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Man of the House: Hollywood Bowl and a corkscrew — a great match

The boxes are small, but wine is flowing, so it's all good.

August 27, 2011|Chris Erskine

The Hollywood Bowl on a summer evening, people wedged in with their wine. If there is a better rallying point — a better place to take out-of-town guests to show off our little city, I haven't found it. Dodger Stadium used to be my must-see venue for visitors. Now it's here.

"The Westside is like a petri dish of neuroses," I overhear one patron saying.

Was she talking about our Westside? I don't see that. Look, I come across a lot of neuroses wherever I go — Eastside, Westside, downtown. The Westside may excel, but it by no means has a lock on such things.

"Notice how people check out each other's wines?" one of our dinner mates says. "They've been looking at the labels." And, sure enough, I see a distinguished-looking guy — a man with too-thick gray hair, like rope — scoping out our bottle.

Call it wine envy. My wife, Posh, is taunting him with her favorite $7.99 bottle. Normally, we wouldn't spend that kind of money. But I found it to be quite profound.

Drink your heart out, pal.

You really should see me at the Bowl. I'm the guy who, invariably, impales himself on one of those folding canvas chairs. The ushers have become used to it, and when they spot me coming up the hill, they automatically dial the paramedics. It's now Bowl policy.

The paramedics, in turn, alert the nearest blood bank to have extra pints on hand — a hard-to-find A-double-negative (with a floater of merlot).

Doesn't help that in those crazy-tight Bowl boxes, you can tear your schnitzel just by attempting to sit down.

Goes like this: First, you turn around your chair. Then you put that ancient little table in place. Then you realize, "No way can I get to my chair," so you disassemble the entire thing and put it back together with everyone in the right positions. If you're facing the wrong direction, tough luck, baby.

Then you look for the corkscrew. Who's got the corkscrew? Oh, sweet Jesus. ...

One magical summer evening — might've been Debussy, might've been Debby Boone — my wife and I made a baby in the box seats at the Bowl.

Biologically, it was sort of a fender-bender. It happened between appetizers and dinner, as I threw my leg over the table in an effort to grab the hummus out of the picnic basket. I let out a little yelp, and nine months later — knock-knock, hello! — out pops another little tax deduction.

I sent the obstetrician's bill to John "The Voice" Mauceri, the maestro of the moment. We also appointed him the child's godfather.

Remember Mauceri, the most well-spoken man since Cicero? He took off about five years ago to run some arts program in the Southeast, and now he's back for a three-night homestand.

The opponent? "Fantasia."

There is a great lore to "Fantasia," about how Walt Disney was dining alone one night and spotted another solo diner, Leopold Stokowski (pronounced sto-KOV-skee by people who know music and sto-KOW-skee by people like me). Till tonight, I honestly thought he was a placekicker for the Steelers.

Anyway, Uncle Walt invited sto-KOV-skee to join him, and the offspring of that fateful evening was "Fantasia," the merging of symphonic music with Disney's playful animation.

Naturally, it bombed at the box office. Now, it's a classic.

"Gives you a few insights into global warming," my buddy Doug says at intermission.

Doug's one of those scary-perceptive Stanford types. He looks at a scene and notes the moral lessons.

When Doug sees rising tides, he thinks melting polar caps. I see rising tides and think, "Whoooooa, nice break. I'd like to surf that."

There was one scene, an epic lava flow, that did make me think that early man's concepts of hell must've been formed from observing volcanoes. If that's what oozes from our core, then down under must be hot and rather miserable.

Obviously, I think a lot like early man.

But tonight is not an evening for hellish thoughts. Tonight, there is the silhouette of trees on the lip of the hillside — that stark, purplish, only-in-California dusk.

Tonight, there is the glint of stage lights off the surface of your $7.99 Cabernet. There is the ping of a fork — concert B-flat? — as you eat a homemade summer pie.

I might very well give up baseball before I give up the Hollywood Bowl.

Because, like baseball, if you wait long enough, you'll always see something a little transcendent here.

Encore, baby.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

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