Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg with pals Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Kim Devore/ Entertainment Columnist


Well, I think it looks like the loose-leaf pages of my homework blowing away in a gale – the flutter and motion frozen by 6,000 fluid strips of shiny steel. Liane Weintraub says it looks like a fantastical ship. Others say an early Duchamps or a cubist Picasso. But according to lore, Walt Disney Concert Hall is supposed to be a rose honoring Lillian Disney’s passion for posies.

No matter what it looks like, the gritty urban landscape we call L.A. has produced an amazing flower, and this was its opening act.

Weintraub, Ginny Mancini and other locals of note worked for more than two years to make sure the trio of opening night galas were unforgettable – and they were. But even the most meticulous party planner would have to surrender to the fact that anything she did would be upstaged by the power and the glory of Frank Gehry’s architectural gem.

One by one, limos dropped us off at the red carpet, where we were greeted by those ever-gracious L.A. Phil staffers. Inside, we marveled at views from the Mancini staircase and mingled in the Eli Broad reception hall. “It’s so amazing,” Weintraub beamed. “Everywhere you look, you see something different.” Weintraub was quick to direct me to the outside garden, where the breathtaking diversity of the structure becomes apparent. Its soft rolling curves, dramatic arcs and severe angles produce a picture-perfect backdrop – one that makes mere mortals look like supermodels ripped from the pages of a vintage Italian Vogue. Perspectives change at every turn, with curious corridors and secret passageways begging to be explored.

The inside is lovely, all decked out in Douglas fir. The whimsical print that covers the seats looks almost Hawaiian, done in eye-popping shades of grape, lime and tangerine. A futuristic organ steals center stage, its chunky pipes shooting from the stage like a massive order of McFries. Even the most nostalgic would have to admit the acoustics of the place are a resounding triumph over the old Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

The first night featured classical selections, the second turned to the avant-garde and the third, called Soundstage L.A., was a salute to movie scores. The evening was hosted by heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones, with the podium shared by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Hollywood maestro John Williams.

After a series of standing ovations, we made our way into an enormous Deco-themed tent, where Patina’s Joachim Splichal fixed up a feast of gazpacho, beef and braised rapini. For dessert, servers came out carrying huge platters of Baked Alaska, all lit up with Fourth of July sparklers.

To natives and transplants alike, this was both a celebration and a turning point. Our ever-changing city has a serious landmark at last and a symbol that just might overshadow SUVs and palm trees, Arnold and Angelyne. It was a thorny endeavor, to be sure, with numerous delays, costly over-runs and public bickering.

In fact, turning the rose into reality took a mega dose of Miracle Gro. But there was power to this flower, and now a new face of L.A. is beginning to blossom.