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The Picnic Bowl

The real reason folks go to the Hollywood Bowl? It's in the basket.

August 22, 2001|LESLEE KOMAIKO | Special to the Times

Patrick Bailey had set up a makeshift bar in the box he shared with three friends. With his cocktail shaker, vodka and olives, he was the envy of many neighbors. "The first time I came, I brought ice," said the Altadena resident. "But I learned it was not worth schlepping uphill." Instead, Bailey shells out $3 for a bucket of ice from the concession stand.

Bowl-goers quickly discover they need to bring a rolling ice chest or invest in a lightweight, rolling insulated cart; they're easier on the back. Some might argue, though, that the old-fashioned baskets look better. And looks do matter, most agree, particularly in the box seats--the Beverly Hills of the Bowl--where there's a fair amount of healthy competition and one-upmanship.

Truitt, a Bowl veteran, recalled that hired violinists once played for a box. Even better, she said, was the time a man stood on the side of a box and served from a chafing dish. "He had a towel over his arm and everything."

More common are the displays of fine linen, fancy crystal and fresh flowers that ticket-holders set up despite the cramped circumstances. Francis Grover, for instance, covered her table with a damask tablecloth, then added cloth napkins and a vase of Lily of the Nile blooms she brought from Long Beach.

At one time there was even more extravagance, when people would trot out heirloom candelabras. But candles are now prohibited at the Bowl, except for a very specific type (with an enclosed flame) approved by the Fire Department.

For dessert, many people bring their favorite cookies, mostly store-bought, or visit the concession stand for ice cream or the much-talked-about fresh popcorn. But some treat dessert with as much reverence as dinner. For instance, John Feder, a graduate student from Laguna Beach, prepared two different creme fraiche toppings for the fresh berries he and his family were enjoying: the first with candied ginger and spices, the second with lime and Grand Marnier.

Serious dessert people save the course. "That's the rule," said Mark Meister of Northridge. "You come early and have appetizers and the main course, and dessert at intermission."

Meister has perfected a way to transport his favorite Hagen-Dazs ice cream. He defrosts a couple of blue ice packs, wraps them around the container, secures them with rubber bands and pops the whole thing in the freezer. The next day, the ice cream is Bowl-ready. After nearly five hours out of the freezer, but still contained in the cold packs, the vanilla ice cream he brought to pair with brownies and lemon bars was "just a little soggy," he said. Which is really how it's best.

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The Hollywood Bowl is at 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 850-2000. Its Web site is http://www.hollywoodbowl.com.

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