"Money," Paul McCartney once sang, "can’t buy me love." But change the lyrics a bit and you’ve got a tune that makes administrators at Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium want to twist and shout: Richard and Rae Love’s money — $2 million of it — will fund a slew of needed renovations to the venerable Valley venue.
It’s the largest single donation to the 40-year-old building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, prompting administrators to name its lobby in honor of the Paradise Valley couple.
The Rae and Richard S. Love Lobby was christened in a ceremony May 22.
"Isn’t it great?" says Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Public Events, which administers the venue. "Whenever anyone comes to this building, they will automatically feel the love of the arts."
The Loves’ donation seeds an endowment for a variety of improvement projects, from expanding the theater’s bathroom facilities for women and upgrading the sound system to renovating its dressing rooms, which administrators admit are not up to snuff for a venue of Gammage’s stature.
"I love Mr. Wright," Jennings-Roggensack says, "but he really didn’t think about the touring life of artists."
NEW MONEY, OLD PLEA
Married for 26 years, the Loves — Richard, 71, and Rae, 58 — live in a tony art deco home on Mummy Mountain.
The couple retired to the Valley 11 years ago from Sacramento, Calif., where for a decade they were business partners in a real estate foreclosure company that, at its peak, was the largest of its kind in the United States. (It was sold to Fidelity National Title in 1993.)
The Loves developed a love for Arizona from a satellite office they ran in the state. Their love of the arts, however, has taken a more circuitous route.
Richard’s father worked in the film industry and his mother was a dancer on the Orpheum Circuit in the 1920s and ’30s. Rae remembers early days ushering at the old Globe Theatre in San Diego, getting to see shows for free.
The couple has traveled the globe and toured some of the opera world’s most prestigious houses — though they admit they’re not fans of opera.
A piano sits in the corner of their living room, and when asked about it, Rae says it’s hers, a player piano; she can’t play a lick, though it’s on her list of things to accomplish.
She’s taken dance and vocal classes and recorded a CD for Richard’s birthday.
Their oldest daughter is a choreographer, and their son-in-law is a songwriter who’s scored songs for Disney and Phoenix Theatre.
The Loves do not have a history of support for the arts, outside of paying for show tickets. They’ve given money for Alzheimer’s disease research and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America — to less fanfare and no lobby-naming.
"We typically don’t like to make a big deal about it," Richard says.
But the couple has subscribed to Gammage’s Broadway in Arizona series for the past eight years (and prize their seventh-row-center seats). They say they opened their pocketbook to Gammage after a backstage tour.
"It was just such an eyeopener," Rae says, "just how old some of the lighting equipment and rigging was."
Jennings-Roggensack says ASU Public Events hopes to raise $20 million for repairs and renovations to the venue over the next seven years.
The Loves, meanwhile, hope their $2 million donation will spur others to help preserve what they see as an architectural icon.
But they’re also trepid about what kind of fallout might follow their first serious effort at supporting Valley arts. They wince at the suggestion other local arts groups — eternally struggling to stay afloat — might come courting.
"That’s what I told my husband," Rae says, laughing. "We’re entering the fishbowl. I don’t know about this."