It was a night of never-ending musical notes, nostalgia, and a bit of Knots Landing intrigue as Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe & Academy Award Winners settled into the enchanted shaded patio, just a hair and to the left above the Hollywood Bowl Pool Circle. All this, in celebration of the life and times of Jose Iturbi, and the foundation formed in his name, as a foreshadowing clarion call to the commemoration of the birth of conductor Gustavo Dudamel as the, now, decade-long musical director of the LA Philharmonic. The anticipated concert in question?: A Decade of Dudamel/10 Years – Bravo Gustavo featuring YOLA (aka Youth Orchestra LA) and piano Wunderkind Khatia Buniatishvili. But the dinner that preceded it was the perfect aperitif to the anticipation that was to herald Dudamel’s initial wave of the baton in honor of the imminent musical birthday cake festooned with fireworks in lieu of candles!
“It is a great honor for the Jose Iturbi Foundation to sponsor the Decade with Dudamel concert at the Hollywood Bowl,” proudly declared Hollywood Museum President, Founder and Iturbi’s God Daughter Donelle Dadigan. “And, we are thrilled to present to the Hollywood Bowl audience the international piano virtuoso, Khatia Buniatishvili on the same piano concerto Jose Iturbi performed at the Hollywood Bowl half a century ago! In addition to the performance of several well-known movie themed pieces, the Jose Iturbi Foundation is especially pleased to sponsor a very special performance by Members of YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) as it is the foundation’s mission to create opportunities for larger groups of people, especially young people in our communities, to learn to love classical music and attend live concert performances!”
The stellar story-telling interspliced within the speech making, pending the night’s burrata, tri-tipped, gratin potatoed gustatory, twilight commenced with a rousing joke by Hollywood Legal Counsel George Bronstein, the scenario of which involved going to Heaven but God-as-classical-music-conductor being “no Dudamel”.
The evening consisted of, not only rousing, to humorous, to touching, speeches, (all made from a podium that was Jose Iturbi’s former music stand) but music aficionados proffering donations from the peanut gallery (or in this case, the polenta/prosciutto gallery); all culminating in a “Who’s Who” in childhood musical training vs. present day showbiz and political presence as Dadigan divulged each noted guest’s colorful musical past without disclosing their name ‘til the anticipated end!
The sole local government official whose identity refused to be held at bay, was that of most colorful former councilman the Western Hemisphere over: Tom LaBonge! LaBonge could not help but serenade Dadigan at the commencement of dinner with a re-worded rendition of Elvis Presley’s Love me Tender:
“’If my dreams could all come true loving this I know, follow DD (Donelle Dadigan) all the way to the gre-at show—Everybody!–Love me tender, love me too, all our dreams complete for my darling we love you and we always will!’” 11 o’clock tonight on FOX!”
To add ingenuity to entertainment, the captive audience/eaters and drinkers sang along (seemingly divining the words as they went) albeit quite adeptly, in one of the greatest of all musical improvs the world over!
At this point, and one-by-one, said musical resourcefulness would be confirmed as Dadigan “made things interesting” by having us all guess who was who by way of a devised quiz revealing each celebrity/local government official’s history in musical education but omitting their name, until the definitive end.
(For any of those gentle readers would like to play, as if in real time, the below alpha-numeric answer/question key can be utilized as a supplement Cosmopolitan/Cosmo Style: Answers published at the bottom of the descriptions.)
- 1.) Charles Fox
- 2.) Joan Van Arc (Knots Landing)
- 3.) Bea Girmala (Assistant Chief of Police LAPD)
- 4.) Roslyn Kind
- 5.) George Chakiris
- 6.) Donna Mills (Knots Landing)
- 7.) Geri Jewell
- 8.) (Valley Girl) Lee Purcell
- 9.) Eva Betar (of the Mayor’s Office)
- 10.) Burt Ward
- 11.) Mitch O’Farrell (Councilman of the 13th District)
- 12.) Donna Pescow
- 13.) Susan Olsen (aka Cindy Brady)
- 14.) Michelle Lee (Knots Landing)
- 15.) Lainie Kazan
- A.) “As a youngster and a teenager he had vocal and gymnastics training, and drama too, but tonight it’s about music. He was truly a talented teenager, and as a young adult, he was a professional singer and dancer and was feature in rock n’ roll and 40s Swing variety shows on the Princess Cruise Line ships; and by the way, last year when he was roasted at the Annual American Diabetes fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton Hotel (a lot of us were there). He entertained us. He sang and danced in full costume onstage in front of a sold-out event in the Grand Ballroom.
