Vince McMahon and his World Wrestling Entertainment empire may be the most legendary pro wrestling operation in America, having created iconic stars such as The Rock and Hulk Hogan over the past several decades. But Ventura County has been home to another thriving operation for the last 20 years, as Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (CWFH) has been presenting live monthly showdowns that are syndicated to 120 TV stations nationwide.
They’re bringing another action-packed year to a close this Sunday, when the annual Milestone event closes out the season with a stacked card of matches at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme. The bill features numerous brawls between colorfully competitive archrivals with wild backstories, yet a Wild Card Battle Royal will also be offered to the first 10 men who sign up —
TJ Black catches some air as he jumps off the ropes toward National Wrestling Alliance World Champion Nick Aldis during an April 2018 CWFH match at Oceanview Pavilion. Photo by Jonathan King
with the winning wrestler earning a spot competing for the CWFH championship in the spring’s Percy Pringle III Memorial Cup Tournament.
“I’ve been in wrestling for 29 years, and worked for everybody who’s out there in pro wrestling,” says CWFH owner David Marquez. “There’s not too many wrestling promoters who produce their own show, let alone nationally. What sets us apart from others is we take a more traditional approach to producing pro wrestling for television: Don’t over-sensationalize or do shock television.”
“We try to make each match mean something, whether it’s the championship or a cash prize these guys are competing for,” adds Marquez. “The WWE is 1,000 percent entertainment and have a completely different demographic, audience and mission. We’re more back to the sport’s roots.”
Marquez’s main partner in CWFH is veteran wrestler Peter Avalon, who is one of the league’s top stars and was the longest-reigning Hollywood Heritage Champion at 672 days. Avalon will be prominently featured at Sunday’s event, since he is facing off against his prime rival, Tim Storm, the former world heavyweight champion of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) who presently wrestles nationwide for Marquez.
“At Milestone, we’ll have stories culminating, stars aligning and big time main event matches and championships on the line,” says Avalon. “It’s all in the creative process. We look at pluses and minuses and find who might excel in a situation or allow the other person to excel. The characters are based in the individuals’ true personalities, just turned up.”
Sunday’s matches will feature the league’s women’s division championship between Heather Monroe and Ayoka Muharah, and fresh talent from the New Japan Pro-Wrestling league’s recently established Los Angeles dojo will square off against CWFH’s “young lions.” Avalon himself will face off against Storm after losing a “humiliating” Kiss My Foot Match to wrestler “The Perfect Storm” at NWA’s 70th Anniversary event last summer.
Marquez notes that it’s common for many WWE stars to develop their character and style in smaller leagues like the CWFH, estimating that 40 percent of the stars in McMahon’s behemoth enterprise started in smaller West Coast promotions he dealt with. Marquez recalls watching John Cena in Santa Ana alongside the likes of Karl Anderson, Nakamura, Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe. And many former WWE stars have passed through his matches as special guests, including the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
One might wonder how a league that brands itself as being from Hollywood wound up staging its matches in Port Hueneme. Avalon notes that the CWFH originally shot from a facility on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood before Oceanview Pavilion sought them out with “an offer we couldn’t refuse,” making the move five years ago.
“We create 52 hours a year of TV wrestling, and that’s something to be proud of,” notes Marquez. “What gets this for me is that after close to 30 years of doing this, I’m allowed to create and nurture young talent and get them to the next step of international wrestling or the WWE.”
“Not too many people understand pro wrestling and television operations and we have that,” he adds. “To put all these talents into a big bowl and come out on television each week is really the magic, giving a very loyal fan base some quality to watch. There are not too many things that are Americana, and pro wrestling is definitely one of them.”
Championship Wrestling from Hollywood presents Milestone on Sunday, Dec. 9, 3-6 p.m. at Oceanview Pavilion, 575 E. Surfside Drive, Port Hueneme. Admission is free, but seats are first-come, first-served. For more information, visit @CWFHollywood or www.hollywoodwrestling.com.
* By Bob Buttitta
Jose Aguiniga's talent as a boxer didn't prepare him for the internal struggle he was forced to deal with five years ago.
