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  • Steve Vertlieb

Summer Memories Of John Williams and The Hollywood Bowl

I've been dreaming, rather wistfully, of a Summer vacation in Los Angeles that will never occur and has, sadly, been consigned to The Twilight Zone. The Hollywood Bowl canceled their entire concert season for the first time in nearly one hundred years, and my joyous anticipation of the annual John Williams concert over Labor Day Weekend shall never be.

My memories of past concerts are tinged with the irony of change, and the bittersweet realization that 2020 has been lost to the ever crashing tides of time and space. Another year of dreams may, perhaps, transport me yearningly to a Summer that was never realized. While John Williams' rhapsodic melodies swirl majestically in my thoughts, I recall simpler times when Covid awareness was not yet a reality, and my heart was sweetly enraptured with the glorious music of a Hollywood night.

As those magical memories swirl lyrically in my mind, here remains a wondrous remembrance of Summer 2012's miraculous highlight... an evening's interlude at The Hollywood Bowl, some cherished moments back stage with John Williams, and my published review of that unforgettable evening eight years ago... when the world and I were young.

After nearly dying a little over ten years ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life... meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I'd adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television's Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire.

Over the ensuing years, as I matured physically and John matured musically, I grew to love the man and his music. I sensed a new maturity in his music with the release of the TV adaptation of Jane Eyre featuring George C Scott. I recall being thrilled on New Year's Eve when going to a first night screening of The Poseidon Adventure, and hearing his full blown themes for the thrilling finale and end titles. By the time that I'd both heard and seen The Towering Inferno, I'd become convinced that John Williams had stunningly evolved into one of the screen's greatest composers.

Then came Jaws, and a minor space opus called Star Wars, for which he won an Academy Award for the year's best score. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman (which old friend Ron Borst called "John Williams' Christmas gift to the world"), the Indiana Jones trilogy, JFK, Born On The Fourth of July, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Space Camp, Hook, Home Alone, The War Horse, and so many other glorious themes and scores followed, leaving little doubt in anyone's mind that John Williams, along with Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Victor Young, Elmer Bernstein, and Jerry Goldsmith, had become one of the screen's premiere composers of the past ninety odd years.

This particular evening with John in his dressing room backstage at The Hollywood Bowl in August, 2010, was one of the greatest, most exciting nights of my life. My eyes filled with tears as I approached him and, thanks to the kind and generous friendship of Juliet Rozsa, I'd move from death's door and finality to the smiles and warm embrace of "America's Composer," John Williams.


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