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Parade Diversion

While the Hollywood Christmas Parade takes breaks in the action during TV commercials, performers entertain crowds along the route.


Standing at Hollywood and Vine, Jonathan Moore wants to know one thing: "Are we going to be able to watch the parade?"

Although the 11-year-old will take the stage Sunday evening as a member of the Apollo West Carson Players, he is thinking the same thing everyone else along Hollywood and Sunset boulevards will be thinking: Will they have a good view of the 69th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade?

Indeed, the parade is traditionally a visual spectacle--and who would expect anything less from a Hollywood production? The streets are trimmed in glittering decorations, high school marching bands from around the country will trumpet holiday tunes, and dozens of floats will roll by packed with celebrities and their families, from cast members of Nickelodeon's "The Brothers Garcia" to the stars of daytime TV and "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Actually, Moore may have one of the best seats in town. The Apollo West Carson Players will join the adult gospel group Apollo West Voices of Soul, both led by Marvin Clayton, an adult gospel group, on the stage at Hollywood and Vine. Four such stages along the parade route will keep the crowds entertained as the parade makes its way through the streets of Hollywood, beginning at 6 p.m.

"We are a televised parade, which means it stops every 12 minutes for commercials," explains Beverly Craveiro, the event's music coordinator.

The week before Thanksgiving, Moore and other young members of the Apollo West group got up at 5 a.m. to catch the 7:30 Metro train at Hollywood and Vine for a ride to the North Hollywood station and back. The children, ages 7 to 11, eagerly gave Metro riders a preview of what's in store Sunday and encouraged people to use the subway to attend the parade.

"I can't wait," said a wide-eyed Moore, admitting he's a little nervous about singing for a Hollywood audience for the first time.

'Good Experience for the Kids'

Marvin Clayton, Apollo West executive director, said the group got the gig after answering an ad for entertainers. "Although there's no money," he said, "it's good experience for the kids."

"The kids" are part of a tradition that Clayton began about 30 years ago. His Apollo West Carson Players not only provides a creative outlet for people from the Carson area but also gives the younger members focus and discipline. Clayton instills in them that "it's fun once you know it; it's hard work to learn it."

Apollo West is just the type of community-based talent Craveiro looks for to provide quality family entertainment along the route. "My agenda is to entertain," said the exuberant Craveiro, who rattles off Sunday's lineup faster than an interviewer can write, occasionally breaking into song to provide musical samples.

"I tend to make a production out of everything I do," she enthused, adding that she got the job of music coordinator in 1998, when parade organizers decided they needed a way to keep spectators occupied.

So the lineup includes everything from Latin to soul, a 21-piece swing band and dancing in the streets to numerous children's groups. "We have the International Peace Choir," said Craveiro. "They've performed all over the world, 40 children dressed in costumes, singing in different languages."

The goal of one of the parade stages is to boost the involvement of African Americans, said James Burks, a director in the L.A. Cultural Affairs Department, who is overseeing the talent on the Hollywood and Vine stage. "I know that within the African American community we've never made an effort [to participate], except for the Hollywood celebrities, who are always a part of it," he said.

Among the groups on the Hollywood and Vine stage are the City of Angels Children's Choir, Universal Dance Designs (a youth tap dance group) and the Amazing Grace Conservatory (performing excerpts from a youth Christmas play).

For the third year, the groups and most of the marching bands have each recorded a song for the Hollywood Christmas Parade CD, "The Best Christmas Yet." The proceeds will go to Teach for America, an organization chosen by grand marshal Dennis Hopper.

Hopper, an actor and director who moved to Hollywood at age 18 and now operates his own production company in Los Angeles, recalls participating in the parade in the mid-1950s, along with fellow contract players Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood.

"The most exciting thing for me" about coming back more than 40 years later, he said, "is the chance to share that with my 10-year-old son, Henry."

On Saturday morning, nine of the marching bands will perform in the Bands at the Bowl, a free concert at the Hollywood Bowl, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. More than 1,400 musicians from seven states will perform with their individual bands, followed by a mass medley, featuring the parade theme song, "The Best Christmas Yet," written by Craveiro.

* Bands at the Bowl, Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-noon at Hollywood Bowl. Free. Hollywood Christmas Parade, 6-8 p.m. (broadcast 5:30-8 p.m. on KCOP-TV). Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. Grandstand seating: $20-$35 (includes program); standing room free. Metro Rail ticket package, $20 (includes transportation to Hollywood and Vine, program and general grandstand seating). Tickets: (626) 795-4171. Information: (323) 469-2337.

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