It’s entirely possible that the Forum arena in Inglewood narrowly escaped the wrecking ball only because of a segment on CBS’ newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”
As Madison Square Garden Co. moves forward on its plan to return the Forum to a place of prominence in the Southern California live music scene, MSG Executive Chairman James L. Dolan credits veteran artist manager and music industry executive Irving Azoff for planting the idea to bring the Forum back.
Azoff, however, says he got the idea while helping out with a community outreach by the Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical Foundation for which A&M Records co-founder Jerry Moss came to him for help.
“Here’s basically what happened,” Azoff told The Times. “Jerry came to me many years ago because there was this organization that came into communities and organized teams of doctors to donate their services to people who couldn’t afford medical care.
“Jerry and wife had seen a piece on ’60 Minutes’ about the great work they’d done in Washington D.C., and he wanted to bring it to L.A. ,” said Azoff, whom Billboard crowned as the most powerful person in the music industry in its 2012 Power 100 survey.
“Jerry came to me because they were trying to get the [L.A.] Sports Arena. I’d long been using the Forum for rehearsals and other stuff and had just used it for Van Halen rehearsals. When he mentioned the Sports Arena, I said, ‘What about the Forum?’
“That was my first contact with all of them, the bishops and everybody down at the Forum,” he said, referring to officials at Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, which had bought the Forum in 2000 after the Lakers and the Kings moved downtown to their new home at Anschutz Entertainment Group’s Staples Center.
“They graciously allowed Jerry and his wife to use it and they put together a great program, recruited local doctors and dentists and came in [in 2009] and set up for two weeks,” he said. “They basically turned the Forum into the world’s largest walk-in free medical clinic.
“That really interested me, because I’ve been involved for a long time with the L.A. free clinic. In the course of that, they mentioned that at that point there wasn’t enough activity going on in the Forum to sustain payment on their debt.
“They told me that they were planning to sell it to some real estate group that wanted to come in and tear it down,” Azoff said. “At that point, I was chief executive of Live Nation [the world’s largest concert promotion firm], and unlike AEG, we weren’t in the business of ownership of buildings. In fact, we were trying to reduce our ownership of real estate.
"I went to Dolan,” he said, “because we’re close friends and I had been involved with [MSG] and helped them make the deal for Wang in Boston,” giving MSG an exclusive booking arrangement at the 98-year-old theater.
“Jim, who is as big a fan of music as anyone, got it immediately,” Azoff said.
“If you’ve seen the job they’ve done restoring the Beacon Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, you’ve seen that they’re meticulous about it. We started down that road, and I got introduced to [Inglewood] Mayor [James T.] Butts, who was then a candidate and thus became mayor.”
Azoff, Dolan, Butts and other MSG and city officials are holding a press conference Tuesday in Inglewood to elaborate on MSG’s $100-million acquisition and revitalization plan for the Forum. They’re expected to be joined by members of the Eagles, who will inaugurate the new era for the building when it reopens Jan. 15.
“The roadblocks were massive,” said Azoff, who describes himself as “head cheerleader for the Forum.”
“The fact that MSG has stayed the course,” he said, “ don’t know who else would have done that.”
Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times