- B.) “She is the manager of motion picture and television, and I want to read to you a little something that she sent me because I have to quote it. It’s so fabulous. ‘I was five years old, and couldn’t read music, but I could play by ear. My teacher said I wasn’t talented and was therefore not allowed to play in the Festival for King Hussein in Amman Jordan. The day before the festival, a girl dropped out. I got to play for King Hussein… I couldn’t reach the piano pedals, yet I won, the festival competition playing Starlight Waltz by Charles S. Brainard… [I] received a standing ovation and twelve long-stemmed red roses from the Princess. So, you see, we all start in one direction, and we may move into something else but all of this musical and training is so good for us in so many different ways!”
- C.) “I learned from [this lovely woman] that she was in the Glee Club at Blessed Sacrament here on Sunset Blvd on Hollywood. She played the guitar at Immaculate Heart High School, but you know, as she said, school, college, and U.C.L.A. (Go Bruins) and preparing for the job: That’s what came first! Thank you for being here this evening and I too think you made the right decision!”
- D.) “First off this actress is a daytime Emmy Award winner and has appeared in more than 100 films and TV Shows (about a dozen of you could raise your hands to that). She told me she never played an instrument, but enjoyed singing. Early in her career, her character Rocket in the popular mid-sixties soap opera The Secret Storm was a nightclub singer. She also played a country western singer in the 1973 ABC Movie of the week Rolling Band with Dennis Weaver…”
- E.) “This award-winning actress has appeared in 40 films and TV Shows, and is best known for her breakout role as Annette in the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever and as Helene Stevens on the TV Sitcom Even Stevens. She remembers playing piano as a child. She was around 8 or 9 years old when she started. She says she probably studied until her early teens. She admitted that she hated to practice, and never (wanted to miss) the 1960s phenom, The Monkees TV Show on NBC.”
- F.) “This award-winning actress appeared in more than 75 films and TV shows. She dreamt of becoming a concert pianist as a child…and by age ten she was competing in statewide piano competitions. But that dream was set aside when acting, and dance took priority over music. In 1969 this actress was personally chosen for her first feature film by Steve McQueen in his company’s production of Adam at 6 am co-starring Michael Douglas. Well, the rest is history as they say.”
- G.) “This award-winning author, and motivational speaker starred in the popular 1980s sitcom Facts of Life, 21 Jump Street, and today she plays Jewell in Deadwood. This actress told me that she played the organ in her father’s funeral home. Once she even snuck into the organ room and started playing Home on the Range. Unfortunately, she did not realize there was a funeral service going on. Her father was furious!”
- H.) This award-winning actress [who] has appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows… confided that she played one musical instrument only. She played show tunes with paper on a comb. She sang as a teenager and used her singing talents while playing Annie Oakley in Annie Get your Gun, Stage Door Johnny and as Desiree in A Little Night Music.”
- I.) “This award-winning actress began her career appearing in musicals; becoming a Broadway performer and singer at the age of 19 in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Opposite Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee; a role she reprised in the film version. She confided that she never had any music lessons, and to the best of her knowledge, never even held a musical instrument in a movie, TV show or onstage. However, she liked to sing. In 1978 she starred in a special of the Jerome Kern/Otto Harbach Musical Roberta in which she sang Smoke Gets into Your Eyes. I tell you this because her rendition of this favorite piqued at #52 on the Billboard charts 100 so this is no small feat!”
- J.) “This well-known, award winning singer says, ‘I knew I was going to be a singer,’ and remembers that, ‘as a child, I used to love to sing my favorite songs in front of the mirror with my hairbrush in my hand for my microphone, and then my mother would hear me and come into my room. She was such a ham. She would grab my hairbrush, take over, and start singing songs!’”
- K.) “Next up is an award-winning composer. He [wrote] more than 30 film and TV Themes. He told me that he studied the piano from the time he was 8 or 9, and he even played the bassoon for four years at Laguardia High School of the Arts. He enjoys returning to the alma mater to speak to the students, young composers, and song writers and even has established a prize in composition which he says is ‘so gratifying’. This composer is best known for composing the themes to popular television shows just to name a few Love Boat, Love American Style, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley.”
