Tickets for the Hollywood Bowl went on general sale to the public Saturday morning at 10 a.m., and for Alisha Staten, Gwen Corben, Sheila Tunnel and their cohorts, this meant their “one night, once a year affair” had started on Friday “in the evening” — the exact time a secret. Coming from Pomona, Fontana, Downtown LA and other places, the dozen had set out their recliners, opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed the evening.
“I'm always number one in the line, and they're two and three,” said Gwen, miffed that “unknowns” — a couple who kept very much to themselves — had beaten them to it this year. There's not much controversy here, though some recalled four years ago when security guards and high temper mixed when late arrivals accidentally got called up first:
“We had never been ghetto before, but this time the shit hit the fan,” Gwen added.
A warm night had made sleeping in their chairs bearable, and it was an outdoor “party” until the 2 a.m. “lights off,” when the Bowl goes dark and it's generally accepted that festivities end. “That's a great time, because the deer come out,” said Gwen.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, the friendly Bowl staff started issuing the 500 numbered blue wristbands, which delegate when you get to pick your tickets. Gwen and her friends have been coming here for eight or nine years, and say they always ask if Michael Bublé is on the roster — and where his dressing room is — even though they've already looked at the schedule. This season they're picking Damien Marley, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Playboy Jazz Festival, Queen Laitifah, George Benson, Diana Ross, Buddy Guy and Sergio Mendes.
Why wait online all night? You can get those quick-to-go $1 seats, and book as many tickets as you like, for as many people as you like, for exactly the seat you want — there are even some secret two and three seaters here.
The second reason — and the one that everyone mentioned — was to deliberately snub Ticketmaster and the high fees they charge for online booking. The fee for the $1 is 100 percent — another $1 — and all other ticket prices get hefty charges per ticket as well. Going in person means not having to pay charges, which can add up when you're buying multiple tickets at multiple shows.
Still, the internet has lessened this annual party somewhat. Joe Carter, the Bowl's director of sales and customer service, said that wristbands used to be handed out to many more people than there are now.
LA Phil members and those rich enough to buy advance group bookings aren't here, but the 500 — the last wristbands were given out around 9:45 a.m. — are a mix of hipsters, grey haired classical fans, families and people who have come with a strict budget:
“You don't want to be at the front anyway. You get sparks from the fireworks, and spit from the performers — even their footprints on your table.”
This wise advice came from a German lady in a white hat, turquoise jacket and busy pants named Irene, who talked non-stop about music (her favorite artist is Mozart), her love of the Bowl, and McDonald's coffee and breakfast platter, which she certainly doesn't mind eating cold.
Lugging a large red, giraffe-skin design shopping cart containing presents for some friend's children and her journal of poems — 385 to be exact — and juggling those pancakes and eggs, she took a 5:50 a.m. bus from her home near LAX and “will not give up coming until I'm old enough to care.”
She was in such a rush to get here she left on her pink bowed bedroom slippers, which are now a dirty black on the toes, but she loves the Bowl's “acoustics and the atmosphere — crickets and nightingales.”
Nearby in one of the few small tents were Santa Monica-born Mark Storhaug, a teacher from Kingsley Elementary, and his buddy from Hollywood, who would only give his name as Theo, who had both been coming for several years. They had arrived at 2 a.m. and were wristband numbers 54 and 55. Theo only wanted one pair of tickets (John Williams on August 30) but, as Mark said of his friend, “He's the kind of freak who will wait in line at Macy's on Black Friday just to get a free snow globe.”
The first time they came they got here just before parking opened at 7 a.m., and ended up as numbers 470 and 471. “We thought, 'What the fuck?' and didn't get tickets until 4:30 p.m.,” Mark said. “It was real hot that year too, and we got sunburned,” Theo added.
Just before 10 a.m., staffer Tom Walden announced the numbers like a bingo caller, and people ran forward, some waving their wrists, to take their place in roped-off lines in front of the ticket windows.
After the windows opened, first out with his purchases was Malcolm Klugman: “I got 20 tickets for 10 concerts for $20,” he said as he walked away. “Outstanding! That's why I'm here.”
Wham's “Freedom” was blasting from a boom box nearby as people browsed in the gift shop — steep discounts on last season's gear. This writer went home and booked online.