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Hollywood Bowl Invites Helicopter Pilots to L.A. Philharmonic Rehearsal, Arranges for Noisy Chopper to Fly Over

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Fri, Nov 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM

click to enlarge Bullseye. - PROFESSIONAL HELICOPTER PILOTS ASSOCIATION
  • Professional Helicopter Pilots Association
  • Bullseye.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors picked up the hot-button helicopter noise issue this week, adding their (somewhat meaningless) endorsement to the recently proposed House of Representatives bill that would "force the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to restrict helicopter flight paths and set minimum altitudes within 12 months." It was launched after nice, quiet communities in the Valley and Hills got a dose of regular ol' L.A. helicopter hell around Carmageddon-time.

We said it then, and we'll say it now:

Welcome to life in mainland Los Angeles, where cops and sheriff's deputies swarm overhead like diseased insects to the Nile.

The Hollywood Bowl, though, holds one of the most compelling cases for silence in the sky.

During almost every show for the last four years, Los Angeles Philharmonic President Deborah Borda tells the Times that four to five helicopters pass overhead, drowning out the music for just long enough to really get under the players', and the audience's, skin.

"You see people looking up and cursing under their breath, and there's sort of a group groan," she says. "On a good night, you can get a collective groan of 18,000 people."

It's true: The delicate artistic mission of this cultural hub can be entirely undermined by a surrounding racket. (Other local hubs, of course, only stand to benefit from some wompy, equally L.A.-iconic choppers up above, like Low End Theory or the Venice Beach Drum Circle -- the latter of which turns into a police-spotlight dance party once the sun goes down. But the Bowl is obviously of a different breed.)

And it's not really news. The struggle between Philharmonic heads and helicopter pilots has been raging since the '80s, when the Times recalls that then-conductor Michael Tilson Thomas actually walked off stage in protest.

One thing we did learn, though, from today's timeless neighborhood-wars piece:

On its own, Borda said, the Philharmonic convenes a meeting each spring, inviting officials from the Professional Helicopter Pilots Assn. and other aviation interests to attend one of the orchestra's rehearsals at the Bowl. The outing includes a prearranged helicopter flyover "so they can see how it's totally disruptive."

Ha! Brilliant.

Some more amusing materials from the Professional Helicopter Pilots Association's own website include 1) a letter from Philharmonic production supervisor Paul Geller (excerpt below), and 2) a chic, almost comically cheery flyer expressing similar sentiments (also below).

click to enlarge letter_hollywood_bowl_helicopters.jpg
click to enlarge Hollywood_Bowl_poster.jpg
So in case the little sneak demonstration every spring doesn't register, they can't say they haven't been warned. They obviously don't always listen, though, and lord knows those party-watching LAPD birds don't yield to no artsy-fartsy crap, neither.

That's where HR 2677 comes in. [Update: Actually not for the LAPD birds -- they've got free reign no matter what. Tough.] 'Bout time.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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