- L.) “This Golden Globe and Academy Award Winning actor appeared in more than 65 films including Gentleman Prefer Blondes and West Side Story and was taught by his high school friend how to play the second movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata this actor told me he even remembers practicing on the neighbor’s piano. And years later when he was playing Frederick Chopin in the 1970s BBC series, Notorious which, by the way was fabulous, he taught himself to play one of Chopin’s etudes. This is no small feat. He must be very brilliant, very smart and very talented…”
- M.) “The legend of this actress’ calling began when she was 3 on Coney Island Boardwalk Her parents thought she was lost until they saw a circle of people crowded around a little girl singing and dancing for the crowd. To quote this Tony Award Winning Actress “I took voice lessons my entire life. I stopped after a few years after my my voice teacher passed away. Now I’m studying with Ivan Rutherford. It’s my belief that no one ever stops learning… I took piano lessons for awhile too but instead of continuing, I married the piano player. This award winning actress has appeared in more than 130 films tv shows, stage plays and musicals and is an adjunct professor at UCLA, one of our alma maters.”
- N.) “She told me she never studied music or had to play an instrument for a film or TV Role, however for kicks, she used to play guitar in her teens and she still kinda does. The other night we were talking about George Harrison and his recent concert here in L.A… and all the early guitars George Harrison played… That was what this actress seemed to be most happy to have. She would love to have one of his…guitars hanging on the wall in her home.”
- O.) “This Boy Wonder did not play a musical instrument as a child, but his father was the owner of a travelling ice show. At age 2, this star was listed in a magazine, strange as it seems, as the world’s youngest professional ice skater! However, as a young adult during the Batman TV Series, he did record the hit single produced by Frank Zappa, Boy Wonder I Love You.”
A-11, B-9, C-3, D-6, E-12, F-8, G-7, H-2, I-14, J-4, K-1, L-5, M-15, N-13, O-10
And further from the Polenta Gallery, Michelle Lee would make it perfectly clear that Knots Landing was hardly an evening Soap Opera, but a “continuing drama” as Knots Landing was eventually rendered her buzz word for said intonation, rendering the banter betwixt her and Donelle Dadigan a thing of near Smothers Brothere’d beauty…
Having rounded out the historically educational portion of the evening via said insightful and amusing quizzes, to speak nothing of a subject whose anonymity would be moot in light of the sponsoring organization, Dadigan had nothing but inspiring, warm, and enterprising words to say pertaining to her beloved god father and his foundation:
“Jose Iturbi was always interested in keeping the enjoyment of classical music alive. During the 1920s and further through the 20th century, Jose was one of the most sought-after concert pianists and conductors in the world. He had the ability to make classical music, and its abilities, enjoyable to all. Jose was a real showman… He could conduct an orchestra, and, at the same time, perform on the concert grand piano center stage, making his female groupies swoon while his audiences demanded encore, after encore. It seems as though Jose Iturbi always had a link to Hollywood for his motion pictures, his Hollywood Friends, his star on the Walk of Fame, and having performed here at the Hollywood Bowl, to sold out concerts almost a dozen times. Tonight’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is especially meaningful for us. Just more than a half a century ago, Jose Iturbi performed this Piano Concerto to a then 17,500 seat capacity with a sold-out audience. And on a personal note, Jose told me numerous times…I can’t do a Spanish accent, so I’ll just say it: ‘When I play this concerto, by the end of the third movement, with all of the glorious melodies, and the emotional roller coaster ride Tchaikovsky had proposed for us to play, I could make the prettiest woman in the audience fall in love with me!’ My godmother Marion would laugh, while quietly knowing the power of Jose over his audience during his performances. It was real!”
“Through the ongoing work of the Jose Iturbi Foundation a not for profit 501C3, since the mid-1980s we have continued to mount Jose Iturbi’s legacy, remembering in his own words that ‘Classical music should be a part of everyone’s entertainment through concerts, motion pictures, recordings international competitions, and interesting public forums giving a large group of people the opportunity to learn to love classical music, and to attend live performances!’ We sponsor blockbuster concerts with international classical music super stars. The Jose Iturbi Music Foundation’s International Music Competition and Scholarship has awarded to date, more than one million dollars to give to pianists and singers from around the world. His saying ‘Popularizing classical music one note at a time’…still rings true today!”
