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Malibu's Ginny Mancini with John Mauceri at the Hollywood Bowl Photo courtesy of Lee Salem Photography

STARRY, STARRY NIGHTS

There were lights, cameras and plenty of action as the stars came out for the opening night of the Hollywood Bowl and its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony. This year’s honorees spanned the musical spectrum from classical violinist Sarah Chang to movie maestro Henry Mancini to legendary Beach Boy Brian Wilson.

The festivities got off to an early start with a lively cocktail party on the outdoor terrace. Guests waltzed in on the “pink” carpet where they were served “pink panthers,” composed of vodka, grenadine and pineapple juice. It was a tangy libation to be sure, created with the late Mister Mancini in mind. The fanfare was all for a good cause, of course, with the proceeds going to Music Matters, the LA Phil’s music education program, which serves 120,000 school kids every year.

The theme was retro, and so was the fare with platters of mini-cheeseburgers and meat loaf squares. It was a glorious blast-to-the past that gave everyone a chance to talk about their first time-at the Bowl, that is. And needless to say, some folks go way back.

“Ahh yes,” mused Malibu attorney David Rey, “It was right after the Lincoln assassination.” “Oh gosh,” gushed Ginny Mancini. “I was in junior high school in the glee club and we sang on stage.” For some, it was Dylan. For others, Nat King Cole.

As for me, I was just a wee nubbin in ’64 and ’65 when the Beatles came to town. Since my dad made suits for the Fab Four, I got to stay up late and get out of the house. Back in the day, a box at the Bowl was a grand occasion that called for bone china, crisp linen, silver candelabras and an attentive valet. My husband, it turns out, was there too, working as a teenage usher. We would marry 35 years later, as my dating life was a bit restricted at the age of six.

The cocktail party kicked into high gear with Sonny and Cher, Sinatra and Peggy Lee impersonators and a swinging musical repertoire from days gone by. But the real star of this show was the Bowl itself, especially its glitzy, new, high-tech shell. Would the celebrated semi-circle be as good as the old one? “Oh, it’s even better,” cooed conductor John Mauceri. “It’s what makes the place. There’s something magical, something electrifying about the Hollywood Bowl. And it’s been that way since the beginning.”

So what’s the sign of a good shell? Just like a good haircut, you don’t really notice at first. In fact, 30 minutes went by before any of us realized the old one was gone. Today, the spirit lives on with improved acoustics, huge wide screens and behind the scenes bells and whistles.

As evening approached, we snacked on grilled salmon, sweet succotash and peach upside down cake. The opening performance was a knockout with Sarah Chang playing the classic “Carmen.” A tribute to Henry Mancini followed with a medley of unmistakable scores. A dapper Andy Williams give it his all with “Moon River;” Brian Wilson took us down memory lane with ” I Get Around;” and to top it all off, a dazzling pyrotechnic display lit up the night sky.

The season is young, so don’t miss out. It’s a good time guaranteed-whether you go for the music, the memories or just for the shell of it.