Think of summer back in the Midwest, from where so many Southern Californians hail, and you may harken back to the sound of--as Joni Mitchell once so eloquently put it--"the hissing of summer lawns."
Think of summer in parched Los Angeles, however, and you may think of the hissing produced by the tender mouthing of soft consonants: Sun. Surf. Six Flags. Shakespeare in the park. Saxes in the Bowl. Sopranos. Street fairs. Sharon Stone.
It's a hard life, but somebody's gotta live it.
L.A. may be the land of cultural opportunity, yet these impersonal lists of arts choices can seem all too overwhelming, to where it's almost tempting to stay home and savor the suspense of the political conventions instead. Let us spare you from any such desperate resorts with this irreverent attempt to make the summer user-friendly, via four quirky itineraries we've devised to fit four very different lifestyles.
Whichever stereotype you find nearest and dearest, join us--won't you?--for this selective guide to 31/2 months of fun, sun and aesthetic bliss among the ruins.
ITINERARY 1: THE PLAYER DOES L.A.
You're an upscale culture vulture, politically correct and multiculturally sound. You listen to NPR, like world-beat music and avoid Westwood "because of all the damn kids." During the riots you broke curfew to dine out--but felt guilty. Behind your back friends liken you to Griffin Mill, only you would never, ever kill anyone and you know what type of bottled water you prefer. On your Gold Card, get set, go!
For those who can afford it, what better way to kick off summer than to take the Range Rover up the mountain to the Ojai Music Festival at the Libbey Bowl, opening with a Peter Sellars production of Stravinsky and closing with the L.A. Philharmonic--and if you can't get harmonic (as in convergence) in Ojai, where can you? (Friday to May 31)
If travel isn't in the Tarot cards, there's heavy art action closer to home that weekend, starting with the MOCA Art Auction '92, a fund-raiser with dinner, dancing and auctions (Friday). . . . To work off that expensive meal, take off the tux, put on the tennies and wrap up the weekend with the Venice Art Walk, a stroll through local studios (Saturday to May 31).
There'll be players aplenty at the Playboy Jazz Festival, whether or not you're enough of a purist to consider its name a misnomer (June 14-15). . . . Meanwhile, as a player, it's important for you to have an intimidating look, and no one could've looked scarier than Miles Davis, whose music will be resurrected at two tribute concerts: First there's Gerry Mulligan and the Rebirth of the Cool at the John Anson Ford Theatre (June 20); then Davis' '60s group will be reassembled for a Tribute to Miles Davis at the Hollywood Bowl (Aug. 23).
But let's not skip over the all-important low culture--and what could be lower than seeing satirically surreal simpletons Spinal Tap at the Universal Amphitheatre (June 5)? Meanwhile, James Brown is over the hill at the Greek that night, and the next as well (June 5-6).
Even the Armani-clad need to stay hep to country to earn their multicultural stripes, good enough reason to catch standard-bearers Wynonna Judd at Universal (June 25) and Garth Brooks at the Forum (July 17). On the Irish tip, the impeccable folk group the Chieftains will play with American yuppie favorite Nanci Griffith at Universal (June 23).
On the drama beat, the La Jolla Playhouse offers two radically diverse productions of note: Flash back to youthful indiscretions with the rock opera "Tommy," complete with input from Pete Townshend (opening July 9); then move on to more topical territory with the anti-apartheid piece "Playland," written and directed by South African Athol Fugard (Aug. 29).
ITINERARY 2: CLASS ACTION
You're not a snob--really--but you do enjoy the finer things: visual art, fine wine, a provocative lecture, historic buildings, the symphony, the theater and as little hip-hop from the neighboring cars as possible, thank you. Nothing against pop culture at all, but you always related more to the visiting cousin on "The Patty Duke Show" than the one whom hot dogs made lose control. Fear not. There is life after literacy in L.A.
Is it safe? Not Dustin Hoffman's teeth--downtown. Well, the best, most fun and, yes, safest time for a nervous suburbanite to visit the city's historic core is always during the L.A. Conservancy's annual four-week "Last Remaining Seats" film series, which screens classic movies in the Southland's most spectacularly designed theaters on historic Broadway--kicking off with Buster Keaton in "The Cameraman" at the Orpheum (June 3, 10, 17, 24).
Having ventured thus, you'll want to return to more familiar climes in the form of the Hollywood Bowl, but you'll certainly want to avoid the children, picnickers and upscale winos who invade during fireworks season. For an early kickoff try the Mozart and Handel-Vivaldi programs from Gerard Schwarz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (June 30-July 1). Once all the sparklers and revelers have burned out, come back and try the Bowl's two Lawrence Foster-conducted Beethoven programs (July 7-8).
On the drama circuit, Neil Simon's Pulitzer-winning "Lost in Yonkers" at the Doolittle is a good bet for nostalgic rumination (opening July 9). Less sentimentally, playwright Peter Shaffer weighs in with the off-the-wall comedy "Lettice & Lovage" at the Shubert (Aug. 18-Sept. 13).
