Still savoring the Tony win for “Journey’s End,” despite the closing notice only hours old, producer Bill Haber told me, “We would do it all over.” He insisted the revival’s raison d’etre was, “We were making a statement.” He brought the entire cast on stage with him to remind, “It was a collaborative effort. We all loved it.”
He remains amply represented on B’way — in five shows — including “Inherit The Wind” and “Spamalot.” Haber has also been well-represented in L.A. real estate as a partner-owner (with Ron Meyer and Mike Ovitz) of the CAA building on Wilshire and Santa Monica. The partners had originally planned to rent — not sell the distinguished landmark — but Haber reports it is now in the process of being bought — by fellow partner, Ovitz.
There were those of us who had somethng else to do besides watch “The Sopranos” — live. We were among ’em. We were at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Sunday night to host the “Best of the Battle of the Batons” at the 70th concert spectacular of the Jr.Philharmonic Orchestra of California. And the spectacular evening was a tribute to 93 years-young Dr.Ernst Katz –founder-conductor of the Symphony. He created the orchestra and has financed it through the 70 years. The evening was hosted by Smith Barney.
In addition to the symphonic portions played by the young musicians for 70 years, Dr.Katz has also invited stars of stage and motion pctures to conduct. That was unique in the 1930s but his concept has been emulated by symphony orchestras around the world. Ernst thought it was a wonderful vehicle to draw attention to his young musicians. And he was so right. A who’s who of Hollywood celebs has marched up to his podium and wielded a baton to win the coveted golden baton–from Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda to Flea and Buzz Aldrin. This year, for the first time in the history of “the battle,” I presented the baton to Dr.Katz who stood at his seat to accept it and to thank the standing ovation in the Disney Hall.
Among those who spoke/introduced numbers by the young — as well as the alumni orchestra who winged in from across the country: Ed Asner, James Avery, Gary Collins, Mary Mobley, Bryan Cranston, Dennis Haskins, June Lockhart, Alan Rachins, Doris Roberts, Connie Stevens, plus guests Jack Carter and Norm Crosby. Debby Boone sang “Moon River,” Pat Boone, “The Story Of My Life,” Jan and Mickey Rooney duetted “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.” Wink Martindale and Gary Owens hosted.
An unscripted special treat when Richard Sherman conducted the orchestra in a medley of tunes he and brother Bob had written for “Mary Poppins.” During the notes on “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious,” Dick Van Dyke came on stage to sing and dance to the classic song — which has entered the English dictionary. They brought down the house. Van Dyke also generously performed “Put On A Happy Face” from “Bye Bye Birdie.”
It was that kind of warm, family evening: Gary S.Greene was producer-conductor, daughter Debra Marisa Greene, asst. producer also created video salutes to Dr.Katz and the Battle of the Batons. Lori Gordon was the gala coordinator and harpist, teen daughter Victoria Gordon sang, and was introduced by younger sister. All also performed in the orchestra — a very special family and Dr. Ernst Katz — a very special person — a gift to Los Angeles — and the young world of great music.