More than three weeks after the Feb. 7 Wolf Trap benefit at the Capital Centre, officials have not said how much they made toward their $400,000 goal. They did say 12,508 people, filling 67 percent of the seats, attended the benefit to help rebuild the Filene Center, which burned in 1982. Tickets cost $10 to $1,000. It was not disclosed how many people received free tickets. Wolf Trap founder Catherine Filene Shouse said she had received a preliminary report on gross receipts, but declined to release it. In fact, she added, the gross receipts figure will never be released: we will get a net figure (gross receipts minus expenses), perhaps in a few weeks, after the entertainers have submitted their expenses and other bills have been received. When a reporter pressed for more information, Shouse expressed anger and hung up the telephone.
The entertainers waived their fees. Hotels, limousines and use of the Capital Centre were donated. Yet, "When people say we're putting on a free show, that ain't the case," said Wolf Trap spokeswoman Suzanne Stephens. "You're paying stagehands, you're paying technicians. It's a labor-intensive thing, and that makes it incredibly expensive." As for free entertainment, she added, "Are you kidding? Do you know how many people an entertainer brings with him? He waives his fee, but we've got to feed them. He brings his back-up musicians, his family. You'd be amazed what demands are made . We pay for all their air fare and all that." Asked about this, Bob Hope, who with Wolf Trap board member Elizabeth Taylor was a top attraction at the benefit, said he will submit no expenses. "It didn't cost them a penny for me because a friend donated a plane and I landed at Andrews," Hope said. "The hotel was free and the limo was free . . . I was happy to do it for Elizabeth and for Mrs. Shouse. They should have made a lot of money." Taylor spokesman Chen Sam said Shouse had offered to pay expenses but, "I think three-quarters of the entertainers," including Taylor, didn't submit any.
Okay. It isn't unusual for a private foundation to hold back information, or for someone to hang up a telephone in anger. No law says Shouse has to tell all. But the suggestion of secrecy rankles, particularly with taxpayers giving $17 million in grants and loans to rebuild the Filene Center. There is a legitimate public interest in whether Wolf Trap's ambitious $20 million fund-raising drive is drying up money pools--public and private--that other arts groups must share..