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Finding the Greek Theatre's secret seats [Video discussion]

August 24, 2012 | 10:42 am

Forty years ago, Neil Diamond hailed the Greek Theatre and its "tree people," who watched the live recording of his album "Hot August Night" from a wooded hillside overlooking the venue.

Times staff writer Gale Holland sought out these secret seats hidden in the trees, and will discuss the view, the lore and the community that gathers there in a Google+ Hangout with City Editor Shelby Grad at 11 a.m. PDT.

In a column Friday, Holland writes:

Ever since my daughter came home with a wild story about getting into the Hollywood Bowl for free via some kind of outdoor elevator, I'd been twitching to find out how to sneak into an open-air concert in Los Angeles.

Not that I endorse taking money from our amphitheaters, the glory of L.A. summer nights. As we speak, I have four outdoor concerts on my calendar, all with tickets duly purchased.

But secret passages, trapdoors and revolving bookcases have long had a hold on my imagination. Which is why I found myself scaling a treacherous slope outside the Greek Theatre, with warnings of P-22, the Griffith Park mountain lion, sounding in my ears.

The fates begged me to try it. Neil Diamond was in town for the 40th anniversary of his album "Hot August Night," recorded live at the Greek. On the album, Diamond anoints the Greek as "the place that God made for performers when they die" and specifically hails the "tree people" watching from the hillside.

We arrived for the second show of his five-night stand, but it didn't look promising. Diamond's audience was a bit on the geriatric side. Ushers were hauling benches out to where patrons would later wait for their Dine & Ride buses.

On the other hand, no one seemed unduly concerned that people were listening to the concert for free right outside. One gentleman sat in front of the main gate on a kitchen chair he said he found on the sidewalk. Another couple had settled into the parking lot. They told me they once saw a man on horseback ride up, listen to the concert and gallop away.

They hadn't seen anyone scramble up the embankment. Still, we gave it a shot. After I grabbed a handful of thorns, we gave up for the night, vowing to return.

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