Pop Culture

The Hollywood Bowl: Standing the Test of Time

In the spring of 2020, the Hollywood Bowl announced that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision was reached to remain closed during their 2020 summer season. The venue stated, “We are sad to share that, for the first time in its almost century-long history, the Hollywood Bowl will be silent this summer. In response to the latest guidance of public health officials and in an effort to protect our artists, audiences, staff, and community from the spread of COVID-19, we are canceling the 2020 season at the Hollywood Bowl.” This marks the first time in their nearly 100 year history that they have shut down for any length of time longer than 2 weeks. Quite simply, The Hollywood Bowl IS summer in L.A.

The historic Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. The Bowl is well known for its band shell, originally with a distinctive set of concentric arches that graced the site from 1929 through 2003. Pasadena architect and Rose Bowl designer Myron Hunt created the elliptical form for the Hollywood Bowl’s seating amphitheater. That original building was replaced with a larger one beginning in the 2004 season. The Bowl’s site was chosen in 1919 by William Reed and his son H. Ellis Reed, who were selected by the members of the newly formed Theatre Arts Alliance to find a suitable location for outdoor performances.

Originally, The Bowl began as a community space rather than a privately owned establishment. Proceeds from the early events there went to financing the construction of new elements of the structure such as a stage in 1922, seating in 1923, and a backdrop to the stage in 1924. Over the years many events were held there, including rock and pop concerts, orchestral concerts, high school graduations, comedy shows, ballets, film premiers, and many more. It was even named one of the 10 best live music venues in the U.S. by Rolling Stone magazine in 2018. Many movie scenes have been filmed here. Films have been screened here. It’s iconic.

The Bowl has such a rich history of great performers selling out the venue. Performers such as Al Jolson, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Nat “King” Cole, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Heart, Rod Stewart, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, Carrie Underwood, and Alicia Keys, just to name a few. In September 2017, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers completed their 40th Anniversary World Tour; these were the final shows of Petty’s career before his death on October 2. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Fred Astaire danced there. The audience has included other renowned celebrities and sports figures, as well as Presidents. The list is endless.

I was fortunate enough to be there for one of those – a sold-out Who concert on July 1, 2002. Not just any Who concert, but this was just four nights after their legendary bass player, John Entwistle, died in his Las Vegas hotel room. It was the first night of the band’s tour, and there was a very eerie calm over the normally bustling seating area. The stark reminder of Entwistle’s passing was a black spot where the bass player usually stood, keeping the crowd hushed and reverent. The fill-in bass player stood nearly offstage, also out of the spotlight. It must have been SO hard for Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend to continue on so soon after losing such an intrinsic part of their line-up. But the show must go on. “Tonight we play for John Entwistle,” Daltrey told the crowd. “He was the true spirit of rock & roll, and he lives on in all the music we play.” Townshend noted “I know for certain that John would have wanted us to go on,” in his online blog. He went on to say too many other people’s livelihoods depended on the tour.  I still get chills writing about it. That was just one moment in so many that the prestigious Bowl has had the privilege of hosting.

That makes the loss of summer at the Bowl even more heartfelt. The Hollywood Bowl has already furloughed some of their staff, with more cuts expected. In a time where we are in need of so much more, this pandemic has even stolen L.A.’s 98-year annual tradition.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]