High above each corner of the field is a cage with a dancing female wearing tight-fitting clothing, what little there is of it, sponsored by a lingerie company called — what else? — Foreplay.
Below in one corner of the stands, KISS band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are on their feet nearly the entire night.
Close to them behind one end zone is a stage, and on this night a 1980s retro band and two female guitarists (one getting ready to tour with Alice Cooper) are the feature acts.
To modify an old saying, it’s sex, football
and rock ‘n’ roll nine times a season — more for a playoff run — at the Honda Center, the home and the atmosphere for brothers Beau and B.J. Bell. The former UNLV players are now key members of the Arena Football League’s LA KISS.
“I’m blessed because I got to play with (brother) Zach my first year at UNLV, and I’ve got to play with B.J. here in LA,” Beau Bell said. “So it’s awesome. I can’t explain the euphoria that I have.”
The brothers took different paths to Anaheim and the KISS, but for both it was a return home. They grew up in nearby Tustin.
On this night, June 14 against the Portland Thunder, both players started — B.J. at nose tackle and Beau at middle linebacker. They played well, with Beau pressuring the quarterback at least three times, recovering a muffed kick in the end zone for a touchdown and being named the defensive player of the game.
He is perhaps the league’s best linebacker and was tied for the AFL lead with 11½ sacks entering play this weekend.
“Beau wants to be the best player in this league,” KISS coach Bob McMillen said. “He comes out to practice every day like you want your players to. He treats practice like game days. He tries to absorb so much information, not only at his position, but what the defensive linemen are doing and the (defensive backs) are doing. When you know that and you know your position as well as he does, it just makes him a great football player.”
Beau, 28, is producing the types of plays UNLV fans became accustomed to seeing. He led the Mountain West in 2007 with 126 tackles, including 9½ for loss and three sacks, forced five fumbles and intercepted four passes. The conference named him the Defensive Player of the Year.
But Beau got to see the ugly side of the sport after being drafted in the fourth round in 2008 by the Cleveland Browns. He was forced to miss that season because of knee surgery and a partially torn patellar tendon.
Then when the Browns made massive changes in the offseason, and the same group that drafted him was no longer in place, his time was up as well.
“It was devastating,” Beau Bell said. “Football’s my whole world. I don’t know anything else.”
That experience stuck with him, and he carries his memories to his other job as the defensive line coach at nearby Santa Ana College.
“I definitely want to be a Division I college coach,” Beau Bell said. “The main reason is because I can teach these kids. I want to teach the kids how to be a professional. That’s one thing that we lacked at UNLV a little bit.
“I want to get (players) ready for the business and how to handle themselves when they get an opportunity like that — how they’re supposed to act, how they’re supposed to perform, how they’re supposed to play, how they’re supposed to talk. A lot of guys don’t understand coming out of college and don’t have anybody to help them.”
After his NFL hopes fizzled, he tried the Canadian Football League and United Football League before finding a place with the AFL’s Spokane Shock in 2011. He played three seasons there, making 17 sacks, including 8½ last season.
McMillen knew he wanted Beau Bell (6 feet 2 inches, 240 pounds) on his team as the franchise was preparing to play its first season, and sold him on the fact he already was living in the area.
“I was able to do it for five years in Chicago, playing in front of my family and friends,” McMillen said. “It was the greatest experience that I had. That’s something we talked about, and it’s the perfect fit for him to come home and have that time to play in front of the people that he loves and cares about.”
It’s a similar opportunity for B.J. Bell, but even though they’re brothers, they are quite different.
“(B.J. has) got to get an attitude like his brother,” McMillen said. “Him and Beau are cut out of two different molds, and it’s crazy because they’re brothers. Beau is passionate. Beau’s got a drive that I’ve never seen out of a football player. B.J.’s kind of a goofball. He’s kind of aloof, and I don’t know if it means as much to him as it means to his brother. That’s the thing he has to start realizing. If he wants to be able to have a career in this league or do something with football, he has to make this his No. 1 priority.”
B.J. Bell, 26, showed similar traits when he played at UNLV from 2009 to 2011, sometimes exhibiting the ability to dominate, but he was largely inconsistent. He made 67 career tackles, including 4½ tackles for loss and one sack.
The NFL was never in his future, but that didn’t mean B.J. Bell wouldn’t find his way into professional football. Even if it meant traveling to Europe and playing in Germany and Finland. He loved becoming enmeshed in both cultures, noting Berlin was especially diverse and welcoming. He plans to return to visit Germany in September.
“I never imagined it being the giant melting pot that it is,” he said.
In Finland, the challenges were trying to learn a difficult language and finding sleep on nights when the sunlight was visible for 23 hours.
“I put foil up in my window and got blackout curtains,” B.J. Bell said. “I tried my best to adjust to it, but it was kind of weird. It would be 2 a.m. and the sun would be straight up in the sky, and I would be like, ‘Why does it feel like it’s 12 (noon)?’ People are out swimming and stuff.”
In making his way to the KISS, B.J. Bell (6-3, 270) had to make the team on his own. He wasn’t a package deal, and Beau Bell knew it wasn’t guaranteed he would suit up with his brother.
“B.J. wasn’t going to make this team until the last day of camp,” McMillen said. “He worked his tail off. He was doing some things ... that he hadn’t shown us at all during training camp. We rolled the dice and made a decision to go with B.J.”
McMillen is a serious man when it comes to football. He was a talented fullback and linebacker who played 13 seasons, winning ArenaBowls with three franchises. He also is a member of the AFL’s latest Hall of Fame class.
But football seems to be almost an afterthought at a KISS game, what with the nearly naked dancing women, the musical acts and Simmons and Stanley in the stands and sometimes posing for photos.
Watch the KISS rock stars during the game, though, and it’s clear Simmons and Stanley are into it. They have a hard time sitting, constantly cheering on the team named after their band.
Stanley even took the microphone during a timeout late in the first quarter to push season-ticket sales for next year.
“We will be here this season and next season,” he told the crowd. “We will be here in five years, and we will be here in 10 years.”
Ten more years of sex, football and rock ‘n’ roll.
Or what the Bell brothers call just another home game on a Saturday night.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.