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Claire Rothman: She Rules The Forum

May 28, 1985|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

I think everybody can hear me; I'm not exactly quiet. . . .I am the only woman in the United States who runs a major sports arena. I have a variety of duties. I book the building. I schedule the sports. The box office answers to me, all the staffing answers to me, and at night I get to play hostess. . . .

--Claire Rothman, in a speech.

It was the morning after the opening night of the Prince concerts, and the hostess at one of the "biggie" entertainment nights of the year was beaming as brightly as any neon light.

Claire Rothman, general manager and vice president of the Forum, arrived full of tidbits about her Forum guests: Elizabeth Taylor's ring was "the size of an ice cube. . . . I met her son Michael. He has eyes just like hers." The ring was such that Rothman decided to assign a Forum security guard to Taylor, who was sitting in the front row and wearing a curly black wig. . . . Barry Manilow, who wore earplugs during the concert, was chatting with the Nederlanders, as the father-and-son producers (Jimmy Sr. and Jr.) are known about town, and Rothman asked when Manilow might work the Forum again. When Manilow half-jokingly asked why she would make a pitch in front of the competition, Rothman replied, "I'm cuter," and laughed in the retelling. . . . Barbra Streisand, who had a new escort, barely said a word.

Olivia Newton-John, Tatum O'Neal and Jack Nicholson, who is a regular at Lakers basketball games, attended the Forum Club's preconcert party too, but it didn't take long for Rothman to get down to business. The business, after all, was the primary source of present pleasure--not only were the six nights of Prince selling out, but his T-shirts, sweat shirts and other purple-paraphernalia, of which the Forum gets a percentage of the sales, were being snapped up as fast as cold beer on a hot day at the ballgame.

A fast play on the calculator keys--the calculator is at her right hand, even closer than the telephone--and Rothman had what she wanted: Prince would be bringing in somewhere in the neighborhood of $276,000 each performance.

Her morning-after lasted well into the night. From a 9:20 a.m. report to Forum President Lou Baumeister to the next-to-last number on the second night of Prince at 11:15 p.m., Rothman did not once step outside. Lunch as well as dinner were taken at the Forum Club, across the corridor from her compact, windowless office. Besides the current event, mostly seeing to last-minute tickets for entertainment (and sports) personalities, Rothman dealt with Chicago and the Firm--the acts to come--and did some business for the Los Angeles Forum teams too: the Lakers, Kings and, on a somewhat lesser level of priority, the soccer-playing Lasers. She arranged with Inglewood police to cut the security contingent for the Prince concerts in half--from 30 to 15, saving $110 per man per night. "This is not a problem show. If there's no need, why spend the money?" She spent a good part of her time arranging for "comps" (complimentary tickets) and house-seat tickets. Like Forum owner Jerry Buss, she has 17 seats in her name to do with as she pleases.

Rothman's schedule is a juggling act--at Madison Square Garden, three or four people handle comparable duties--and sometimes the interests meld. Sports stars are rock fans, and rock stars are sports fans. That day she learned that the Kings, who were on the road, were miffed because they would miss the concert: Prince was closing the following Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon as originally planned. "You're going to have a mighty unhappy team," a staff member said. Rothman shrugged; that was something she couldn't change.

The crunch came just before that night's concert began. Prince wanted to innovate. The star thought it would be dramatic before intermission ended to sing from behind the curtain with the house lights down. Rothman thought that would be unsafe, with fans rushing back to their seats in the dark as soon as they heard the voice; she knew fire officials would agree. She also had to prevail without offending. So with one of Prince's managers, she worked out a compromise whereby there would be half-lights and some visibility. Shortly after 9, Rothman stood in front of stage left with earphones that connected her to various security and staff around the arena. Nobody even tripped, but the fans seemed somewhat confused. "I knew it!" she grinned. "It fell like a dead latke (pancake)."

In a way, this particular job, and what it represents, is a fantasy come true, but I really, really didn't know what my fantasy was until I was alone, back in 1967 when I had a rebirth. And that was an emergence from a divorce . . . .

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