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: Bombs and Brahms | So SoCal

The Hollywood Bowl's rocket man

September 14, 1997|A. Grey Le Cuyer

Visiting the Hollywood Bowl during the day is a surreal experience--the orchestra dressed in civvies, conductor John Mauceri not working the crowd. Standing on top of the Hollywood Bowl is beyond surreal. I've climbed to this breezy perch in the Bowl's convex backside with Gene Evans, the man responsible for planning, designing and--with a crew of 20--executing the synchronized fireworks displays presented each season since 1969. Evans remembers only one show being canceled--the Santa Anas were blowing toward the audience. "It was tough on the crowd," he says, " but they understood."

Evans, who does not read music, relies on Tony Spano, a doctorate student in conducting at UCLA, to keep track of the musical cues that synchronize the sound with the fury. At Tony's hand signal, he launches the entire pyrotechnic program from his push-button remote. "We're pretty close most of the time," assures Evans, "unless my finger gets stuck."

Evans, who counts America's Bicentennial and the Statue of Liberty's Centennial celebrations among his pyrotechnic achievements, is humble about his Bowl role: "The orchestra's there. They, after all, are truly the stars of the show. We're just the embellishment."

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