The news story ("$1 Rent for Billionaire Broad," by Tibby Rothman, April 29) on philanthropist Eli Broad's potential deal with the city of L.A. to build a museum for his art collection downtown — for 99 years at $1 per year — made some readers really, really mad and they're not going to take it anymore. Pamela Magathan, for instance, let it all out: "It is absolutely revolting that a BILLIONAIRE BILLIONAIRE BILLIONAIRE is only obliged to PAY ONE DOLLAR TAX — ONE DOLLAR TAX — ONE DOLLAR TAX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CORRUPTION GREED CORRUPTION GREED — IT IS KILLING AMERICA — AMERICA IS DYING — WE ARE DYING — LOS ANGELES IS DYING ........................................................."
Nancy weighs in: "Holy moley! I have encountered some blatant political sewage in the recent past, but this is the biggest 'To hell with the starving taxpayers,' 'Let them eat cake,' in-your-face corruption yet!!!!! These disgusting, elite, wealthy, corrupt (art, my foot) exploiters MUST be charged, prosecuted and jailed for a LONG, LONG time! Let this rich creep who loves 'art' so much stare at some of his 'art' nailed to the wall of his jail cell! PEOPLE ... rise UP ... and demand that this kind of thing STOP!"
Whoa, there, Nellie, er, Nancy (and Pamela), no one said Broad was obliged to pay only $1 in tax. We're talking lease here, a major museum (essentially) agreeing to go downtown in return for free land, the same sort of sweet deal, basically, that AEG (owned by another billionaire, Philip Anschutz) got for Staples Center, right? And lest it get lost in the shuffle, a reminder: Broad is L.A.'s greatest philanthropist, having given millions and millions of dollars to Disney Hall, MOCA, LACMA, UCLA, USC and many other institutions.
Sally Jones provides some balance: "Broad would be opening up his huge art collection to the public. He certainly does not NEED to do this. This guy is not a bad guy! So what if he wants his name on the building, what would bring more revenue to downtown than art? We already have the stadium. Traffic, parking and pollution are so bad down there. The neighborhoods around there are closed at night and mostly dangerous. Art is good for downtown. Why would anyone be angry when this is a gift?"
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Othel Bradshaw answers: "I do not think that people are angry about being given a gift. People are angry about the cost of this gift to the people of Los Angeles in a city that cries it is cash-strapped. Yet we have land to rent for a dollar."
And Daymond R. Johnson agrees: "Make no mistake, Mr. Broad is doing good things in Los Angeles communities, and a museum is a great resource for any community, but when the city is in a huge budget crisis and is doing 750 layoffs and has closed several city departments, I'm not sure if this is the best time to give any person, company or developer a space for $1 a year. Yes, in the long run it will create jobs, and increase tourism."
Hayden isn't convinced and, by the sound of it, never will be: "First the city gives valuable Griffith Park public open space parkland to multimillionaire Gene Autry for $1 per year, which means that his dead hand is picking our pockets. Now Eli Broad wants to put his hand in there too. Believe me ... he will reap far more wealth from the privilege of being allowed to locate downtown than the city taxpayers will ever reap from the 'benefits' of his collection."
The final word goes to GBJ: "The fact is that Broad is parking a collection worth between $1 billion and $2 billion on land that is worth about $50 million. That would seem to be a 3,000 percent profit to the city if you think only in financial terms. Qualitatively, the collection would cement Grand Avenue as the culture beach of the city. Urbanistically it would help recenter L.A. with a cultural purpose, complement the other institutions on Grand Avenue, and finally help put a there there. Add to that the fact that Broad is paying for the building, not the taxpayers. That means he's sponsoring a WPA project in the short run, and in the long run, a gift that keeps on giving with tourist dollars and cultural value.
"Sure," GBJ continues, "everyone loves to hate billionaires, so be my guest. But I'll be among the first to spend $15 to park in public-owned parking, and another $15 on food, to gorge myself on this art. It would be another factor in making downtown vibrant, and provide another destination point for out-of-town visitors who don't really know what to do and where to go when they land at LAX. Yes, Broad is a complex guy, but why put him on the couch and city officials on the cross when citizens have so much to gain from every point of view?"
JIM CARREY PLAYS GAY BUT WHO WILL EVER KNOW?
Last week, Peter Debruge outed Consolidated Pictures Group (who?!) for failing to release I Love You Phillip Morris, which stars Jim Carrey as a gay felon and is, according to Debruge, the funniest, most subversive film of the year. Mickzilla agrees: "I attended a screening of I Love You Phillip Morris at least a year ago. The entire audience as I recall found the film highly enjoyable with one of the best performances I've seen Jim Carrey give. Ewan McGregor was equally strong. Speaking as a hetero female, I don't see what the problem is in getting this film released and having it make money. The fact that it's based on a true story makes it all the more enjoyable."
Hear that, CPG? Hetero females like it!
BEARD FOR GOLD
Another year, another James Beard Award for the Weekly's food critic, Jonathan Gold! He received his fifth, in the category of Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Reviews.
A photo caption in our April 29 "Happy Hours" issue gave the wrong name for a bar and restaurant shown on Page 12. The establishment should have been identified as the Red Lion Tavern.
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