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Arts and Entertainment

L.A. Philharmonic Groupies Are A Thing And They Party Hard

L.A. Phil groupies are extremely rich. (Photo by Calvin Fleming via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The main difference between the 'Band Aids' from Almost Famous and the Los Angeles Philharmonic's groupies comes down to $50,000.

Bloomberg's Joel Stein met the patrons who contribute $50,000 or more in donations to the L.A. Phil—a donation that warrants an invitation to travel with the orchestra during their annual two week-long tour. This year, they hit Asia, stopping in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo, and boy, was it a wild time, man.

For the patrons, the $50,000-plus price tag is well worth the opportunities: the trip planners organize stays at fancy hotels, meals at the best and most expensive molecular gastronomy restaurants, and partake in special activities basically reserved only for dignitaries (like participating in the rare Shinto prayer ritual that President Obama participated in last year at the Meiji Temple). But that $50,000 also gets the groupies something else, something money apparently can buy: access to the L.A. Phil's sexiest members.

"We're groupies," patron Dina Nahmias told Stein. "Especially for Gustavo [Dudamel]."

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Ladies do love Dudamel, the wild-haired, 34-year-old "rock star" conductor from Venezuela, who has added some youthful sex appeal to what's often considered a stodgy institution. "If they were different sorts of fans, the patrons would be flashing body parts at him. Instead, they flash checkbooks," Stein writes.

What happens on tour doesn't stay on tour, in this case: the article is full of gems, detailing the ways in which members of the L.A. Phil and their millionaire groupies party when they're on the road.

"Then he bows before a gift of Johnnie Walker Odyssey, an $1,100 bottle of whisky a board member spotted him admiring at an airport duty-free shop. 'Enjoy food. Enjoy drink. Get drunk today,' Dudamel says to his orchestra. 'It’s an early concert tomorrow, but you still have time to fix the hangover.'"

One of the donors, Barry Pressman, the chief of neuroradiology and head and neck radiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center told Stein that the only rock 'n' roll show he'd ever been to was Bruce Springsteen. But then he remembers this other band, he saw once...gosh, what's their name?

"'Sandy, my wife, took me to...what the hell is their name? Crazy group. What's the name of that group, Sandy?' he yells to his wife, who has streaks of purple in her spiked jet-black hair, wears a leather jacket, and is on the Beverly Hills Fine Art Commission as well as NPR's board of trustees. 'The Rolling Stones,' she says."

And while Dudamel, et. al weren't exactly throwing T.V.'s out their hotel windows, sounds like things got pretty lit:
A small number of musicians have decided to go karaoking. Even Dudamel shows up, singing Bésame Mucho, which Plácido Domingo once performed at the Hollywood Bowl when he was conducting. Another karaoke group is led by the gregarious keyboardist Joanne Pearce Martin. Violinist Johnny Lee belts out an impressive Let It Go from Frozen, and Pearce Martin and cellist Jason Lippman do Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out. At one point, percussionist Ken McGrath gives a tambourine lesson. “We’re geeky musicians, so what harm is there in a quick music lesson between beers?” asks Martin.

The patrons interviewed by Stein were pretty shameless in claiming themselves to be groupies; something Penny Lane would *never* do.