And of course, the gustatory portion of the evening as the first course of the relevant cause celeb, would not be complete without giving nod to an additional legacy in learning as overseen by LA City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell himself!
“Councilman O’Farrell is on the Board of Directors of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra. Mitch is a great supporter of the orchestra and its activities in the community,” proudly declared Dadigan. “And he personally brought the orchestra to the attention of the Jose Iturbi Foundation last year. The Orchestra prides itself in attracting non-traditional audiences that include a strong core of music lovers mingling happily with listeners who have never heard classical music before. Typical audiences include multiple generations of families from grandparents to children who attend these concerts and share this music experience together. The conductor, Maestro Sonia Marie De Leon De Vega brings to the unique passion of the music as well as to her audiences. She believes in the power of music to change lives. And the best time to use that power is with the young. On behalf of the Jose Iturbi Foundation, may I present to you a donation of 10,000 for this very worthy activities teaching, and enjoyment of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra.”
A visibly moved Mitch O’Farrell had only this to impart in return and conjunction:
It’s just great to be here and let me just say a few brief words about the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, that the foundation is supporting. Here’s what those dollars are doing. You are exposing inner city kids in the Los Angeles School district to classical music and it is a gift that they otherwise simply would not have, and that is the mission of the orchestra and that is the mission of Sonia Marie who is the founder and the Maestra of the orchestra and she has, she’s conducted orchestras for the Pope and across the world. She’s a very, very impressive individual, raised in Los Angeles, of Los Angeles and she’s dedicated her life to giving back to these young kids and the beauty is that when we do the concerts, they bring their families, their brothers, their sisters, their parents, their grand parents. So right now with what you’re supporting, you are helping to build the culture of classical music in the inner city of Los Angeles. That alone deserves a huge round of applause. Thank you so much for that. And I’ll be very brief. I just love being able to be here and spending time with you all and seeing this amazing concert every year and seeing a lot of friends and familiar faces and I just want to acknowledge Donelle Dadigan for her incredible work with the Jose Iturbi Foundation but also just for being one of those forces of nature in Hollywood that make things happen for all of us. Dee Dee brings us all together in celebration of art and culture and what an incredible gift that is to all of us. Do you all agree? So Dee Dee please accept this acknowledgement. It’s a small token of our gratitude, but we love Donelle Dadigan for all that she does and may God bless the Hollywood Museum, a one of a kind place it can’t be duplicated anywhere else and of course the Jose Iturbi Foundation, thank you Donelle!”
Following the enterprising feast, the LA Beat did not have too much time to engage in any additional interviews preceding the anticipated musical celebration, but did engage in the following dialogue with none other than Wonder Woman TV Theme Composer Charles Fox:
LAB: Oh my God, you composed Wonder Woman too aside from Happy Days and all those other great themes!
CF: Yes, and I just did Salsa version of Wonder Woman at a concert piano concert I performed in Havana.
LAB: Well you’re playing piano like the composer you are… Cause you really probably couldn’t compose anything on a Tuba!
CF: Oh I don’t know you just kinda hear the music…
LAB: What about a zither?
CF: I don’t know. I don’t have one.
During the course of the evening’s remains, concertos were played, suites were enjoyed, movie themes recognized, and white keys depressed accordingly, ceding only to equally depressed black keys.
Khatia Bhuniatishvili wowed us all at the concert’s outset as her hands floated as though chasing each other like two MC Hammers as battling running men, across each set of referenced keys to the tune of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Her stunning black off-the-shoulder gown surrounding an elegant rectangular bejeweled necklace evinced the perfect accent to her summer tan, and might have been considered an accessory to both the music and musical instrument on which the piece was being played had any fashionistas discerned it all amidst the stunning musical virtuosity on display!
At the instant Gustavo turned to the audience in order to sincerely cop any manner of sentimentality, the crowd began whoopin’ and hollerin’ like the best of any Ozzy onlookers that had ever been born (or at the very least, that of a rowdy Hall and Oates convention.)
“And this is what happens when time passes,” quoth the maestro following the opening piece of stellardom, “The kids grow up into adults but still with the souls of children,” only to then make reference to the impending unruly teenager that was to be his career commencing roughly three years hence!
Rounding out the monologue by talking to himself for the sake of comedy and perhaps to illustrate more qualities associated with aging…?
