THE BLOG
08/13/2013 03:07 pm ET | Updated Oct 13, 2013

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts to Open Oct. 17

annenbeg rendering

The invitations will be forthcoming in the mail shortly. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts would be opening officially on Thursday evening, October 17, with a huge black-tie gala under a tent on Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills adjacent to the new venue. Tickets for the celebration start at $2,500 apiece; there will be a sit-down dinner and a performance created especially for the gala. Ferragamo is the generous sponsor of this opening gala. (This is kind of appropriate since the Italian luxury brand was actually founded in Los Angeles a hundred years ago, and it became known for its custom-designed footwear for the Hollywood crowd.) The following night will see another by invitation only event, for which tickets are $500. and $1,000, with another performance. I called the office of Ms. Lou Moore, executive director of the center, and learned that all of the tables for the opening gala had already been sold, and there were only a few individual tickets left. (Guess the press won't be invited to this, but hopefully I will find a way.)

I recently took a hard-hat tour of the two-and-a-half acre center which occupies an entire city block and has been under construction for almost two years. It is going to really be something so special that it warrants a shout-out on Huffington from me now. Their P.R. people told me long ago that the center will present the finest in theatre, music, dance and professional theatre for young audiences, as well as featuring artists from all over the world. An integral mission of the new center will be the arts education of young people, and there will be three classrooms on the east side of the structure where the kids will be able to take classes in the afternoon. The professionals who perform on the main theatre stage will be enlisted to come to the classrooms to work with the children.

Hardhat Jay at Annenberg Center
Hard-hatted Jay at the walk-through of the construction site

It is a building on the site of the old Beverly Hills Post Office, and they have kept much of the beautiful building, from the grand hall and magnificent murals to the original purchasing counters, now transformed into ticket counters. It was an integral part of the project to keep as much of the original building as possible. I drove by today and saw them putting up gorgeous panels on the theatre building, so I inquired and learned that more than 24,000 square feet of Swisspearl panels are being installed on the exterior of the Goldsmith Theater. Each panel is designed to resemble the flap of an envelope, a nod to the millions of letters that regularly flowed in and out of the historic former post office. Fabricated entirely in Switzerland, the elegant copper-colored panels are fashioned of a unique, 100 percent environmentally-friendly cement composite, insuring exceptionally long-lasting wear. I was told they represent being the world-wide leader in innovative architectural exteriors.

Back to the opening: It's going to be a fabulous event... with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt (and Angie?) as co-chairs with the beautiful Jamie Tisch and the inimitable Wallis Annenberg. As I mentioned before, Salvatore Ferragamo will be the official sponsor, picking up a hefty tab I am sure in the process. Need I remind you that Beverly Hills will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014, and the new center's two distinct buildings off little Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills will be in the forefront of that yearlong celebration. The historic 1934 Italianate-style post office structure was built as a WPA project on the former site of the Pacific Electric Railway Station. Artist Charles Kassler was commissioned to decorate the walls of the post office interior with fresco murals depicting the creation of the mail service, and these have been refurbished as part of the new main lobby.

The new 500-seat state-of-the-art Goldsmith Theater is named for the Goldsmith family of the City National Bank Goldsmiths, of which Bram is the patriarch. As I mentioned, I took a tour of the facility recently and was so impressed with the three classrooms under construction, as well as the 150-seat flexible theatre, a donor lounge, production support services and administrative offices. There will be a lovely patio/sculpture garden, a café, and a bookstore/gift shop. The design was led by award-winning architect Zoltan Pali, principal and founder of SPF Architects. The city of Beverly Hills has already built an underground three-level parking structure next door for 500 cars.

My Huffington readers know that I am a huge fan of Wallis Annenberg, a sibling of the charitable Philadelphia family and V.P. of the Annenberg Foundation. I regularly write about the Annenberg Photography Museum in Century City, which they founded. The foundation gave an initial $15 million grant to the new performing arts center, certainly a solid reason for naming it after Wallis. Total cost of the center is estimated at at least $40 million, and I know that some of the city's prominent citizens have donated sizable sums toward that. My reader Paula Kent Meehan, for one, gave a many-millions grant, and my buddy Fred Hayman has done the same. Maybe they'll invite me to the opening.

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