Wednesday, December 23, 2009


by Martin Wiviott, General Manager

Every evening, the parade of patrons into the Pantages to see a production is a cross section of Los Angeles, and America. About 30 minutes before the performance begins, I usually go downstairs and stand on the curb in front of the theatre to observe. Just by doing that, you get a snapshot of who the audience is: ethnic breakdown, economic breakdown, male/female, straight/gay, old/young, with children or not. I can see, for instance, that whenever we do the “mega-hit” shows such as “Phantom” and “Les Miz,” there is a marked increase in young Asian-American patrons. Seeing smartly dressed youngsters on dates coming to the theatre is wonderful. They’re our audiences of tomorrow.

Being in Hollywood, the picturesque variety of people on the streets who are not going to the theatre adds to the hustle and bustle. Among that group we have our nightly visitor in a motorized wheelchair hanging out and trying to find discarded cigarette butts in the ashtrays, all the while rattling his Styrofoam cup with change, hoping to elicit a few more quarters from the passersby. We have the senior citizen sitting on the sidewalk at the corner playing the trumpet. (Why is he always playing “Taps?”) There’s the young sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with his dog, and a cigar box to collect money. (I can never figure out the plea: “Give me money for my dog?”) There are also the occasional t-shirt rip-off merchants who suddenly appear on the corner selling merchandise that looks exactly like what is being sold inside by us at the merchandise counters. And of course, there are always people trying to sell tickets. Usually they’re the brokers who spent top dollar for tickets they couldn’t unload and are trying to get something back. Our security asks them politely to move off the block.

I continually check the time as it gets closer to curtain time. People are walking a bit faster as the deadline nears. More announcements on the loudspeaker, ”Final call, ladies and gentlemen, final call.” About 5 minutes before the performance begins, I go inside the lobby to watch the final dash into the auditorium prior to the overture. I know there is a seating hold, and shortly, the drapes to the inner lobby will be closed, and a wide strap drawn across the entryway will be secured. Once that happens, latecomers will have to remain in the lobby and watch the first few minutes of the show on the TV monitors. We got the larger 50” monitors when “Wicked” began, because that seating hold was nearly 25 minutes. I figured if folks had to stand out there that long, at least they should have a good view of the show. As I check the time close to the start of the show, I help to hurry into the theatre. I’m amused at the nightly last minute decisions as folks hurry into the lobby: Run to the bathroom quickly, or wait until intermission? (Ladies wait; men run.)

The show begins. The latecomers mill about the lobby. And I go back out to the curb to see who’s left out there waiting. Often there are folks on cell phones with frantic looks on their faces. The issue is usually that the person with the tickets isn’t there yet, and the person waiting is stuck outside. I offer to walk them inside so they can watch on the monitors. They’re always very appreciative.

And sometimes it’s just a person waiting who really wanted to see the show, and for some reason couldn’t get a ticket. Just the other day, 10 minutes after the performance of “Grinch” had begun, there was a young couple out front standing with two young children. He was holding one of them in his arms. They had the Grinch brochure and were looking at the photos on the wall. I asked them if they were going inside and he replied, “We can’t afford it tonight”. I asked how far they had driven, and he said, “We came up from Watts.” I went over to the box office, got four tickets, and walked back to them. As I handed him the tickets I said, “This is a Christmas that The Grinch won’t steal. Hurry inside and enjoy the show.”

As I walked away, I saw the excited children leading their parents into the theater, with smiles that outshone the bright lights above.

Another evening on Hollywood Boulevard. Another performance of another show. And my thoughts turn toward another tomorrow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


by Bob Speck, Director of Sales

I’m a Christmas person. So I surprised myself a little a few days ago when my partner Jeffrey asked, “What about Christmas do you like so much?” It was while I was trying to find an answer to this question that I had something of an epiphany: my love of all things Christmas has a great deal to do with "A Christmas Carol." It’s Charles Dickens and the story he tells— a story of ghostly figures, overworked clerks, lame children, the unwashed masses and the possibility of redemption for cold hearted, unrepentant misers –that fills me with joy this time of year.

