Wet Hair at the Hollywood Bowl

photo 1Last night we headed out to go to the Hollywood Bowl because I had been given comps to see “Hair” by the sound designer, my colleague Phil Allen.  All day it had been kind of overcast and cloudy, but really really hot.

I knew that the Hollywood bowl was going to be like Mount Everest for my 87-year-old husband. But karmically, things seemed to be falling together neatly. On Friday, at work I had to call a student to find out if he had the units to do a lighting design this fall. Kevin has been working as a parking attendant at the Hollywood Bowl since the age of 14. Please don’t think less of me because honestly, I didn’t call him to take advantage of this fact.

But when I did reach him, he told me that he could help me out with parking. He said he would put my name on the list, and that I should drive up the hill to Lot A and look for him.

We left the apartment at 6:00. I had a beautiful basket full of poached Salmon, a lovely quinoa salad, and for dessert, berries and some brownie bites from Smart and Final. I was feeling very, very Martha Stewart.

We got to the Hollywood Bowl and it was a complete cluster f–k. I didn’t know what lane to get into, because I literally hadn’t come to the Hollywood Bowl in five years, and the cop was pointing me to turn left when I need to go straight ahead. I said to him “My names on the list” and he waved me into the right lane, after admonishing me with a good natured retort: “We can’t read minds, here! Have a nice evening!”

I got to the bottom of the hill.  I said “My name’s on the list.” (Surely the sweetest words in the history of theatre.) Sure enough, miraculously, it was. We drove up the hill and Kevin was there and  said “Park right here,” pointing to his left to an area which was clearly not a parking spot. 

I unloaded my husband’s  walker, and gave the keys to Kevin and we walked into the bowl. 

We were now standing in front of the black macadam  Mount Everest. A rise which is probably 50° and my husband turned to me with woeful eyes and said, “How far is it?”

I looked down at the tickets and I could see that we needed to go about hundred feet further up the hill to the entrance. People were walking by shooting me dirty looks for bringing somebody with a walker on this hill.

Some kind Bowl usher helped us and pointed us to the elevator which eliminated 20 steps up. We took the elevator up and went our way up the longest handicap ramp in history. Now were on the flat area between the seating heading towards our seats. It was still  really early and the boxes in the Bowl were full of happy picnickers but the upper levels were still pretty empty.

We got to the entrance to the seating area where we needed to leave the walker and my husband looked up and said “What row are we in?” Again, woeful eyes.

I was thinking, ” Yeah,  it’s a great idea to come to the Hollywood Bowl as the last event in one’s life.”

We climbed, my husband holding onto the backs of the benches and we finally got to row 11. We sat down on our Hollywood Bowl blanket  and I opened the basket for dinner. Things were looking up.

Two pretty girls were sitting in front of us who asked us to take their picture. I did and they then took our picture, too.

photo 2It was only about 6:30 and the show was scheduled to start at 8:00. Two other people I knew came to sit down next to us because they, too,  had been given tickets by our friend. We were very jolly. The show began. It was magical. We were having a great time.

After intermission, I felt the first drops of rain. The chatter amongst the audience as these drops began to fall and intensify in frequency and weight rolled through the audience so  that the show could have stopped for all we were aware. 

I was trying to cover us up with the little blue cotton shawl that I had brought to put across our laps so that we wouldn’t get salmon on  our pants.

Pretty soon, one of the actors came out and said-“Don’t leave! “We’re bringing you ponchos!”

Keep in mind that here were 17,000 of us sitting in the audience. I thought, Yeah, and I have some swamp property in Florida….

My husband’s  hat was drenched.

I couldn’t stop laughing with Annie Wareham who was sitting to my right, her hair beginning to plaster itself to her head. The irony of being in the middle of a 3 year drought in Southern California on the one time in 5 years  we had attended a show at the Bowl in the midst of what was becoming an enthusiastic episode of rain was too much. Show? What show?

I think it was somewhere around this time that the purportedly naked people came onstage, because I completely missed them. 

