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Liberating the Galaxy : At Lazer Sport in Sherman Oaks, you can spend 15 minutes pretending you are the last hope against the forces of evil.


When I was a kid, I wanted to be Han Solo.

Blaster in hand with the faithful Chewbacca watching my back--the renegade life of a mercenary with a heart, that was for me. With age, and perhaps wisdom, my aspirations have changed some.

But not much.

On those days when the Ventura Freeway oozes along at single-digit speeds, I still dream of making the jump into hyperspace and hurtling toward a more sane existence blasting Darth Vader's goons into oblivion.

And so it was that a friend and I stumbled into the Lazer Sport arena in Sherman Oaks a few weeks ago. For the record, this is a place where, for five bucks, you arm yourself with a light gun, step into a darkened arena and, for 15 minutes, pretend you are the best, last hope for the universe.

God help us all.

Needless to say, it caters to men. More accurately, it caters to boys--regardless of whether they shave twice a day and buy their threads at Eddie Bauer, not on Melrose. My buddy and I were the oldest customers by at least a decade. Most of the other warriors had voices that cracked and, after they finished liberating the galaxy from the clutches of evil, had to wait downstairs for Mom to pick them up.

We wandered into the arena on Ventura Boulevard after a dinner of beer and pizza and beer. It was a lazy night, so we plopped down our dough and decided to give it a try. "As long as we're home in time for 'Seinfeld,' " my friend warned.

A man who looked like Howard Stern on Super Slim Fast helped us with the bulky gear every player must wear. This was a plus. The only thing men love more than guns, sex and beer is gear. And even better, this gear was electronic .

Atop our heads we wore a plastic crown with a light-sensitive dealie above the forehead. It was connected by a wire to the utility belt, which held our light gun. Once in the arena, the gun emits a concentrated beam of light. If it strikes either the light-sensitive dealie atop your quarry's head or his gun, his gun won't fire and you get a point.

Of course, he can do the same to you. Once hit, a warrior must re-energize his blaster at the home base at the back of the arena. An illuminated board keeps score.

Armed with this knowledge, our cunning and our instinct to survive, we stepped into the arena, a carpeted cavern lit only by black light and littered here and there with barriers to hide behind. Our opponents were two pimply-faced kids in baggy jeans.

They eyed us like a couple of old fools playing a young man's game. They sneered as they headed to their side of the arena, and my friend and I eyed them with the best "Go ahead, punk" looks we could muster.

If age has taught us anything, it is to slow down and take our time. So when the "Star Wars" theme rattled through the loudspeakers, we cooperated to wipe the floor with these little twerps. We moved slowly, taking careful aim, conserving our ammo.

They ran through the arena, blasting wildly. It was as if we were the stars in our own action-adventure movie. Beams of light whizzing past us as we stood coolly amid the madness. A menacing squint, and then the blaster leveled.

A gentle squeeze of the trigger.

Bull's-eye. A scream and one of them ran to his home base to re-energize. A point for us.

And so it went. For 15 minutes, the old vanquished the young. We sent them sulking out of the arena even before the game was over. "These guys are professionals," one of the baggy boys grumbled as they stomped out.

Final score: 56 to 31.

Anyone up for a trip to Alderaan?

Where and When What: Lazer Sport, 14622 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Hours: The arena is open 3 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, till 11 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. Price: $5 for a 15-minute session. Call: (818) 788-5432.

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