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Hollywood Bowl to use light signaling system in women's restrooms

A red-light, green-light signaling system will guide female patrons to vacant stalls at the Hollywood Bowl

Hollywood Bowl operators wondered if there was a way to end long summertime lines at their six women's restrooms.

"Can do," replied former Bowl stage manager Todd Bermann, who was hired to come up with a solution.

Bermann was a teenager 38 years ago when he went to work at the Bowl as an airplane spotter. His job at the time was to call Van Nuys and Burbank airports when private planes strayed overhead during concerts.

To handle women's room congestion, Bermann and a partner devised an automatic red-light, green-light signaling system to guide patrons to vacant stalls.

Bermann, 52, of Newbury Park, said the idea for the signals came from former Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. Chief Operating Officer Arvind Manocha, who had seen how the Westfield Century City shopping center uses lights to direct cars to open stalls in its parking structure.

He and a friend, Allen Klevens, 41, of West Hills, concocted a device for restroom stall doors that signals when a stall is unoccupied. The red-light, green-light system installed in the Hollywood Bowl's main 68-toilet women's room uses magnetic switches that sense when a stall door is closed.

"Women love it. They used to have to push on the doors to see if anybody was inside or peek through a crack or look under the stall door for feet," said Chrissy Whitman, the Bowl's operations manager. "We used to have to station people near the entrance to tell women to go deep inside" the restroom to find an unoccupied toilet.

Gail Samuel, the Philharmonic's current chief operating officer, said the signal system will be installed in the Bowl's five smaller women's rooms. "By seeing the lights, you know to walk farther into the bathroom to find a stall," Samuel said. "One of the challenges is to move people through during concert intermissions."

An improved second-generation system will be used in future Bowl installations, said Klevens, who with Bermann founded a company called Tooshlights. Their firm's slogan: "Know Where to Go."

"These lights are wired. In the future we're using a wireless system that can be installed on any stall door. It will be operated by the door's latch, not by a wired magnetic strip," Klevens said. The wireless green-and-red light signals will cost around $300 each and utilize 256 "assignable" frequency codes so neighboring lights are not accidentally switched from red to green when a stall door is opened, he said.

The new version will also feature brighter LED bulbs. The 68 red lights installed so far are relatively dim, Bermann acknowledged. Fluorescent lights over a row of restroom stalls had to be switched off in order for The Times to clearly photograph the signal lamps.

Klevens said the pair's Newbury Park-based firm has been contacted by airports, arenas and casinos that are interested in serving female patrons more expeditiously. The turnover at men's restrooms with urinals is typically much faster, he noted.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic's summer series opening night on Saturdaywill feature 2014 Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame inductees Kristin Chenoweth, Pink Martini and the Go-Go's.

bob.pool@latimes.com

Twitter: @BobsLAtimes

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