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Golden State of Mind 

Publisher's Note

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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Let's hear it for vacation! That's what I was thinking Saturday night, on the longest day of the year, under perfect California skies, nestled into the side of a spectacular canyon also known as the Hollywood Bowl. We were among the 18,000 there to see this year's inductees to the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame: Kristin Chenoweth, Pink Martini and the Go-Go's.

For our summer vacation, we stayed right in Hollywood — yes, to avoid the freeways, but also to take in the whole experience. Hollywood's the kind of place where the pub around the corner was once the studio where they filmed Casablanca, or where you might see the Joker taking a break between photos with tourists, checking his emails and sipping a VitaminWater. Billboards are the size of skyscrapers, and the best nightclubs have tinted windows because the celebs like it that way.

We did brave the roads after all, and visited the Griffith Observatory and its amazing city views. We looped around Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, where Bing Crosby and his sons used to sing Christmas carols in their neighborhood of movie stars. Farther downtown, the massive Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center left us speechless; we felt the same way at Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall (although our kids were glued to the three Ferraris parked out front).

The Golden State has always been a land of fable — from the Gold Rush to the dawn of the Hollywood studios. In fact, the old horse barn where Cecil B. DeMille filmed his first movie is right next to the Hollywood Bowl.

On this night, the world was literally in the house. The woman next to us was Persian, Greeks behind her, a sea of ethnicity stretching up the hillside — all united by the international languages of music and wine. (If I had a nickel for everyone who asked to borrow a corkscrew... ) Underlining the international flavor of the moment, Pink Martini's China Forbes sang in three languages. (Backed by the L.A. Philharmonic, Thomas Lauderdale's band was perfect, representing the Northwest nobly.) And not to be outdone, Kristin Chenoweth sang "Popular" from Wicked — also in three languages.

And just as our little family from Spokane was right in the middle of our vacation, the Go-Go's busted into the theme song: "Vacation, all I ever wanted... " When the USC Trojans' drum section came onstage to join the all-girl band that started out in clubs right down the road on Sunset Boulevard 30-plus years ago, that was it — our perfect California moment. ♦

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