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Clippered, Banded and Stapled

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Tonight is opening night at Staples Center, the new arena in Los Angeles that from the sky looks like a gigantic Swiss army knife.

Bruce Springsteen is to be the first featured attraction. Bruce will do his music for an hour or two, then defeat the Los Angeles Clippers in a game of basketball all by himself, one guy against five.

The arena is the future home of the 2000 Democratic Convention, music’s Grammy Awards, concerts, trade shows and colorful ice shows where an Olympic gold medalist skates around with a partner dressed as Snoopy.

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There are 160 luxury boxes, for those who leave their house to go to an event where they can sit in a room that feels just like their house.

Front-row seats for Laker basketball games go for $1,150 a pop--or, in Dyan Cannon’s case, $1,150 a mom. Unruly fans will be warned about the dangers of throwing platinum American Express cards at the players.

Clipper season ticket holders continue to be unfairly rejected in their bid to be paid $1,150 a game.

On an upper concourse is seating for the disabled, where ushers will ask men in wheelchairs how many yards they gained for UCLA in yesterday’s game.

Ricky Martin’s concert on Nov. 13 is being advertised as “Staples Center’s first sellout.” It will be attended by thousands of his fans, many of whom can name more than one of Ricky’s songs.

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Los Angeles, town of “tinsel,” city of “glitz,” has gone a long time without a sparkly pleasure dome like this one.

The city’s theaters are old, amphitheaters are old, music halls are old and combination rink-gymnasiums are old. You have to be in Orange County to see a major event that doesn’t take place in a fixer-upper.

There was talk for years about building a modern outdoor stadium but, as regular readers will recall, the final vote on that was City of Los Angeles, 3,485,397; me, 1.

Now that 20,000-seat Staples Center is already up, however, we can walk right in, sit right down and enjoy a place where the floorboards don’t creak, the plumbing doesn’t leak and the chairs aren’t state-of- the-hard.

The so-called “Fabulous Forum,” one of the nine or 10 least fabulous arenas left in the United States, is a white elephant with pillars. It should be converted into something useful--like LAX long-term parking.

Gone will be a Laker locker room that wasn’t large enough for a Cub Scout troop. Gone will be a Forum pressroom with its furniture that Thomas Jefferson personally donated from Monticello. Gone will be a teeny dressing room where Laker Girls could barely squeeze through the door, particularly after cosmetic surgery.

Time is also almost up for the L.A. Sports Arena, which makes the Forum still look fabulous. It is of little use, unless somebody wants to use it on Halloween to spook small children. This arena had all the aesthetic appeal of a Home Depot.

Needless to say, Staples Center is a welcome addition to golden oldie Los Angeles, a place that was getting to be about as glitzy as Greece.

There will be first-rate acoustics for the musicians, with a $1.5-million sound system so good, it’ll make Johnny Cash sound like Johnny Mathis.

Staples Center’s seats are 21 inches wide, which is good news for everybody in California whose backsides aren’t 22 inches wide. Seat width is slightly less in the upper concourse, also known as the Calista Flockhart Section.

A huge, octagonal, high- definition TV scoreboard will hang above the arena so rich people can wish happy birthday to their sons.

As for the futuristic exterior of Staples Center, well, let’s just say this could become the only structure of L.A.'s skyline that looks different from something you could see in downtown Des Moines.

The sundial roof alone is a beauty. OK, so some people think it resembles a food processor. Some people are goofy. Staples Center is dynamic. It’s 21st century. It’s the best-looking hunk of steel in Los Angeles this side of Fabio.

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All that remains necessary now is to have one short discussion on things you shouldn’t do inside our new arena.

Three rules to remember:

1. No more “doing the wave.” The wave is out. No more standing and sitting and lifting your arms. It’s hick stuff. If somebody at Staples Center starts one, tell him to sit his 21-inch butt down.

2. No more “We will, we will rock you.” That chant is out. It is as stale as disco. Stop singing it. If Staples Center plays it over the $1.5-million sound system, buy your staples someplace else.

3. No more “It makes me want to shout!” That song is history too. Twenty-five years is enough. It was cool the first 500,000 times. If Staples Center tries to make you want to shout, shout back. Or boo.

This is a new arena, so don’t act the way you do in an old arena. Do something different for a change.

Oh, and go to a Clippers game. They need your help more than Bruce Springsteen and Ricky Martin do.

Mike Downey’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. E-mail: mike.downey@latimes.com


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