Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt Disney and a philanthropist who bucked powers-that-be in Los Angeles to keep architect Frank Gehry on the job during a crucial phase of planning the city’s new concert hall, has died. She was 79.
Miller died Tuesday at her home in Napa, Calif., from complications of a fall in September, according to close family friend Richard Greene, who co-wrote a biography of her father.
A resident of Napa and San Francisco since the mid-1980s, she chaired a Los Angeles gala in September commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s debut.
“I wanted something that would bear my father’s name, that would come from his wealth but not be commercial,” she said. “That would be just a wonderful thing for the city, for the spirit, for the soul.
“I think we achieved that.”
Miller was born Dec. 18, 1933, in Los Angeles to Walter and Lillian Disney. The next day, the Los Angeles Times declared in an article, “Mickey Mouse has a daughter.”
It was at a time when the animated mouse was by far Walt Disney’s most famous creation and the Disney studio was in Silver Lake. She grew up in the Los Feliz area and later, as her family’s fortunes grew, in Holmby Hills.
In 1987, Lillian Disney gave $50 million to build a new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But delays set in and costs soared. Philanthropist Eli Broad and then-Mayor Richard Riordan helped spearhead a drive to raise the needed funding. However, they wanted to pull the critical task of producing working drawings for the building from Gehry, saying his firm was too inexperienced.
That’s when Miller came into the picture, in 1997, backing the architect. Miller decreed that a portion of her mother’s gift not yet spent be used to hire Gehry’s firm for the drawings. She also co-chaired, with Broad, a project oversight board. “I just felt it was important to hang in there for my mother’s interest. That’s the only time we asserted any ownership rights, with that last bit of the gift.”
A complete obituary will follow at latimes.com/obits.
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