At the time, Aguiniga was one of the top ranked fighters in the lightweight division, a boxer who at 31-0 seemed destined to get a shot a world title.
But he was also the father of two children, and his wife thought at age 25 Aguiniga had chased his dream long enough and it was time to grow up and get a real job.
"I was torn between trying to make my wife happy and continuing to do something I love," said Aguiniga, a longtime Oxnard resident who was born in Illinois. "So I started to stay away from the gym, which was hard, but I was trying to make it work (with his wife)."
The lack of regular training forced Aguiniga to pass on several potential bouts.
Little by little he got away from the sport and while he never officially retired, he hasn't been in the ring since April 2007 when he won a majority decision over Joe Morales in Houston.
On Feb. 25, Aguiniga makes his return to the ring, fighting Juan Ruiz (23-8) as the main event of a boxing card that will take place at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme.
The card was originally scheduled to be held at Santa Paula Community Golf Course, but weather concerns moved the bouts to Port Hueneme.
The event, which is being presented by El Dorado Entertainment, is being called "The Comeback." It will feature seven bouts and include local fighters David Rodella, Hugo Centeno and Roger Romo.
"I'm excited about fighting again, but I'm more nervous because I've been away for five years," Aguiniga said during a news conference Wednesday at El Dorado Restaurant in Oxnard to promote the event. "I'm training hard and feel good, but you never know until you get into the ring."
Even after he left boxing the problems at home continued for Aguiniga. He and his wife eventually divorced, but he has a strong relationship with his son Angel, 7, and his daughter, Destiny, 5. Neither of his children were old enough to understand how talented a boxer their father was before he stopped fighting five years ago, This next stage of Aguiniga's career may give his kids the chance to see their dad's prowess in the ring.
While he worked as a machinist and helping a friend with electrical jobs, Aguiniga said he constantly thought about getting back into the sport Last February he finally got back into the gym and started working out under the tutelage of his brother Mario, who also helps train Ventura resident Victor Ortiz.
Aguiniga was supposed to have a fight last June but injured his ribs, taking him out of the gym again. Months later he was approached about being part of the card in Ventura County and decided it was the perfect avenue to make his return.
"He's looking good in the gym and his sparring sessions have been strong, but we will have to see what happens in the ring," Mario Aguiniga said. "Looking good in sparring session is a while different world from doing it in a fight, but I like what he's been doing.
"Like everyone, I was surprised when he stopped fighting because he's always had a lot of talent. At 30, he's not young but he's not old either. If he can do well in two or three fights, he could get some other chances because he was 31-0 before (quitting)."
As much he regrets giving up five prime years of his career, Aguiniga said he can't worry about the past. He feels more mature than he was at 25 and believes that gives him an edge. And his passion for boxing is as strong as its ever been.
However, Aguiniga knows if he's going to reach his ultimate goal of fighting for a title, it must start with a winning performance on the 25th. When he agreed to the fight, he did so under the condition that the promoters find an opponent who could give him a good gauge on where his skills are now.
"This guy (Ruiz) has fought some quality guys and he is a good fighter," Aguiniga said. "I did not want an easy fight. At 31-0, I want to see if I still have it or not. I need to fight someone good so I can make a decision on whether to keep going or not. If I win, than I continue. But if I lose or get beat up, then I have to see what I do. I'm excited to be back fighting. I missed it. It was something I have done for a large part of my life and I missed it."
Jose "Sweet" Aguiniga (from left) and Juan Ruiz pose for pictures during a boxing press conference held at El Dorado restaurant in Oxnard Wednesday afternoon. Aguiniga and Ruiz will be the main show during The Comback boxing match scheduled for Feb. 25. Oxnard, Ca., Feb. 7, 2012
Photo by Troy Harvey, Ventura County Star
David "Dangerous" Rodela (left) and Jose "Sweet" Auginiga sit at a table during a boxing press conference held at El Dorado Restaurant located in Oxnard Wednesday afternoon. Oxnard, Ca., Feb. 7, 2012
Jose "Sweet" Aguiniga speaks to the media a boxing press conference held at El Dorado restaurant located in Oxnard Wednesday afternoon. Aguiniga is returning to the ring after a 5-year absence. Oxnard, Ca., Feb. 7, 2012
*By Alicia Doyle
Law enforcement officers and firefighters from Ventura County are training for Battle of the Badges III, a charity boxing event Saturday to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme, which serve more than 7,000 youths a year.