One of the girls to my left, a former student USC,  was wearing a USC poncho. Good planning, Sara! Her friend got up and offered to bring us ponchos and disappeared. 10 minutes later  this goddess of mercy came back with the ponchos and handed me a flat packet with two inside. And just like were instructed to do on the aircraft, I helped my husband on with his poncho before putting mine on.  Oh no, it’s the opposite, right?

Now Annie and I were taking selfies to text to the sound mixing area which we could see was tented with a poncho or clear tarp under which Phil had a flashlight and was mixing the show. Which, miraculously, was proceeding apace. Those poor  wet actors. To their credit, they used this event to unify the audience so that by the final number, “Let the Sunshine In!” we were all singing at the tops of our lungs. The audience filed out of the bowl, chatting amiably with each other, in love with the performers, each other, the rain.

It was the best time I’ve had at the Hollywood Bowl in years.  After the show, we waited for a lot of the people to leave and then we made our way back to the car.  Kevin was waiting and pulled the car around right to us. I gave him 20 bucks. And that, I think, was our last trip to the Hollywood bowl.

Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch

The American theatre lost a legend yesterday in Elaine Stritch. She was the quintessential American actor, showing huge personal courage throughout her life and in her artistry.
I  had the privilege of working with Ms. Stritch only once but she had a huge impact on me.  I stage managed a show in which she performed “Broadway Baby” at the Hollywood Bowl to 17,000 audience members and one very famous birthday celebrant at Stephen Sondheim’s 75th Birthday Concert. The evening featured the L.A. Philharmonic, and was directed by Paul Lazarus, and musical directed by longtime Sondheim collaborator, Paul Gemignani.

And believe me when I say that it truly was a privilege to work on this show.

We had been rehearsing for about two weeks at a small rehearsal studio on the border of North Hollywood and Burbank, and I was giddy with the daily rehearsals.  An hour here with Jason Alexander and Adam Wylie doing a number from “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,”  a half hour there listening to Barbara Cook singing “I Think About You” from “Follies.” You get the picture.

Check out the other amazing performers who wished Sondheim happy birthday:


The most memorable moments for me happened during  the last run through of the concert in the rehearsal room. The actors faced the rehearsal tables, with the mirrors behind them. I was sitting at the center edge of the stage management table, and right across a short gap (maybe 2 feet) began the table at which sat Stephen Sondheim and Paul, the director.

I could watch Sondheim’s face as these amazing performers, Barbara Cook, Marin Mazzie, Jason Daniely, Anne Hathaway, Jubilant Sykes, et al. paraded through, singing his songs to him, their backs to the mirrors, and the mirrors reflecting back at me the impact of his work on himself and all the other artists in the room. It was one of those pinch-me moments in the theatre that we have all the time, but not often to this extent.

Anyway, cut to the Orchestra Rehearsal at the Bowl, and Elaine Stritch, who had just arrived from New York – I don’t think she was with us in the rehearsal room is getting ready to run her number.  The LA Philharmonic Orchestra is in place, and out from stage right comes Elaine, wearing her microphone,  and carrying her very pointy-toed black shoes that she will wear that night in her left hand.

She walks to the center of the stage and taking Paul Gemignani’s arm at the conductor’s podium to balance herself, she extracts two crumpled pieces of tissue from the each of the toes of her shoes, then puts them on, one by one.
She  then crossed to down right from where she was going to be entering, and stepped into the wings,  her mic now live because we were about to run her number. Echoing through the empty Bowl bouncing off the 17,000 seats and benches we all hear her hock a loogie.

I’m sorry – I know this story is in extremely poor taste and I am breaking every rule of stage manager discretion, but I have to say, I kind of loved her for it.

Later that night, she was amazing – she completely leveled the house with “Broadway Baby” – the standing ovation she got when she came out was 35 seconds. She filled that entire bowl with her talent, her passion, her committment, and only hours before, her loogie.

I don’t know to this day if she did it to crack us all up, but she did. Yesterday, when I heard the sad news of our loss, I smiled because I remembered that moment when I got to see Elaine Stritch up close and personal.