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In the Know / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

Guitar Heroes Don't Visit Much Anymore

April 16, 2001

For those about to rock, Long Beach salutes you. When AC/DC visits the Long Beach Arena tonight, you can forgive some longtime fans for experiencing some nostalgia not just for the venerable band, but also for the venue they're playing in. The Long Beach Arena was once a familiar stop on the heavy metal circuit--in just one year, 1990, for instance, it hosted KISS, Queensryche, Metallica, Motley Crue and AC/DC. But rock concerts of all kinds dried up there over the past decade as the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center changed its focus. Instead of guitar heroes, the agency put priority on booking more sedate programming for the arena (although the annual Bob Marley Day Festival still brought in concert crowds) and keeping a brisk flow of expos and business events coming into the adjacent convention center. Last year, though, Blink-182 became the first rock band to play the arena in eight years or so, according to Dan Spellens, the complex's director of theater and entertainment. He can't be more specific because "a lot of files were lost," but Spellens and other natives of Long Beach have plenty of arena memories, with Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, the Doors and David Bowie among the eclectic big names to play the site. The AC/DC show and an upcoming Pantera visit will double the number of rock concerts last year, and Spellens says a new goal is to reestablish the venue with concert promoters and tour managers looking for a venue that, with a capacity range between 10,000 and 13,500, is smaller than Staples Center or the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim and is a good midpoint between Los Angeles and much of Orange County. "We pretty much fell off of everyone's radar, and we want to change that," Spellens said, although he declined to specify how many shows arena leaders want per year. "We will have doubled last year's total with the Pantera show, and we'd like to do that every year." Not all of the arena's concert memories are positive: It was the site in 1986 of a Run-DMC concert where 40 people were injured in a melee attributed to gang violence. That incident was one of the first to lend an image of violence to rap, but it hasn't prompted anyone to complain about the arena's new effort. "If there is anyone, I haven't heard from them," Spellens said.

'The Body': A Filmmaker Sticks to His Beliefs

In the new film, "The Body," a Vatican-appointed Jesuit priest played by Antonio Banderas and an Israeli archeologist played by Olivia Williams investigate a find that threatens the very foundations of Western religion: Inside a tomb discovered in Jerusalem are bones that might be those of Jesus Christ. Director Jonas McCord is well aware that his thriller, which Lions Gate will release in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, may raise the hackles of some Christians, Jews and Arabs, but stresses that the movie itself does not seek to debunk anyone's religion. Rather, he says, it is a testament to "believing in what you can't see." That said, the film caps a 15-year struggle by McCord to get Richard Ben Sapir's novel onto the big screen. "There was a time, nine years ago, that the project was at Universal Pictures," recalled McCord, who wrote the screenplay adaptation. "Liam Neeson was ready to sign onto the project, but right before we were going off to do the thing, [then-studio chief Sid Sheinberg] read the script and said, 'Oh, my God, I don't want blood all over [then-studio chairman] Lew Wasserman's door!' " The studio had just released "The Last Temptation of Christ," McCord recalled, and didn't need more bad publicity over a religious-themed movie. Years later, with a new cast headlined by Banderas and independent financing from abroad, McCord finally journeyed to Israel, where principal photography wrapped in December 1999. Because the Mideast peace process was in full bloom at the time, McCord recalled, he was able to persuade Palestinian and Jewish actors to work together, and the cast and crew were allowed to shoot footage throughout the country. With violence erupting every day in the Holy Land now, McCord said he would not be able to make this film today. "For one thing, you couldn't get the actors to work together today," he said. "If they did, their lives would be in jeopardy." McCord said there was one eerie incident that occurred during filming: While preparing to shoot the scene at the tomb with fake bones, someone at the site unearthed real bones dating to 300-400 BC. "I'm standing there saying, 'Please tell me it's not a crucifixion,' " McCord said.

Spielberg and 'Schindler' Continue Their Work

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