"What makes the Battle of the Badges unique is that it feeds on the good-natured rivalry between cops and firefighters by pitting them against each other in the boxing ring," said Rick Shimmel, executive director of the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs' Association and a licensed amateur boxing promoter.
The bouts will be sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission as amateur fights. Boxers will come from the county fire and sheriff's departments, and Oxnard and Port Hueneme police departments.
Seven or eight of the 10 bouts on the card will be male and two or three will be female, subject to change, Shimmel said.
The fights will be at Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme.
The Battle of the Badges was the brainchild of firefighter Jason Hodge, now a Democratic candidate for the 19th Senate District, and Linda LeBrock, the former development director for the Boys & Girls Club, Shimmel said.
Event organizers hope to raise at least $18,000 to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard & Port Hueneme.
* By Alicia Doyle
Photo by Rob Varela, Ventura County Star
Jill Mitchell (left) has her hair done by Marinello Schools of Beauty student Jesi Sabella of Thousand Oaks, and Dede Nichols has hers done by Crystal Davenport of Simi Valley at the Oceanview Adult Day program's "day of beauty" Tuesday.
Maria Fernandez felt pretty in fresh makeup. Bernice Martinez was happy with a new hairstyle. And Lisa Bennett enjoyed her manicure and hot pink painted nails.
For students at Marinello Schools of Beauty, it was all about helping special individuals — clients at Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme — look and feel good about themselves.
"Oceanview is a day-care center for mentally and physically disabled adults and senior citizens," said Lisa Malcolm, a cosmetology instructor at Marinello Schools of Beauty in Simi Valley. "Our students can see the appreciation in their faces by taking the time to come down and actually help with their grooming needs. This is truly amazing."
Malcolm contacted Oceanview Pavilion a couple of months ago to inquire if students could volunteer a full day of beauty once a month that would involve manicures, hair styling and makeup.
"I was ecstatic thinking how wonderful this opportunity and experience would be not only to boost their confidence and self esteem but create an environment where they felt like kings and queens for a day," said Sharon Kloeris, executive vice president at Oceanview Pavilion, which hosted its first day of beauty with Marinello's students Aug. 16.
On Tuesday, Oceanview Pavilion was transformed into a day spa of beauty for men and women, with one room set up for hair styling and others set up for manicures and makeup.
"The significance of this day of beauty is to provide a very positive experience and self-worth in the lives of the people we serve and provide a service they may not ordinarily receive," Kloeris said.
Oceanview's adult and senior day program is a social and recreational effort developed for people with developmental and physical disabilities, Kloeris said. The mandate of the program is to encourage people to develop to their highest level of competence, self-esteem and achievement.
"We teach the individual independence, self-determination and the ability to choose. We cater to all levels of capabilities no matter what the challenge may be," Kloeris said. "Our main objective is to empower the individual and advance their quality of life ... by offering new experiences, education, friendships and learning to deal with emotions."
The day of beauty is important to Oceanview Pavilion on numerous levels — one of which is the true meaning of a volunteer, Kloeris said.
"This person is one who gives their gift of time, talents, skills and companionship to our program," Kloeris said. "They are the ones who forge ahead and provide our members with a memorable day, to experience joy and improve their self-worth; we recognize them as our unsung heroes."
Volunteer opportunities like the day of beauty "make an impact on our students by providing the education needed for talented students to follow their dreams, giving back to the community, networking, and provides real life working experiences," Malcolm said.
Tuesday marked the second volunteer opportunity for Vanessa Tejeda of Moorpark, who gave manicures to men and women.
"It was good because we're able to help and give back," said the 22-year-old, who is pursuing her cosmetology license. "I just feel that we need to help people feel good about themselves."
By Francisco Salazar
Ventura County Star
Unbeaten junior middleweight Hugo Centeno of Oxnard has been sparring with top contenders and champions in recent months.
