When he left his job as executive vice president of the Los Angeles Music Center last year, John Dunavent claimed to be "retiring." So why


From LA to SLA

When he left his job as executive vice president of the Los Angeles Music Center last year, John Dunavent claimed to be "retiring." So why does he want to step in as executive director of Seattle Landmark Association, proprietors of Seattle's Paramount and Moore theaters?

Probably because after 17 years with the Music Center, working for SLA will seem like retirement. Sited on its landscaped concrete slab overlooking downtown LA, leasing space to the likes of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Mark Taper Theater Group, and LA Opera, dealing with the epic scandals and cost overruns surrounding Frank Gehry's plan for the Disney Concert Hall next door, the Music Center is a mega-operation involving mega-egos requiring political megaskills for their handling.

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Dunavent, who started out in show business as a producer and performer in his native Memphis, honed his people-handling skills in the perfect job: as maitre d' of the Music Center's Pavilion Restaurant, where getting the right celebrity to the right table on an Opera opening night called for the combined gifts of Niccolò Macchiavelli and Robin Leach.

Dunavent is still sussing out Seattle and its entertainment scene, but he and Paramount producer Josh LaBelle have already agreed that there's going to be a dance series in the theater's future. A first-time visit from the Ballet Nacional de Cuba is already lined up, along with a local favorite not seen here in years, Mexico's Ballet Folklorico.

And what of Ida Cole, whose drive (and cash) helped save the Paramount from the wrecker's ball in the first place? She's stepping over from executive direction into a new position created for her, "founding director," from which she'll be concentrating on the big picture: mainly representing SLA's interests in the funding and underwriting community.

Sweating the budget at KCTS

Channel 9 could be entering some dark hours. KCTS staffers have heard that the station is up against a major budget deficit this year and that significant layoffs—as many as 25 people—could be on the way. Layoff rumors have become a springtime tradition at the station, as revenue and expenses are toted up for the fiscal year that ends in June. In the event, production staff has usually been trimmed only a few at a time, and last year, no layoffs occurred. But financial results at KCTS have been sinking. The station posted a modest operating surplus in 1994, a smaller one the following year, then suffered a $1 million deficit in fiscal 1996. The station refused to release its 1997 financial results to Art Town. Channel 9 spokesperson Pat Mallinson says staff reductions "may be necessary but this hasn't been determined yet since we're still working on the [fiscal 1999] budget." According to KCTS insiders, management has called staff meetings recently to discuss the station's layoff policies. "It's like they're trying to panic people out the door," says one.

Dream job—for workaholics

In the 10 years since novelist John Updike played to a capacity crowd at downtown's First United Methodist Church, Seattle Arts & Lectures has been a major force in Seattle literary life. Now that founder Sherry Prowda is stepping down as executive director, folks will surely be lining up to replace her in such a prestigious post... until, perhaps, they pick up a copy of the job description issued late last month. Got your pencil ready? Here are your duties should you choose to accept them: serve as both artistic and managing director of SA&L; "create the artistic vision" while doing the booking and scheduling of speakers, facilities, guest accommodations and travel arrangements; hire and supervise staff (currently five); run ancillary programs like Writers in the Schools; spearhead fund raising; handle public relations; and serve as liaison with other literary art groups locally, regionally, and nationwide. Left anything out? Oh, yes: "write and/or deliver introductory remarks the evenings of events."

Prowda herself, who had a hand in devising these guidelines, acknowledges that the job requires someone who is "fairly flexible." Perhaps out of modesty, she doesn't say the job would seem also to require the strength of Hercules, the patience of Job, the persistence of a 3-year-old demanding a cookie, as well as the ability to fit 25 hours into a 24-hour day. No wonder Prowda decided it was time to get a life.

One last thing: No salary is mentioned in the job description, not even a range. When these folks say "nonprofit organization," they ain't kidding.

Related Links:

Info on the Seattle Landmark Association


KCTS homepage


Seattle Arts & Lectures page


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