Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Downtown intersection named after philanthropist Ezat Delijani

June 25, 2009 |  7:39 pm

Ezat Leading members of the Iranian American community in Los Angeles gathered today at the corner of 7th Street and Broadway to celebrate the dedication of the first city intersection to be named after one of their own: real estate magnate and noted philanthropist Ezat Delijani.

For many of those attending, the event offered a brief respite from days of worry about family and friends in Iran,  which has been rocked by the worst unrest in 30 years.

 “In the midst of sadness and tragedy and bad news, we need a shining moment like this,” said Najmedin Meshkati, an engineering professor at USC.

Although the timing of the event was a coincidence, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked for a moment of silence in honor of those killed in the days of protests against a disputed election, which saw hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to power.

“Half a world away, at this very moment, there are freedom fighters speaking out and standing up for democracy and the rule of law, some of whom have died for their conviction,” said Villaraigosa, who formally dedicated the intersection Ezat Delijani Square.

The gathering on a street of faded movie theaters, bridal shops and jewelry stores drew quizzical looks from some local merchants and panhandlers, who stopped to stare at the well-heeled visitors from the Westside and San Fernando Valley.

Delijani brought his family to the United States to escape the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which overturned the shah and ushered in a theocracy. In Los Angeles, Delijani established himself as a real estate investor, becoming a pioneer of the fashion and textile district. He also served as president of the Iranian American Jewish federation.

In 1982, Mayor Tom Bradley asked Delijani to purchase one of the ornate movie palaces on Broadway, the Los Angeles Theatre, to ensure that it would not be demolished.  From the moment he stepped inside the six-story lobby, Delijani said, he was mesmerized by the theater’s lavish, Baroque-inspired interior, which recalls the Hollywood glamor of the 1930s. Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein attended the theater’s opening night in 1931, when it hosted the premiere screening of Chaplin’s “City Lights.”

Over the years, Delijani picked up three more theaters on Broadway – the Palace, State and Tower theaters. He and other local property owners are now working with Council member Jose Huizar on a 10-year campaign to revitalize the Broadway corridor, which is home to one of the largest remaining collections of historic movie palaces.

The aim, Delijani said, as throngs of well-wishers gathered at a reception at the Los Angeles Theatre,  was not to make money.  The theaters only open for special events and cost far more to preserve than they earn.

“In our lives, it’s important to do something for the city,” Delijani said. “I’m very happy that at least in my life I succeeded to preserve these beautiful theaters.”

--Alexandra Zavis

File photo of Ezat Delijani on August 20, 1998. Ken Hively / LA Times