Last August, Centeno traveled to Mexicali, Mexico, to spar with former WBO junior middleweight champion Alfredo Angulo. Recently, Centeno has been sparring with current former WBA super welterweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.
Last April, Ishida scored a major upset by knocking out previouslyunbeaten and hard-hitting James Kirkland in the first round. Ishida is preparing to face two-time world champion Paul Williams on Feb. 18th in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Centeno (11-0, with 6 KOs) has benefited from the sparring as he prepares for his Feb. 25th bout against Octavio Narvaez at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme.
"I've had to switch from my conventional style to a southpaw style (to emulate Williams)," said Centeno, a 2009 graduate of Oxnard High. "As for me, I'm ready for my fight on the 25th. My fans won't have to drive a long ways to see me fight. It'll be literally down the street for them."
By Francisco Salazar
Hugo Centeno Jr. hits Octavio Narvaez in the face during the boxing card at OceanView Pavillion in Port Hueneme on Saturday night. Centeno won the match by decision. Photo by Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star
In his first fight in five years, Oxnard's Jose Aguiniga won an eight-round unanimous decision over Juan Ruiz before an overflow crowd at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme.
Most of the action was fought in close, but Aguiniga landed the more effective punches. All three judges scored the bout in favor of Aguiniga.
Aguiniga, a 2000 graduate of Channel Islands High, improves to 32-0, with 14 KOs. Ruiz, from Santa Clarita, falls to 23-9, with 7 KOs.
Lightweight David Rodela, of Oxnard, scored a devastating second-round knockout over Baudel Cardenas.
Rodela, who was winless in his previous three bouts, was on the attack from the beginning. He knocked Cardenas down to the canvas with a left-right combination to the head halfway through the round. Toward the end of the round, Rodela dropped Cardenas again with a right uppercut to the head. Cardenas stood up and was saved from further punishment by the bell.
Cardenas attempted to apply pressure to Rodela in the second round. However, Rodela landed a vicious left hook to the body, immediately dropping Cardenas to the canvas. Referee Wayne Hedgpeth counted Cardenas out at 1:21.
Rodela improves to 16-5-4, with 7 KOs. Cardenas, from Los Mochis, Mexico, falls to 19-24-2, with 7 KOs.
Super welterweight Hugo Centeno Jr., of Oxnard, won a sloppy, one-sided unanimous decision over Nicaraguan Octavio Narvaez.
Both threw wild punches in the opening round, with Narvaez landing punches to the back of Centeno's head. Although Centeno had bent over, referee Jack Reiss admonished Narvaez for the illegal punches.
In the third round, Narvaez landed a low blow to the 2009 Oxnard High graduate. Centeno winced in pain and was allowed time to recover. Reiss deducted two points from Narvaez.
Centeno was in control throughout the rest of the fight. Although Narvaez pressed forward, Centeno attacked the body with left hooks. Narvaez was noticeably tired in the sixth, but was able to survive until the final bell.
All three judges scored the bout in favor of Centeno with scores of 60-52, 60-52 and 59-53. Centeno improves to 12-0, with 6 KOs, while Narvaez falls to 7-11-1, with 4 KOs.
Rogelio Romo, the younger brother of former world champion Fernando Vargas, won a four-round unanimous decision over Thomas Turner.
Thomas Turner (left) gets hit by Roger Romo at the OceanView Pavillion in Port Hueneme.
Romo was effective from distance, landing piston-like right hands to the head of Turner. Undaunted, Turner, from Caldwell, Idaho, pressed forward and found success by landing an occasional hook or cross to the head. However, Romo consistently landed the more effective punches to the head. Romo won by scores of 40-36, 40-36 and 39-37.
Romo, who hails from Oxnard, improves to 5-0-2, with one knockout. Thomas falls to 1-1.
Oxnard's Steven Rodriguez improved his record to 3-3 with a decisive four-round unanimous decision over Edgar Flores.
Steven Rodriguez (left) hits Edgar Flores at the OceanView Pavillion in Port Hueneme.
Rodriguez landed the better blows throughout the bout with Flores, who dropped to 0-5. All three judges scored the bout in favor of Rodriguez with scores of 40-36, 40-36 and 39-37.
