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The Most Wonderful City Shines Again

From the Publisher Clif Smith

Many cities are turning 100 years old around the state.  Most are having “centennial” celebrations.  When they have them, they play songs.

But where else except Beverly Hills could a city hold a wonderfully uplifting 100th birthday party where every song sung is famous and every one written by one of its own residents??!!

The Courier never needs to look for a reason to celebrate Beverly Hills as the finest place there is – we’re surrounded by reasons.  This past Tuesday night was just another example of why we have an undisguised love affair with Beverly Hills.

The historic Saban Theatre, which began life in 1930 as the Fox Wilshire, hosted a sold-out birthday party for the City.  (Well “sold” is not quite accurate – tickets were free, but they were all taken).  Nothing could showcase Rabbi David Baron’s vision for the restored movie palace better than Tuesday’s gala.

Gary Greene’s L.A. Lawyers Philharmonic and its subset “Big Band of Barristers” gave us hit song after hit song from one Beverly Hills composer or lyricist after another.  The high points had to be Beverly Hills’ own Richard Sherman guest-conducting the orchestra in a medley of his hits.  Sherman is a real-life major player in Disney’s new hit movie, Saving Mr. Banks about creating the movie Mary Poppins.  He and his late brother wrote tunes we sing almost every day.  (If you visit Disneyland and go through It’s a Small World, we all know it takes months to get that theme out of your head.  Yo ho, yo ho, as well.)  His music had people tapping their toes and singing along.  The excellence of his compositions came through as his own lush orchestral arrangements enveloped us in a cloud of wonderful music.

Charles Fox took the conductor’s baton to lead the orchestra in a medley of his hits – the theme from ABC’s Wide World Of Sports, Love, American Style, The Love Boat Theme and others.  Amazing how those television themes sound when played by a full  symphony.  If he had composed for a baron, duke or count, the orchestras of the world would be playing his music in concert halls all over the world.  Instead, we get to enjoy them.  We’re the lucky ones.

How do you top a “local talent show” when the “local talent” is Betty White or Pat Boone or June Lockhart or Florence Henderson?  Are you kidding?  We even had a quiz show of ex-mayors of Beverly Hills hosted by the great Monty Hall.  Even the mayor is a talented musician as ukulele virtuoso John Mirisch played the intro from Burt Bacharach’s and Hal David’s Oscar-winning Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.

We could cry at the tribute to the late Joel Pressman for his dedication to the young people of Beverly Hills.

Not everyone was old – we were stunned by the vocal performance of 14-year-old Beverly Hills opera singer Golda Berkman, the vocal gymnastics of our Beverly High Madrigals – a living tribute to Pressman.

We saw clips from Phil Savenick’s documentary on Beverly Hills’ first 100 years.

Who are “our own people?”  Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Marilyn and Alan Berman, Nacio Herb Brown, Sammy Cahn, the wonderfully kind and gracious Hal David, Dorothy Fields, Arthur Freed, Jerry Goldsmith, Oscar Hammerstein II, Yip Harburg, Lorenz Hart, Elton John, Gus Kahn, Ernst Katz, Jerome Kern, Buddy De Sylva, Gene Lockhart, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers, David Rose, Stephen Sondheim, Stravinsky, Jules Styne, Albert Von Tilzer, Weezer – plus the Shermans, Fox and Meredith Willson.  Question: name a famous composer or lyricist who is or was not a Beverly Hills resident?

Hats off and kudos to the volunteers who made it happen, led by Annette Saleh, Karla Gordy Bristol, Marguerite Carlucci, Lori Greene Gordon and Jon Gluck.  Special thanks to the musical director and conductor Gary Greene, and all of the rest of the crew.  Grateful thanks to major sponsors Rolex, Gearys and Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills.

No one does it like Beverly Hills.  As a few said, “Beverly Hills is like Mayberry.”  Well, sort of – but not.  Mayberry never had a Wil Wright’s, which made Beverly Hills this writer’s favorite place in world around age 6 when his mother discovered the fabled ice cream parlor.  It’s been that way ever since.

For this writer, there is just no place like Beverly Hills – our candidate for the most wonderful place in the world.  Tuesday was just another reason to believe it.

Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Hills.

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