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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Disney concert hall divides LA

By Robert Nisbet
BBC, Los Angeles

Guests gather for gala event at Walt Disney Concert Hall
More than 2,000 guests gathered for the spectacular inaugural gala

As the Los Angeles sunset reflected in the metallic clad exterior of what appears to be a ship in full sail, Hollywood guests filed down the red carpet.

Veteran actor Sidney Poitier was most lyrical as he spoke to the black tie-sporting hacks, in what proved to be a civilised scrum outside the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

He told me: "It's a spectacular building. It's remarkable. You look at it and you wonder what kind of mind had the genius to put it together."

The mind belongs to Frank Gehry, who followed the 2,265 other guests into the inaugural gala to behold the fruits of his architectural labour.


He brushed off suggestions that the building could do the same for Los Angeles as his Guggenheim Museum has done for the northern Spanish city of Bilbao.

Actress and singer Liza Minnelli (left) with friend Yossi Dina
Liza Minnelli found the building rather suggestive
"Bilbao was a small tired little city that was losing its industry," he said.

"This is different. We're in a much bigger city, so this will probably just affect the downtown area."

This is not music to the ears of a small group of protesters, hemmed in by crash barriers across the street.

They say this centrepiece of a $1bn redevelopment of the downtown district is a gaudy reminder of the haves and have-nots.

"Consider this," community worker Alice Callaghan told me, "while they're enjoying their soup with caviar tonight, a few blocks away there are dozens of people sleeping rough on Skid Row.

"This isn't tackling poverty, it's just displacing it."

'Quite rude'

Back across the street, the last well-heeled stragglers pass me up the stairs into the building described by some as a glistening cubist masterpiece and by others as a giant, exploding tin can.

Actress and singer Liza Minnelli, pursued up to the main door by paparazzi eager to catch her distress a few hours after she announced another impending divorce, could not make up her mind.

"I don't know what to say, but it looks quite rude," she mused.

And with that she swept into the building, leaving the sound of 100 camera shutters in the Los Angeles evening.

Disney concert hall finally opens
24 Oct 03  |  Entertainment
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24 Jul 03  |  Southern Counties
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17 Aug 01  |  Entertainment
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09 Jan 01  |  Entertainment

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