It was like old times, almost, at the opening-night performance of "The Who's Tommy" on Friday night at the Universal Amphitheatre. The sounds of one of the consummate, hard-core, rock 'n' roll party bands of the late '60s and '70s prompted recollections of bygone youth--sweet recollections.
"They used to smash up their instruments all over the place," Linda LoRe, chairwoman of Giorgio Beverly Hills, recalled wistfully. "This was the toned-down version, but I felt like I was in high school again."
"I started college in '67--this is a soundtrack of my college years," producer Steve Tisch said.
"I still have things missing from my eardrums from Who concerts I attended," said Gary Goldberg, also among the opening-night crowd.
But the that-was-then, this-is-now ambience included a lack of illegal substances in this audience.
After all, the event was partly business--a "network-fest," as one mid-level Fox television executive put it with mock pleasure. The operatic saga of the "deaf, dumb and blind kid" was the centerpiece of an evening benefiting Children's Action Network and Education First!, entertainment industry-based nonprofit charities for kids.
The networking potential was awesome. MCA President Sid Sheinberg and his wife, Lorraine; Sony Pictures Chairman Peter Guber and his wife, Lynda; Hearst Entertainment CEO Jerry Isenberg and his wife, Carole, and Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg were the evening's co-chairs, though the Spielbergs didn't attend.
Dawn Steel, Penny Marshall, Mayor Richard Riordan, Neil Simon, New York Knicks Coach Pat Riley, "Seinfeld's" Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and "Forrest Gump's" Gary Sinise were among the guests.
After the show, the bells and whistles continued at a post-party (complete with pinball machines with "Jurassic Park" themes), located in some uncharted territory beyond Universal's CityWalk.
There, the Who's Pete Townshend sought refuge in the safety of a corner, seeming so gentle and low-key it was impossible to imagine him smashing even a fly. "I never really understood that somehow 'Tommy' has assumed a life of its own outside of rock, not just the Who," Townshend said. "I had no conception it would happen like this."