Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thick Smoke at the Forum

The smoke was thick at the Forum during a recent Prince concert. At least in the section I was sitting in with my twelve-year-old, who kept asking, "Mom, what is that strange smell?"

"Shut up and enjoy the concert!" I wanted to say, but instead I would fan her face periodically as I danced to Prince rocking the house. Still, I felt for my daughter since most of the smoke was coming from the two elderly matrons directly behind us.

I had been so worried for the women as I saw them struggle with walking up the steep Forum stairs. Once they took their seats, I heard one of them say, "We're not moving until this concert is over!" Well, they had that right, because within twenty minutes of arriving they were probably too high to move!

They said they were from Palm Springs and hadn't been to a concert in over 40 years. I'm sure they brought every ounce of their medical marijuana with them to light up. I prayed they weren't driving home that night and still don't know how they made it down the stairs. We left them sitting there in their glow.

It had been a long time since I, too, had attended a concert at the Forum. There was a different kind of smoke in the air that night. It was May of 1974 and Marvin Gaye was the main act. Driving down from Baldwin Hills, on the way to Inglewood, we could see thick smoke coming from the East Side near Slauson.

It seems the authorities had finally caught up with the Symbionese Liberation Army (called the SLA) a group of leftist radicals mostly known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. At some point, she 'joined' her captors and helped them rob banks. We heard on the radio that the SLA had been located on East 54th Street and the house they were in was on fire.

Marvin Gaye put on a fantastic show that night. He had recently released his Let's Get it On album and it was topping the charts. He wasn't yet in his 'gotta-drop-my-pants-for-the-ladies' phase, but he had all of us young teen girls swooning over his on-stage antics and performance of "Distant Lover."

We didn't care much about what was going on nearby, or the smoke outside the Forum. We assumed the SLA would escape the fire... after all, they had been on the lam for awhile and seemed adept at avoiding capture.
After the concert, we heard reports that they all stayed inside as the house burned down. We believed the SLA had tunneled somewhere and escaped yet again. (Even in today's world... especially in today's world of techno gadgets, we always think the bad guys have extraordinary escape methods and would never be caught 'with their pants down.') But the SLA members who were in that house perished.

I guess no matter who you are, sometimes the smoke gets a little too thick.

(first appeared in Huffington Post 5/12/11)