I seem to be clinging to this highly romanticized version of Christmases long past more than ever this year. In all truth I have no affinity for things Victorian or any era prior to the advent of indoor plumbing and antibiotics. However the elements that make up a traditional Yule seem all the more dear to me as I attempt to celebrate the holidays Los Angeles style. I relocated to L.A. this past May, and this is my first Christmas season away from the Northeast. Contrary to the belief I held as a New York chauvinist, L.A. does indeed “do Christmas.” But like much else I’ve found here, the rules of the rest of America simply do not apply. A certain amount of the strangeness that is an L.A. Christmas has to do with the local landscape and fauna. Palm trees wrapped in string lights and festooned with stars are lovely but loose a little something when they line the more rundown parts of Santa Monica Blvd. The bright red tree of light bulbs atop the Capitol Records Building is the closest thing L.A. has to a symbol of the season. Of course, the stores are decorated (some beautifully) and that helps. One of the things I’ve always loved about Christmas in big cities is its ability to transform mundane store fronts and office towers into things of wonder.

And then there’s Santa.

Unlike New York where the “real” Santa can be found on the eighth floor of a department store on the corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue, there doesn’t seem to be any one place to locate Kris Kringle here in the Southland. He could be any number of places and in any number of guises. For sheer authenticity, my vote goes to the Santa at The Grove (an outdoor shopping complex near The Farmer’s Market); he certainly looks the part— big, real beard, and he’s got the jolly thing down to a t. For sheer shamelessness, the upscale Beverly Center’s “Hunky Santa and his Candy Cane Dancers” replace “Classic Santa” in the evening hours. Hunky Santa’s young and buff and oh yeah … shirtless.

But for sheer only-in-L.A. strange, nothing tops the “Scientology Santa” at L. Ron Hubbard’s Winter Wonderland just down our own Hollywood Blvd. This Santa lords over a beautiful re-creation of his famed Artic village and workshop worthy of any film in a usually vacant lot adjacent to one of the church’s Hollywood office buildings.
I have no doubt that my trials over Christmas, like Scrooge’s, will cause me to love the holiday even more. Until then, I’ll play my Christmas music, light my tree, eat too many cookies, drink a good deal more than I should and read Mr. Dickens’ “ghostly little book” again and again.

And so to answer my beloved Jeffrey’s question, “What about Christmas do you like so much?”

I turn to Boz and his "Christmas Carol":

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say… Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round… as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, … though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Thursday, December 10, 2009


by Linda Markwica, TeleSales Manager

With "Riverdance," the first show of the 2010 season, starting in January – the Telesales Department will be closing down for a short while. It’s also about the time of year that rumors start going around the Pantages about shows being planned for the next season. Since nothing is confirmed and no one is talking, it’s also about the time of year when my staff likes to put in their “two cents” about what would make a great theatre season.

Linda who has been a singer and dancer all her life (well, not lately) absolutely adores "Hair" – she feels that it really depicts the 60s generation – “I was there, it’s about love and caring and the music is wonderful.” Linda also wants to bring back "A Chorus Line." – The movie stinks, but she could see the live show over and over again! “What I Did for Love” says it all.

Ian agrees that "A Chorus Line" is his number one favorite. But any musical with a tragic love story will do – like "Miss Saigon," "Les Miserables" or anything that'll give him a good, cleansing cry – it’s cathartic.

Tracey takes her theatre quite seriously, she thinks "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" should be revived. “It could be staged to be very contemporary, it has great parts for both men and women. Oh, and it’s funny." Tracey also wants to see "Chess" and would love to see a revival of "Oliver!"

Matt, recently separated, would like to see "Girls Gone Wild, the Musical." But if he has to be realistic, "Avenue Q." Jake agrees, "Avenue Q," the anti-musical, the musical that people who don’t like musicals like.

By now we’re a little out of control – the names of musicals are being shouted out: "Sweeney Todd," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Carousel," "Hello Dolly!," "Little Shop of Horrors" ...

We all want to see a good version of "La Cages aux Folles."

Stephen wants "West Side Story" because it was his introduction to musical theatre – and, it’s a classic; he just loves it.

Quite a few votes for "Billy Elliot."

Robert wants "Company" or "Into the Woods." We all agree that we would all love to see some Sondheim!

"That's a very large season," I tell my staff. "Would you buy that big a package?"

So I force them to whittle it down. The result? Just for the heck of it, this is what the 2010-2011 season would be if TeleSales was doing the programming: "West Side Story," "Hair," "A Chorus Line," "Les Miserables," "Avenue Q," "La Cages aux Folles" and "Billy Elliot."

I’ll pass that along!

Friday, December 4, 2009


By Benny Aguayo, Marketing Manager, PR & Communications

My supervisor thought you might like to hear about a day in my life. Here’s an account of one from this week.

Wednesday, December 8

12:00am - Across the Southland, dream seekers are entering the land of jumping sheep and sugarplum fairies. I probably should be joining them…but, I’m afraid that I will fall asleep HARD and miss my 3:30am alarm clock for tomorrow morning. Ok…no need to panic, you’ve done this before. Just lie in bed, take a quick sip of milk and you’ll wake up in about four hours having had plenty of sleep. You worry too much! Pleasant dreams!