“Let’s play. Shut up Gustavo!” – quoth he!
Additional pieces encompassed, music from the golden age of Hollywood, in particular: Korngold’s March of the Merry Men from Robin Hood, Hermann’s Suite from Vertigo, Steiner’s Suite from Casablanca, Waxman’s Sunset Boulevard Suite and last but certainly not least Henry Mancini’s Theme from The Pink Panther.
At a certain point, it felt (sounded really) as though we were all sitting in an episode of the Twilight Zone, Vertigo, in particular as the perfect sonorous backdrop to the spiraled snail-like swirls of the Hollywood Bowl shell itself!
Of Dudamel’s influence on the orchestra, violinist Bing Wang could only proclaim: “He always urges us to bring 100% and gets 150!”
The highlight of the evening encompassed the appearance of YOLA members (Youth Orchestra LA) a musically nurturing project imported by Gustavo from his native Venezuela, in order to bring musical education to otherwise opportunity-less children all across the city.
Preceding their Sunset Blvd. Theme collab, surrounded by some core, and key up and coming players, Dudamel could only exclaim: “Tonight is not my day to speak. I am overwhelmed; ten years, my God, a lot of gray hair, but the best thing is all these kids sitting next to me. I am sitting next to the best!”
The concert concluded with some of the most magical fireworks known to man or Mouse as they were fit to rival that of anything ever envisaged at any given Disney park!!!
Stars, musicians and audience members alike had their superlatives to sling as they conveyed their sense of awe and appreciation at the conclusion of the night’s festivities:
Consulting first, with a source of great authority, composer Charles Fox could only exclaim, “What a fantastic night of music at Hollywood Bowl…for the Jose’ Iturbi Foundation. Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil were extraordinary as usual… Khatia Buniatishvili was as exciting as [she] was beautiful and [Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was] superbly performed. For several of the highlights from film music, a number of very talented members of YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) sat in for some of the Philharmonic members on a number of chairs and played beautifully. The Jose’ Iturbi foundation has been for many years a major contributor and great factor in young musicians lives in helping them achieve their dreams. Bravo for a great night!”
TONY Winner and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding Lainie Kazan voiced similar sentiments: “I have so much respect for Jose Iturbi and even more so, when I see what his Goddaughter, Donelle Dadigan, is doing with the foundation that bears his name.”
Joan Van Ark harbored a most romantic reaction: “O-o-o-o-oh what a night! Dinner and a stirring concert performance under and with the stars . . . all for a chance to inspire and empower young artists to follow their dreams for a career in classical music by supporting the Jose Iturbi Foundation. Totally unforgettable!”
“It was a magical evening at the Hollywood Bowl last night, celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the brilliant Gustavo Dudamel…. What a spectacular night of music, inspiration and joy! There were fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl last night both on stage and off. It was a celebration of the LA Philharmonic’s Gustavo Dudamel’s 10th anniversary as conductor. The glorious Khatia Buniatishvili performed, and it was all sponsored by the Jose Iturbi Foundation whose work continues the great man’s legacy. It was joyous!” proclaimed Saturday Night Fever’s Donna Pescow of said Thrilling Thursday!
“I am a movie soundtrack geek! So I was in heaven!!! I had just been googling Bernard Hermann earlier that evening!” declared Susan Olsen (aka Cindy Brady)
“Just spectacular. What could be more appropriate? Celebrating the classic music of the past at The Hollywood Bowl, while supporting the future of classical music with the Jose’ Iturbi Foundation,’ astutely observed Michelle Lee.
Geri Jewell enjoined in everyone’s enthusiasm echoing her own musical experience of the past-future-forward: “As Donelle pointed out, I have an unusual history with regard to music. I used to play the organ at my father’s funeral home. I loved to play and it instilled an early appreciation for the importance and the effect music has on an audience. Although often overlooked, because you can’t see the music, it sets a tone for a gathering and any scene in a movie or on a TV series.”
Rounding out the commentary, the equally inspiring sentiment of professional musician/singer Roslyn Kind: “Music is such an extremely important part of my entire families life. It is all around us, not only in our films and TV shows, but in our daily life. It defines us. Supporting the efforts of The Jose Iturbi Foundation is paramount to our future as a human race!”
For more information on the Jose Iturbi foundation, please visit:
For more information on the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, please click:
For more information on the Hollywood museum, please visit: