxed, with the gala stripped of its usual black-tie designation in favor of “business and cocktail attire.” The railroad museum event is expected to draw guests in jeans.
“We didn’t want it to be as stuffy,” said Darius Anderson, the volunteer director of the nonprofit inaugural committee.
State Librarian Kevin Starr said inaugurals are not only important as symbols, but also are the first--and sometimes last--time a governor can count on the state’s rapt attention.
“It’s one of the few moments we contemplate California as an entity . . . because unless there’s a crisis, the people of California do not concentrate on statewide government,” Starr said.
Because governors-to-be know that, he said, the style of their inauguration fetes says much about their intentions.
The first glimmer that Davis might want to put his personal stamp on events came during a CNN interview earlier this month, in which he told the interviewer he had discussed “inaugurals that involve kids and working people” with none other than Minnesota’s Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura, the wrestler/actor.
“I think the more ways you can relate to your constituents and let them feel they have a direct connection to the government that serves them, the better chance that a Jesse Ventura won’t come along and beat you,” Davis said.
(Ventura, by the way, is talking about having some free events as part of his inauguration.)
Then rumors emerged that Sharon Davis, who is the couple’s more hands-on planner of inaugural parties, wanted to make sure children were included.
Anderson, who previously worked with Sharon Davis at the foundation affiliated with Ralphs grocery stores, said the Davis’ interest in including more people may extend to the Internet, though details remain to be worked out.
“We really feel this is an opportunity for all Californians to go ahead and experience the grandeur of California and for Democrats who have not had the opportunity to participate in a grand inauguration for 16 years to go ahead and do that,” Anderson said.
The incoming administration also appears to be heading off the sort of inaugural controversy that dogged Gov. Pete Wilson, pledging in advance to identify all donors who support the events.
The campaign fund-raising machine that raised at least $27 million to elect Davis came back after a two-week hiatus to begin raising money for the inaugural, Anderson said, promising larger donors preferred seating and access to the new governor during the festivities.
California’s decades-long era of inaugural simplicity ended after the administration of Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Sr., Jerry’s dad, who had kept it to one day during which the actual swearing-in was the focus.
Ronald Reagan brought the first glint of Hollywood to Sacramento with a California fiesta-themed inaugural that began with a prayer breakfast Monday and ended with a ball Friday.
Republicans George Deukmejian and Wilson followed suit with multi-day, multi-event extravaganzas, Wilson’s first costing about $2.5 million.
After he decided to volunteer for the job, Anderson sought advice from Wilson’s inauguration staff. Among other things, that led him to push for holding the swearing-in indoors at Sacramento’s renovated Memorial Auditorium. Wilson’s Capitol steps plan was rained out both times.
Other venues will be similar to Wilson’s, with the post-swearing-in luncheon at the Sacramento Convention Center and the two balls--the more formal Governor’s Ball and the Rock n’ Roll Ball--set for exhibition halls at the state fairgrounds, Cal Expo.
That’s not to say that having hindsight to rely on means staging an inauguration without pitfalls. In an effort to feel out several churches about the now traditional ecumenical service that is included in events, the inaugural committee ended up with a public rejection from the Catholic church.
Anderson insists the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament near the Capitol had not been settled on as a location. Nevertheless, there it was on the news wires: “Officials at a Roman Catholic church have declined to host Gov.-elect Gray Davis’ traditional inaugural religious service.”
Stated reason: The church didn’t want a repeat of anti-abortion protests that marked a similar service held there eight years ago for Wilson, who like Davis supports abortion rights.
There also is the headache of booking entertainment acts with just a six-week lead time. Though some names have been mentioned--such as the Eagles rock group, singer Tony Bennett and Cirque du Soleil--Anderson said none of those, nor anyone else, has been booked yet.
“None of that’s locked down, and a few already mentioned I know are not coming,” Anderson said. “The biggest challenge of all is finding people that aren’t performing already during the New Year’s holiday and aren’t away with their family skiing.”
(Gov.-elect Ventura handled the situation with unabashed begging, using a news conference to plead with rocker Jonny Lang to play and inviting Aerosmith band members twice on a syndicated radio show.)
Finally, there is the guest list to draw up, no easy task with 16 years of pent-up Democratic partying demand--more if you figure Jerry Brown didn’t relieve much of it. Plus there’s the added pull of wanting to save space for the previously uninvited, most of whom are being recruited through invitations sent broadly to Democrat-friendly organizations and agencies.
Though the multiplicity of events and large venues creates the illusion of about 28,000 in attendance, Anderson said the actual number will be far smaller because some people will want to attend every event.
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Events scheduled range from a black-tie ball to a jeans-preferred family event. All are invitation-only, though some of the invitations are going out broadly to community groups and agencies.
Saturday, Jan. 2
Beverly Hilton Ball
6:30 p.m., $100
Sunday, Jan. 3
location to be announced
Family Unity Celebration
State Railroad Museum
2 p.m., $25 adults, children
under 13 free.
Sacramento, Arco Arena
7:30 p.m., $25-$125
Monday, Jan. 4
Oath of office
10:30 a.m., free
2 p.m., closed to public
Rock ‘n’ Roll Ball
Sacramento, Cal Expo
8 p.m., $25 students,
9 p.m., $125
Source: Inaugural Committee