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Mark Ferber dies at 60; longtime production supervisor at the Hollywood Bowl

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To thousands of concert-goers, Mark Ferber's voice was comfortingly familiar as he announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Hollywood Bowl."

As a child, he bicycled to the Bowl to do his homework in the picnic areas he found so peaceful. He was hired as an errand runner at 14, and his career at the venue stretched over 45 years.

Ferber, who was the Bowl's longtime production supervisor and special events manager, died March 14 in Los Angeles of injuries sustained in a fall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced. He was 60.

"Every night, without fail, Ferber conjured up the backstage magic that made the Bowl legendary," the Philharmonic said in a statement.

"Ferber thrilled in the excitement of the stage, calling the show from the wings and donning a tuxedo to personally hand flowers to legends like Judy Garland and Pavarotti."

In 1985, The Times called Ferber one of "the Bowl's unsung heroes" for his role in making sure performances were trouble-free.

"I'm a detail man," Ferber said at the time. "I run around backstage and make sure everything goes correctly."

Apart from an aircraft flying into earshot now and then during a performance, "just about everything" did, The Times had pointed out.

Ferber made headway in reducing the ill-timed flyovers by building positive relationships, said Paul Geller, the Bowl's director of production.

One time "we brought some air traffic controllers to a concert and sat them down so they could understand the problem," Ferber told The Times in 1985.

From speaking with pilots, Ferber learned that they couldn't see the two searchlights that defined the Bowl's airspace until it was too late.

The Bowl then installed three strobe lights on surrounding hilltops in the 1980s that serve as a triangular beacon to better warn pilots, Geller said.

During a performance, Ferber would use an electronic scanner to detect incoming air traffic and employ a telephone hotline that connected him to local airports so that he could request a plane be redirected out of Bowl space.

Born in 1950 in Los Angeles, Ferber grew up in the shadow of the Bowl. His graduation ceremony from Hollywood High was held on the Bowl stage.

After earning a bachelor's degree in theater from UCLA in 1972, he worked for the Seattle Opera in 1974 but "turned south almost immediately to be reunited with his beloved Bowl," the Philharmonic said.

As production supervisor, Ferber would spend one day each season as an usher, "just to see what it was like," Geller said.

"He was always up, happy, cheerful," said Geller, who worked with Ferber for 40 years.

"He was one of these special people. He liked everyone and everyone liked him. That's why it's such a loss to the Bowl. People like that don't come around often."

Ferber's first wife, actress Elaine Welton Hill, died of cancer at 45 in 1999.

He is survived by Suzanne Friedline Ferber, an actress he married in 2001, and a son, Daniel, 5.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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