In the opening bout of the card, Jose Garcia stopped Santa Paula's Indian Banuelos in the second round of a scheduled four-round bout.
Local fighter Indian Banuelos gets hit by Jose Garcia at the OceanView Pavillion in Port Hueneme. Banuelos lost in the 2nd round KO.
After an even first round, Banuelos, who was making his professional debut, dropped Garcia with a counter right hand
Garcia, from Bakersfield, had lost his first five professional bouts.
Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, trainers Robert and Danny Garcia, and unbeaten super middleweight prospect were at ringside.
Robert Ortiz's bout against Manuel Del Cid fell through when Del Cid weighed in three pounds above the contracted weight of 132 pounds.
The Air National Guard Band of the Southwest will perform "A Tribute to Sammy Nestico" on Sunday at Oceanview Pavilion's Performing Arts Theatre by the Beach in Port Hueneme.
The group is composed of civilian airmen whose jobs include professional musicians, music educators, computer programmers, accountants, engineers and law enforcement officers.
The band has 35 to 40 members, of whom seven new recruits have joined their woodwind, percussion and brass sections, said Sharon Kloeris, executive vice president at Oceanview Pavilion.
"Having so many members allows them to form many different types of musical ensembles," Kloeris said. "The large groups are the traditional concert band, marching band and jazz ensemble. The smaller groups include a Dixieland band, Latin pop ensemble, a rock band, a brass quintet and a saxophone quintet, as well as a small jazz combo they can tailor for all sorts of events."
On Sunday, the concert band will perform more than a dozen songs including "America the Beautiful," "Basie Straight Ahead," "Brassmen's Holiday" and "Stardust." The band also will perform seven original songs, which were composed by Nestico, Kloeris said. The highlight of this concert is the Veterans Day salute to Nestico, a military veteran. "He is a world-renowned composer, arranger and musician, and four-time Grammy award winner," Kloeris said. "Sammy joined the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C., as a staff arranger and subsequently became the leader of the famous Airmen of Note," Kloeris added.
After a 15-year tenure with the Air Force, Nestico enlisted with the Marine Band in Washington. He served as chief arranger and director of the White House orchestra, which played for judicial and congressional social functions during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
The Air National Guard Band of the Southwest is part of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard in Port Hueneme.
Members meet two days a month to rehearse and perform, Kloeris said. They also participate in an annual two-week summer tour starting July Fourth in Santa Barbara." The band's performances at Oceanview Pavilion began in 2009.
This year's event also will pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the military, past and present, Kloeris said.
By Barbara Burnett for the Hueneme Pilot
In these uncertain times we have all had to re-evaluate our priorities in our private lives and in our commitments to our communities. Americans have always been the first to step up and say "I'll help!"
Americans in the Depression banded together and helped their neighbors and communities. Volunteerism was never higher than during this period in our history. I came to the conclusion that I could not do much to change the world but I could make a difference in my small corner.
There is a segment of our community that is virtually invisible to most of the residents of Port Hueneme; the adult mentally/physically challenged person. We tend to think of them (if we think of them at all) as someone very different from us, someone to be pitied but not approached.
Two events brought their plight to my attention; a friend was in an auto accident last year and in an instant she went from a vital, active, involved volunteer to a person in a care home. I work at Oceanview Pavilion, which has an adult day care program. Each day as I arrived for work and walked past their area, they were desperate for my attention, wanting to tell me something that was important to them but I just did not have the time to listen.
I realized that although they were well taken care of by the state, their care comes and the Oceanview day care program, the one thing these entities could not offer was time just sit and talk with them-one on one. They needed a friend who would read, color, play games or just talk with them.
The upshot of this epiphany was that I wrote to my friends and asked them to commit to a play date once a week for an hour or so and get to know one of these special delightful residents. THe response has been encouraging. We have six volunteers to date; four of them chose to teach classes.
The men's group, led by Dr. Robert Burnett, meets Tuesday to put models together and talk about anything and everything. They have named themselves "The Dudes." The women's group (The Crafters), taught by Pete and Cheryl, meets Tuesday mornings, makes yarn dolls, and enjoys cookies and punch.
