Malibu Seen

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Bluesman B.B. King electrifies the Hollywood Bowl at the opening night Hall of Fame fling. Photo by Mathew Imaging

THE THRILL IS ON!

It may have been a record-breaking 110 degrees outside, but the heat didn’t stop opening night at the Hollywood Bowl from being the coolest place in town. Weather-weary VIPs chilled out at the ocean-themed cocktail reception where they were welcomed by a parade of oversized turtle, angel fish and coral reef puppets as well as leggy lovelies dressed as crashing waves in elaborate showgirl-worthy sequined costumes.

Guests eager to experience the splashy Hall of Fame lineup sipped neon-blue Under the Blue Sea martinis topped with purple orchids while Handel’s “Water Music” played in the background.

Bars were draped with nets and seashells while Lucite tables containing live aquarium fish added to the underwater ambience. Servers made the rounds with fruit sushi and salmon bellinis as well as sea scallop ceviche with pickled mint and jalapeƱo and grilled lime tilapia.

Due to the intense heat, it was a little bit more relaxed on the fashion front, with Hawaiian shirts and polos taking the place of suits and ties. Many took refuge under the terrace where giant starfish, anemones and jellyfish dangled from the above.

The buzz was all about the evening’s program. “Opening night is always great,” said one reveler. “Where else can you see B.B. King and Liza Minnelli on the same stage?” Denise Decker meantime was looking forward to a performance by famed flutist James Galway.

As the sun set, we took our boxes, which were equally festive with chartreuse, turquoise and cobalt-blue linens topped with sea shells and south African protea. Malibu’s Fran Drescher arrived in a crisp white halter dress accompanied by a trio of girlfriends. ” I love the program,” she said. “And we get fireworks too.”

With military precision, Hollywood Bowl staffers brought out a gourmet feast of farmers’ market-grilled veggies, free range chicken with dried fruit, chutney and white peaches, and milk chocolate mousse on puff pastry. The all-star program began on a classical note with Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture.” The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra gave it their all, led by Thomas Wilkins, who marks his first season as principal guest conductor.

Sir James took the stage next with a set that included both Mozart and the Irish classic, “Danny Boy.” He then turned to another interest close to his heart-youth. Sir James appeared with 30 young musicians who could become the next classical sensations thanks to the LA Philharmonic and its Music Matters program. Members of the Phil’s Youth Orchestra got the thrill of a lifetime playing alongside the celebrated performer and his wife, Jeanne Galway.

Blues lovers were in heaven when B.B. King took the stage. The guitar legend was introduced by longtime pal Della Reese. “I’ve got goose bumps and he hasn’t even played anything yet,” she said. “I have loved this man for so long and I can’t stop loving him now. He is an American treasure unique in all the world.”

B.B. proved her so right as he pulled up a chair and wowed the crowd with favorites like the “Thrill is Gone,” “Every Day I Have the Blues” and “How Blue Can You Get?”

The program switched gears yet again with diva Liza Minnelli, who appeared in a flashy costume that could have come straight from the Kit Kat Club. Ms. Liza worked her fans into a frenzy with signature songs like “Cabaret” and “New York, New York.”

In keeping with tradition, the Bowl’s 87th opening night ended with a bang as Thomas Wilkins returned to the stage to conduct Henry Mancini’s “Theme from Peter Gunn” and a fireworks spectacular lit up the night sky. It was the perfect way to celebrate summer, the bowl and another year of musical magic.