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The Hollywood Bowl: An icon celebrates 100

If you're looking for the perfect L.A. day, you'll want to soak up the sun and play in the sand of one its many beaches. But for the perfect L.A. night? You'll need to head about 20 miles inland, for an evening under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl. Nestled in one of Hollywood's many canyons, this amphitheater has been the Southern California destination, for fans and performers, for a century.

Gustavo Dudamel, the music and artistic Director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said, "You see the Hollywood Bowl, you're listening great music there, the sound arrive amazing, Hollywood sign, you have the sky, you have all of that!"

The night "Sunday Morning" was in attendance, Dudamel was conducting a salute to George Gershwin.

Gustavo Dudamel conducts a performance of Gershwin by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.  CBS News

If Dudamel looks right at home here, it might be because this is where made his U.S. debut at the tender age of 24. "It was overwhelming," he told correspondent Luke Burbank, "especially because the history, you know? You see the Hollywood Bowl in films, in cartoons and all of that. And when you arrive here, you feel all of that historic background."

The Hollywood Bowl has often been the backdrop for great moments in TV and film, from Tom & Jerry and "Beaches" to "The Beverly Hillbillies," and all of it under that iconic bandshell, or at least one of them. The current bandshell was built in 2004.

Chad Smith, CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and a bit of a historian for the Hollywood Bowl, said the original idea was to have a different bandshell built every season. But that proved too expensive during the Great Depression. Fortunately, the shell built in 1929 was iconic enough to stay in place for almost 75 years – and what a run it was! 

The Hollywood Bowl today.  CBS News

Over the decades everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Elton John have performed here. There was the famous Beatles concert with screams so loud they could reportedly be heard about a mile away on Hollywood Boulevard.

For a time, in front of the stage was pool filled with water – that is, until 1968, when Jimi Hendrix showed up. "And he was playing, and the audience just started going more and more crazy," said Smith. "And at one point people rushed down and jumped over that gray wall, and started splashing around and swimming in the pool. And at that time the leaders of the Hollywood Bowl said, 'I think it's probably time that we drain the Bowl.'"

Today that spot is one of the fancier sections to enjoy dinner and a show. But higher up? Like, way higher? The bowl makes $1 seats available for many of its shows. Those are a nod to the Hollywood Bowl's earliest days, and the original vision of its founders. Smith said, "It was a group of theosophists, activists, politicians, artists, civic-minded people, but really it was a collection of really powerfully persuasive women who decided that what we needed in Hollywood was a space where we could present the great art forms for the widest possible audiences at low costs with almost no barriers to entry."

And a century later, that mission lives on. The Bowl has survived a world war, a pandemic, and financial ups-and-downs. And 84-year-old Ron Goldman has been here to see a lot of it. He told Burbank, "I was a Hollywood High School student, and I got a job here. My job was to take a stack of programs, put 'em under my arm, and run up and down these stairs hawking the programs."

Goldman credits that job with making him the music fan that he is to this day. "It's hard not to fall in love with the Bowl," he said. "Once you've come here, you hear great music in an extraordinary atmosphere, and it has helped me to really appreciate classical music, popular music, all forms of music. And that is something that has informed my life a great deal."

For Gustavo Dudamel, it's not just the music that moves him, it's also the silence. "Imagine the concentration, the silence of 18,000 people, you know, listening to the pianissimo," he said.  

The sound, or lack thereof, of 18,000 people together listening in perfect rhythm.

"That," he said, "only happens, you know, in a place like the Hollywood Bowl."

Stream selections from the Hollywood Bowl 2022 playlist by clicking on the embed below (Free Spotify registration required to hear the tracks in full):

For more info:

Story produced by Aria Shavelson. Editor: Emanuele Secci.

See also: 

Red Rocks: Nature's perfect music stage 06:10
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