At this late date it's no surprise to find a museum founded by one of our most successful capitalists proudly presenting the work of pre-glasnost communists. Savor whatever irony might be left there by visiting the Armand Hammer Museum's "Theater in Revolution: Russian Avant-Garde Stage Design, 1913-1935," an exhibition documenting the work of fine artists in the theatrical realm (July 7-Aug. 23).
ITINERARY 3: HONEY, I ENTERTAINED THE KIDS
The Brood--not David Cronenberg's, but your own--is out of school and restless. You can either leave them to their own devices--that is, to become mall rats and prematurely sex-educated MTV-heads--or you can guide them through the considerable maze of culture that L.A. has to offer its young. Sprinkle highbrow events with the occasional junk-food fun, and the young 'uns will thank you when summer's done.
The kids may already have beaten us to the punch in telling you about the coming attractions at Disneyland: "The World According to Goofy Parade" makes its way down Main Street twice daily (beginning June 19). Or they may have bugged you about Universal Studios' upcoming attraction, in which you're surrounded by fire and explosions everywhere you look. No, it's not National Guardland, it's the "Backdraft" tour stop (opening June 27).
If you'd rather get away from fiery disasters, man-made or otherwise, but still go in for fireworks, try the Hollywood Bowl. For three nights, Rosemary Clooney and Michael Feinstein headline a family-suited Philharmonic show capped by the inevitable bombs bursting in air (July 2-4). A few days later, after all the brush fires are doused, you can take the kids back for the "Open House at the Hollywood Bowl," a weekday morning performing arts festival for ages 3-12, exposing 'em to music, dance, theater, puppetry and workshops (July 6-Aug. 14).
Not for tots, but recommended for older children as well as grown-ups, is the Music Center Opera's Wagnerian fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (June 12-21).
Two art events sound like especially good family outings: Top downtown artists will open their studios and be available to discuss their work with visitors at the LACE Open Studios Tour (June 6-7). . . . The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, meanwhile, will sponsor four Summer Family Days for children 5-12 and parents, including storytelling, poetry writing, music and dance workshops and art making (June 28, July 26, Aug. 30, Sept. 27).
The second weekend in July is a great one for festivals and fairs, no matter what your area of town. In Exposition Park, community organizations from South-Central L.A. will join for Artfest '92, a free two-day festival with music, dance, food, children's activities (July 11-12). For the more rurally oriented, there's the San Fernando Valley Fair--which includes pig races, a petting zoo, a horse show and even a rodeo--at the L.A. Equestrian Center in Burbank (starting July 9). Over in Costa Mesa, you can find more livestock exhibits, plus a carnival and midway, at the Orange County Fair (July 10-26).
Among the more exotic local fairs, a potentially great place for Mom and Dad to shake gumbo-fed booty would be the Louisiana to Los Angeles Festival in Exposition Park, featuring Creole and Cajun foods, entertainment and regional crafts (June 6). . . . In August, the Sunset Junction Street Fair closes down part of Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake for a real melting pot of a carnival whose biggest draw seems to be Latino families, the local gay community and black-clad Hollywood hepsters. There are carnival rides and a petting zoo here as well as live rock stages and an outdoor disco; just be prepared to explain body piercing to the kids (Aug. 8-9). . . . For two weekends at summer's end, down at Rancho Cienega Park, you can find everything from gospel singers to Sengalese drummers at the African Marketplace & Cultural Faire (Aug. 29-Sept. 7).
Oh, the kids have been so good, putting up with all those arts and crafts and horticultural displays. As an end-of-summer reward for their patience, you might just take 'em all to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles perform live--well, as live as they're gonna get--at Magic Mountain (Sept. 3-7). Then it's back to school, and no complaining outta the little ninjas.
ITINERARY 4: WAYNE & GARTH DITCH AURORA
Illinois has its charms, but what better place to schwing into summer than L.A., where a young boy's fancy can more readily turn to stadium shows and 70-millimeter action flicks? If our heartland friends were to make the road trip out west, here are the (mostly intellectually strain-free) events we think they'd most want to see:
Two marathon rock shows are bound to remind our boys of their eminent unworthiness. First, the triple-barreled neo-metal blast of Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Faith No More at the Rose Bowl looms as the rock-till-you-drop hot ticket of the summer (Aug. 22). Given Axl Rose's rep for extended pre-show psychotherapy and curfew-busting, that one could well be an all-nighter, so stock up on the Visine. . . . Just as hard, if not as heavy, looms the annual Lollapalooza alternative slugfest, this year featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Jesus & Mary Chain, rapper Ice Cube, et al. (Aug. 28). Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.
Older crowds will be gathering--but in all probability evidencing not much less conspicuous consumption--at two other summer concert favorites: A blues festival at the Pacific Amphitheatre will unite the formidable Santana, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Dr. John (Aug. 16).
Though not necessarily a party animal of major proportions, Eric Clapton was included on the "Wayne's World" soundtrack, and his co-headlining show with Elton John at the Rose Bowl promises to be a memorable rock matchup (Aug. 29).