Claire Rothman

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Claire Rothman, former President and General Manager of The Forum in Los Angeles, shares her experiences in the sports and entertainment industry as well as some of her favorite memories of the 1980s Showtime Lakers era. Claire and Andy’s history goes back to the early ‘80’s at The Forum when Andy began shooting for the NBA, Lakers, Kings and other sports affiliated with the iconic venue. 

The lively interview opens with Andy asking the 93 year young Claire: “What do you remember about the young Andy Bernstein running around The Forum in the early days of Showtime. Do you have any memories of me from those days?”

“Yes, just as this streak that went by often. Smiling, a happy young man. You just kept developing and developing into the marvelous photography that you are today,” Claire said. 

Claire describes her start at The Spectrum, where she was hired as a bookkeeper. At the time, The Spectrum was in bankruptcy and Claire recalls finding all the receipts in boxes instead of in a filing system. 

“This is a wonderful story. Someone convinced me to go for an interview and I made all kinds of excuses. But I finally agreed. I met this fabulous man, Hal Freeman, who had been a journalist and was very widely known in Philadelphia. He was the president of The Spectrum. We had an interview, where we just dovetailed, we clicked on every point.”

“Ten days after I took the job, the company went into bankruptcy. I was very nervous about that because I had a son in college and a daughter in high school and I was newly divorced. I thought, well, there’s no place to go but up.”

Within nine months, she was promoted to Business Manager. Claire spent five years at The Spectrum before working at Wild Kingdom in Florida and opening the Richfield Coliseum in Ohio. Out of the blue, she received a call from Jack Kent Cooke, the original owner of the Lakers and Kings. 

Claire was offered the General Manager job at The Forum in 1975. But, at the time, basketball wasn’t as popular as it is today. 

“Basketball was only drawing between eight and nine thousand people. The seats on the court, which now go in excess of $1,000 per game, were $10.50,” Claire said.

Looking for an angle to draw more fans, Claire turned her sights on tennis. 

“There was a man named Jerry Buss who I called. For some reason, he took my call.  And I was very bold and said, ‘Why are you playing in that shithole called the Sports Arena? When you could be playing in the fabulous Forum…I’d love you to come over and meet with me. I’ll show you how you can do it. You will be in a house of champions.’ 

“He came and I sold him a box we had in The Forum at the time. He told me about his love of basketball. He had a Ph. D. I thought Jack Kent Cook would like to meet this kind of man. So I introduced them. The three of us had lunch together and that’s what began it all.”

The Lakers moved to The Forum in 1976. In a few short years, The Forum became a top destination for sports and music thanks in a large part to Claire’s vision and management. 

“It was magical, it was absolutely magical for sports, music, everything. Everything we touched during that time was successful. To win five championships during my time in the 80s was so unbelievable. Having the All-Star Game and seeing people who were now coming to visit our that I worked for from Cleveland. Now, I was the gracious hostess,” Claire said. 

Claire says she wants to be remembered as someone who ran a tight ship but who was always fair. Despite being one of the few female executives at the time, she felt respected and appreciated. 

“I didn’t so much to feel that I wasn’t taken seriously because I was. Jerry always made that clear. If somebody came to him and said, ‘I got this group that I belong to, and I’d like to rent The Forum.’ He said, ‘Wait a minute, I can’t do that. The only person that can do that is Claire Rothman.’ So, he established that. But I often felt that my remuneration was less than somebody else in my possession, because I was a woman.”

Claire wrote a two page memo to Dr. Buss regarding her pay. He replied by giving her a $100,000 raise in a single day. Claire retired in 1995 and serves as a board member of the International Women’s Forum Member.

She describes the environment at The Forum as a family and continues to have a strong relationship with Dr. Buss’ daughter, Jeanie.

“I think the secret to all of our success is the fact that we were a family. We’ve protected one another and helped care for one another,” Claire said.

Hear Claire’s thoughts on the “Winning Time” series, her mentorship of Jeanie Buss, her fondness for the L.A. Kings, memories of Kobe Bryant, and much more.

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