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Fond (but random) DECC memories

So this weekend, a local icon celebrates 50 years of entertaining the Northland. Not the Club Saratoga, although that establishment has entertained us for many years. (Relax! I'm talking about their Saturday jazz sessions. As far as you know.) No, the big 50th anniversary party is for the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, or as it's more commonly referred to around here, That Place That Used to be Called the Arena.

As I have chronicled in past columns, I used to work at the Arena. It was one of the first places that I tricked into hiring me ... uh, I mean, I totally didn't lie on my resume about building Split Rock Lighthouse and keeping the Aerial Lift Bridge clean with nothing a toothbrush and a spork. As far as you know.

Recently, the Duluth News Tribune (official slogan: "Our sections aren't thinner. Your fingers are fatter!") asked me for a few memories about my time there, which I happily provided. And while sifting through the memory box of my mind, I also ran across of few Arena/DECC Random Thoughts, which I decided to share in the Budgeteer and not in the News Tribune, which totally wanted to use them but I refused. As far as you know.

• The facility was originally going to be renamed the Duluth International Convention Kiosk, but for some reason, "DECC" seemed like a better acronym.

• Totally True Backstage Story! Elvis demanded peanut butter and banana microphones.

• One year, a scheduling conflict caused the Boat Show and the Shrine Circus to both cram into Paulucci Hall. It actually worked out except for the tragic Elephant Evinrude competition. (We lost seven redcoats that day ... )

• Another Totally True Backstage Story! Barry Manilow tried to win over heavy metal fans at his 1982 concert but he got confused. He wore bat makeup and bit the head off a Hershey's Kiss.

• The 1984 Ice Capades show was so huge, every single inch of the facility had to be turned into an ice sheet so skaters could practice. It was a disaster. Scott Hamilton broke his big toe on a case of frozen Polarenas and Papa Smurf was arrested attempting a triple blue lutz in the auditorium restroom.

• Yet another Totally True Backstage Story, I swear! ZZ Top stayed up too late the night before their Duluth concert and napped through most of it. Fans didn't care, however, so the group quickly renamed themselves ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Top.

• The DECC isn't the only thing celebrating this weekend. The concession stand popcorn is also 50 years old.

Brian Matuszak

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at