Join me as we shout, Jab, Ludwig, jab! : Blood, Spit & Mozart

I had not been to a boxing match for about 20 years, so you can imagine how surprised I was the other night in Reseda to find that very little has changed.

Beer is still served in plastic containers, the card girls still edge toward total nudity and someone in a back row still shouts Jab! Jab! regardless of what's happening in the ring.

There are always two young Mexicans who electrify the crowd by bashing each other's faces into tomato puree for a few furious rounds, and a main event that, at best, proves it is possible for grown men to swing their arms through the air for approximately 17 minutes without actually hitting anything.

My wife accompanied me to the Reseda fights, which were held in something called the Country Club, a barn-like structure that bears about as much resemblance to a country club as Bruno's Dead Dog Saloon to the Polo Lounge.

I found seats just beyond the range of blood and spit, a blend occasionally offered up at ringside when a bantamweight gets his head blown off by a right cross.

While a boxer's head might make a fine trophy for the type of women who generally attend boxing matches, my wife would find it less than appealing to catch one in her lap. A human head is not, after all, a baseball fouled high into the right-field bleachers.

We sat at a table where real fight fans stuffed themselves with great quantities of beer and fried chicken wings, although I noticed one or two ate monster-sized, country-club burgers with fries and slaw.

The house was packed with about 800 shouting, foot-stomping adherents of physical violence, some of whom sought art (Jab! Jab!) and others of whom preferred, well, terminality (Kill! Kill!).

I mention all this not so much to diminish the beauty of a bone-crushing smash to the face, but to lay the groundwork for contrast.

The next night, you see, I took my wife to a magnificent performance of the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra, during which absolutely no one was beaten to the ground.

Well, actually, no one was beaten to the ground at the fights either, but you get the idea.

The symphony, like the so-called boxing match, was held in Reseda, though in the high school auditorium and not, thank God, in the Country Club. They could never have mopped up in time.

We heard Mozart's "Divertimento in F" and Samuel Barber's absolutely hypnotizing "Adagio for Strings," which would have provided exquisite accompaniment to the dance performed by main-eventers Michael Nunn and Willie Harris about 24 hours earlier in the Budweiser ring.

While less than artistic, the match was equally nonviolent.

During intermission at the symphony, we sipped punch and nibbled politely on tiny cakes, careful at all times to keep the crumb specks off our handsome chins and muted evening attire.

Here again, you see, is contrast, because, when a fight fan feeds on a giant hotdog served open-face while leaping to cheer for either blood or the half-naked card girl, you witness the spattering of mustard in places you never dreamed possible.

The card girl, by the way, whose name is Leslee Bremer, is built to fight-night specifications. Clad in just enough to keep her from being arrested, she parades her proud garbonzas around the ring between rounds holding up a number that identifies the upcoming segment of the fight.

Occasionally, possibly recalling her mother's advice, she makes a futile effort to cover her behind with a bikini bottom that is just wide enough to fail, but everyone boos anyhow and the guy in the back yells Jab! Jab!

Meanwhile, back at the symphony, Lois Johnson brought the audience to its feet not by moving sensuously about the stage in a gold lame harem bikini, but by conducting Rossini's "William Tell Overture" with power and beauty.

Its imagery evoked flames that rose like a firestorm through a tapestry of music, to settle once more into embers, glowing slightly, like the eye of a witch.

It should come as no surprise that the Country Club was packed for the fights, whereas the Reseda High School auditorium was only about a third full. It has always been easier to understand a punch in the mouth than a symphony in E-flat major.

I feel that it is once more up to me to shift emphasis in the Valley from spit and blood to Mozart and Rossini, but that won't be easy.

There has to be an element of familiarity involved to attract the more enthusiastic fight crowd into the chambers of symphony, since it is less likely that middle-aged ladies will give up Mozart to scream Jab! Jab! at the Country Club.

I have a plan.

No more punch and cake at the symphony. Beer and hotdogs instead, with patrons encouraged to distribute their mustard in places where Gustav Mahler could never imagine.

Then, instead of relying on programs for each number, we dress Leslee Bremer in her gold lame harem bikini and let her carry a card that would say, not "Round 2," but "Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Opus 21. Beethoven."

Join me as we shout, Jab, Ludwig, jab!

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