12:16pm - Nope…I can’t do it. I’m going to oversleep. No problem, just keeping myself busy and awake for another few hours until I have to leave the house. Time to get caught up with an old friend I used to know, called Television.

12:17am – Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll try my hand at sleeping again.

3:00 am – Ok…I’m still awake, and look at the time, my alarm is supposed to go off in about 30 minutes. Time to read some e-mails. Oooh….a reminder on my outlook…let’s see what it says:
Write blog about sleep deprivation – due Friday.

4:30am – I am standing in front of the Pantages Theatre, and I just had a mild heart attack. I cannot think of a better time to find out that the locks to the front door of the theatre have been changed, and now my key no longer works. (If anybody wants proof…please check the security camera videos to watch this tale unfold). After arguing with the door, looking like a homeless man on Hollywood Boulevard, I…for a split second…considered scaling the rod iron fence, and into the theatre. Where is my medieval catapult when I need it? Why am I so concerned about getting into the building? Because at this point, I think that the Grinch costume, wig, and makeup are backstage, and I know that we will need it within the next 30 minutes. You know… it’s never too late in life to learn to negotiate with a barbed wire fence. NO…do NOT scale the fence, Benny…I don’t care that your brother just dared you over the phone.

4:45am -- I don’t remember reading last night’s email from our company manager which said “Hey Benny, just so you know, I’ve already loaded all the Grinch stuff into my car, you don’t have to worry about it”…but apparently it was sent. Well…silly me! Hee hee. Does anybody know how to sew up a hole in pants caused by barbed wire? I missed that theatre class at UCLA.

6:30am -- Ok, we’ve arrived at the Univision Channel 34 television studios, “The Grinch” is in makeup, and I’ve now got to scour the building look for props for him to “steal” on air. I run downstairs to the lobby of the studios and grab about 10 fake present boxes from the big fake tree, and I am accosted by two very real security guards who both really accused me of really attempting to really steal their really fake presents. I told them that I was with “The Grinch”…and that I wasn’t really a thief. Then I thought to myself…should I REALLY be providing “The Grinch” as a character reference to prove that I’m not stealing?

7:00 am - WE’RE ON THE AIR! Whew…”The Grinch” looks great …the anchors, producers, and news directors are happy…and we’re now live on the #1 morning news broadcast in Los Angeles … and our show has now stole THEIR show. I couldn’t be happier. So not only did “The Grinch” steal a present from the anchors meant for Toys For Tots…but he also stole presents from the tree in the studio, kicked the director out of his chair in the control room and ordered both anchors to stand up and do jumping jacks, AND he did the Who-ville weather report before putting on a designer hat and modeling it for the camera. Dr. Seuss would be proud … I think. Next on the Agenda: Crash the Party at K-Earth 101!!!

8:30am - We arrived at CBS Radio on Wilshire’s Miracle Mile, and we just step out of our limo. And …we are literally stopping traffic! Seriously, have people never seen a man covered in green fur walking in front of an office building? Come on, people! Next stop…The K-Earth 101 Morning Show with Gary Bryan. We’re going to talk a little bit about the show, play around with their webcam, and even give away a family four pack of tickets! By the way…I’m still awake.

10:00am – We arrived at a location where we are scheduled to film a special internet video starring The Grinch, and our hosts have set up our “morning lunch buffet.” Sweet! A perfect time to check the smart phone … Wow…86 e-mails? Ha ha…I feel bad for the poor fool who has to read these! Oh wait…that’s me!

1:30pm – Filming wraps, and I head back to the office with “The Grinch” and his entourage.

* * * * *

And nope…my day is not over…now it’s time to get upstairs to actually start my day in the office. I’ve got a lot to do, and a short amount of time in which to do it. This week, I have two more television interviews to schedule with the Grinch, three for next week, and I have to firm up a CNN story on “The Grinch”. Plus I need to finish coordinating logistics for Friday, when The Make-A-Wish Foundation of America will be at the theatre as we grant a wish to a terminally ill 12 year old girl. Later tonight, I’ll be driving down to Disneyland to do my other job as a performer in "Fantasmic!"

I’m occasionally asked, “When do you sleep? Aren’t you worried about the effects of sleep deprivation?”

The truth is, I’m not terribly concerned about the effects of sleep deprivation. I’m more concerned about what amazing stories I will miss by BEING asleep.

I Pity The Sleepers.