To celebrate the Greek Theatre's 75th Anniversary, Mayor James Hahn, Councilmember Tom Labonge, Mike Garcia and Carlos Santana cut an anniversary cake to kick-off the festivities. Mayor James Hahn declared the day "Carlos Santana Day in the City of Los Angeles," and presented Carlos and his wife Deborah with the Latino Heritage Month Rigoberta Menchú Humanitarian Award. Mike Garcia presented Carlos Santana with a $10,000 donation on behalf of The Greek Theatre and Nederlander Concerts to the Milagro Foundation - Carlos and Deborah's charitable organization.
Built in 1929, the history of the Greek Theatre dates as far back as 1882. That's when Griffith J. Griffith, who came to America as a penniless boy from Glamorganshire, South Wales and made his fortune in gold mining speculation, settled in Los Angeles. Griffith purchased the Los Feliz Rancho, four thousand acres of fine land northeast of the city and settled into the life of a farmer and family man, growing ever fonder of his adopted town. It was during this period that he wrote "Sometimes I ask myself, what have I done to perpetuate the prosperity of my city?"
During Christmas week of 1896, Griffith appeared before the Los Angeles City Council to make a present to the city -- three thousand acres of his Los Feliz Rancho to be used as a park. The enormous gift, equal to five square miles, was to be given to the city unconditionally -- or almost so. "It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people," he said. "I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner and finer city. I wish to pay my debt of duty in this way to the community in which I have prospered.
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The first systematic use of the Greek came when it was already more than 18 years old. A San Francisco-based theatrical producer had the idea of bringing legitimate stage shows, including Showboat and Anything Goes, down for two-week engagements throughout the summer.
In the 1950s, Los Angeles showman James Doolittle saw potential in the crumbling theatre and set out to make his dream a reality. The $1,000 Doolittle paid for the lease was only the start of funds he was to pump back into the Greek. He redesigned the theatre, changing the house and backstage equipment so it could compete with other 1950s theatres.
In 1975, the management of the Greek passed over to the James M. Nederlander Companies whose other open-air theatres across the country provided the wealth of expertise needed for again modernizing the Greek. The Nederlanders repaired, renovated and rejuvenated the theatre with their philosophy of providing "something for everyone." By mobilizing their nation-wide network of talent buyers and offering a broad base of attractions -- from contemporary to classical artists -- the Nederlanders have been able to fulfill Griffith J. Griffith's original dream of offering Los Angeles the best entertainment in the world. In 1983, the Nederlanders took the Greek Theatre one more step into the future by expanding the seating capacity to 6,187. A 1995 earthquake retrofit brought the capacity to its present 6,162.
The Greek Theatre, under the direction of the Nederlanders, has made a great impact on Angelenos and has become a continuing source of excellent income for the City of Los Angeles. In addition to hosting legendary musical performances too numerous to mention, the Greek Theatre has served as the site of dozens of school graduations and as a backdrop for many TV shows and motion pictures.
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