Robert Weiss was outraged upon reading Tim Rutten's Op-Ed in the L.A. Times that Howard Ahmanson had contributed $400 million to California Protect Marriage – the organization sponsoring the State ballot initiative on the November ballot that will attempt to reverse the California Supreme Court's recent ruling giving legal sanction to same-sex marriages across the state.
Fueled by righteous indignation against the equally righteously indignant ballot initiative, Weiss (who is executive director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles) fired off a letter to Center Theatre Group, which administers the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum at the downtown Music Center, as well as the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
Weiss claims to have copied his missive to every major GLBT organization, fundraiser, colleague and donor. He also encouraged them to copy their colleagues and professional organizations throughout the city.
“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 until the Center Theatre Group makes a public and vigorous statement against this hostile act, which is in clear defiance of my basic rights as an American citizen. You have a theatre that carries Mr. Ahmanson's name. You take his money. But by not taking a very public stance on this issue - you do a grave disservice to the thousands of Gay Men and Lesbian Women who attend your performances, do your make-up, put up your sets and perform on your stages.”
The problem with this, however, is that the Howard Ahmanson referenced in Rutten's op-ed is Howard Ahmanson, Jr, whereas the Ahmanson Theatre was named after his dad, Howard Ahmanson, Sr., who gave the theater its seed money in 1964. Rutten didn't specify which Ahmanson he was writing about (perhaps because Ahmanson, Sr. died in 1968), a subtle omission that appears to be the cause of Weiss' confusion. According to CTG marketing, communication and sales director Jim Royce, Ahmanson fil “has no connection whatsoever to the Ahmanson Theatre, Center Theatre Group or the Music Center."
Ahmanson Jr., a Christian conservative like his father and advocate of private property rights, is known for his opposition to eminent domain, and for wanting to build a huge commercial complex on his Ahmanson Ranch north west of Calabasas. (The State of California purchased the ranch from Ahmanson, Jr. in 2003 in a deal that secured the meadowland's pristine beauty for public enjoyment.)
All of this makes Weiss' unveiled threats particularly annoying:
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“I expect you will see further outcry, a significant drop in attendance and favor toward the Music Center and all of its venues. Mr. Ahmanson cannot act without consequences. You are accountable in this situation - like it or not -- because Mr. Ahmanson's name is on the door. I would encourage your board of directors to meet to discuss how they plan to respond to this despicable situation."
“Wrong Ahmanson,” was the curt response from CTG artistic director Michael Ritchie.
Added press director Nancy Hereford, “We and the president of the Music Center have responded to Weiss with this information but have heard nothing back from him.”
Weiss also failed to respond to the Weekly's request for clarification of his mass email.