A note from Robert Weiss received July 5 sought to clarify his position regarding his call for a boycott of all the theaters associated with Center Theatre Group, after Weiss had claimed (mistakenly) that CTG donor and board member Howard Ahmanson, Jr. had contributed $400,000 to the anti-gay marriage initiative on the November ballot. (Howard Howard Ahmanson, Sr. gave seed money in 1964 to the theater that bears his name, and died four years later. His son, Howard Ahmanson, Jr recently made the sizable contribution to California Protect Marriage, sponsor of the ballot initiative that Weiss is referring to. Ahmanson, Jr. is neither a donor to, nor a board member of, the theater.)
An excerpt from the letter Weiss sent to CTG reads as follows:
“Based on Mr. Howard Ahmanson's decision to publicly donate nearly half a million dollars of his money to the 'Anti-Gay' marriage initiative now on the November California ballot, I can no longer attend or support ANY events or activities at your theaters [Ahmanson and Kirk Douglas theaters and the Mark Taper Forum] until the Center Theatre Group makes a public and vigorous statement against this hostile act.”
That Howard Ahmanson, Jr. has no affiliation with CTG prompted me to defend the theater in its assertion that it has no obligation to apologize for his actions, regardless of his name.
I was also troubled by Weiss' threat of “further outcry, a significant drop in attendance and favor towards the Music Center and all of its venues,” that he made in his initial mass email. Supporting that threat, he wrote, “Please note that I have copied this email to every major GLBT organization, fundraiser, colleague and donor. I have also encouraged them to copy their colleagues and professional organizations in The City of Los Angeles.
Here is the crux of Weiss' latest email, reflecting a far more restrained position:
“Please let me clarify – in case you decide to put this all in print. I am not actively promoting a 'boycott' of the music center. Nor am I doing any research on who is who in the Ahmanson family. I simply sent out an email to friends and some gay local networking organizations raising a question about whether or not the CTG has any responsibility to refute the support of an anti-gay initiative based on the fact that their theater carries this family name and promotes that name through
the promotion of the events at that theatre. I think their board does and should have some responsibility to simply say, though we are The Ahmanson, we don't promote or support the public actions of this person who carries the same name.
“To clarify. I am not even saying that CTG should come out against the bill or this particular Ahmanson. I just think they should make a neutral statement saying that they and the theater are not associated with him or his politics.”