On Thursdays, Sharlene shares her love of sea shells, movie memorabilia, etc. and always ends her class by feeding the ducks in Bubbling Springs, which is why her group is called "The Ugly Ducklings."
The most important outcome of this venture is that they socialize with "friends' from community and each other in a very special social setting. No special skills are required to volunteer; just be healthy and have a loving heart.
As always there is more need than people to fill these needs and that is why I am asking residents of Port Hueneme to call me at 805-986-1662 or 805-986-4818 to volunteer or ask any questions they may have. I invite you to visit our program, have a cup of coffee and let me introduce you to some of my special friends.
Even at 90, Penny Wilcott is too young to remember the golden age of vaudeville, when acrobats, ventriloquists and tap dancers ruled the American stage from the end of the Civil War to the 1920s.
But that fact isn't keeping her from producing what she calls a vaudevill-style musical revue at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme.
"That's how I could get us together as fast as I did," Wolcott said. "Practically every act is doing something it already knows how to do, so there is very little need to rehearse."
"Star Spangled: A Tribute to All Military Personnel of US Wars," will include more that 20 numbers, many of them separated by descriptive, on-stage placards similar to those used in theaters before silent movies killed the vaudeville stars. A pastiche of eras, the show opens with scenes organized around the theme of a war-bond rally, then moves into a secold half patterned after the Hollywood Canteen, which entertained service men during World War II.
And the whole thing is a dream-Wolcott's dream-finally realized."I always had a love of the theater, and I always wanted to produce a show." said Wolcott.
Luckily, she is no stranger to big productions. In 1954, Wolcott helped start Port Hueneme Harbor Days as a fundraiser for a community park. She later served as chairwoman of the annual celebration's "kiddie" parade.
But even when those duties were done, she remained involved. When a spare float was discovered the morning of the parade sometime in the 1960s, Wolcott dressed her daughter as the Statue of Liberty, gave her a torch fashioned from a tin can and persuaded her to climb aboard for several hours of waving at onlookers.
"When that went down the drain, I had to do something," Wolcott said of Harbor Days, which was canceled this year. "I need a challenge. I can't sit and watch TV."
In her youth, Wolcott worked as a singer in nightclubs, warbling "St. Louis Blues" and the 1927 tune " What Do We Do on a Dew-Dew-Dewy Day." More recently, she was active in Young at Heart, a group of seniors that entertained residents at convalescent hospitals and retirement communities.
"Then there were five of them who died within an 18-month period," Wolcott said of the group's members, "It just took the heart out of us."
Still, Wolcott's experiences have her an idea: Let's put on a show.
By Rita Moran
Right off the top, it's good to see local live theater return in earnest to Port Hueneme's seaside facility, a spacious building set in a wooded park across from the city's pier. Dubbed Oceanview Pavilion by new owners in its reincarnation as a senior day care center by day and performance and special event site by night and on weekends, the Dorill B. Wright Cultural Center had lain virtually dormant for a decade.
In its salad days, the center had been an attractive multipurpose building that homeless theater troupes embraced. Music, drama and laughter floated out from the center into the wooded park around it. But Port Hueneme may have sounded exotic and remote to theater fans from other parts of the county when it came to seeking out the new performance site; even though the city built it, they didn't come. Gradually the stage lights dimmed.
Now, the spotlights have been switched back on, with an in-house production of Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys" directed by AJ Schuermann and with Tom Whittington as the operator of the long-departed Encore Dinner Theatre in Ventura.
For the Schuermanns, "Sunshine" is something of a family show. AJ directs; his father, Al, stars as Willie Clark, one of the comic "Sunshine Boys" duo; and his brother, Christopher, plays Clark's nephew, Ben.
Al Schuermann, a veteran of many theatrical outhings, including two previous stints as Willie Clark, slips comfortably into his half of the title roles. Urging his nephew to at least get him a job in a commercial, he insists that he has a terrific face for an Alka-Seltzer commercial. And it's true, his face has grumpy comedy written all over it.
Most of the first act is involved with Willie badgering his nephew and sometimes-agent about getting him some acting jobs. Willie's still reliving past triumphs, and past grudges, about his partner, Al Lewis, that led to the end of the team.
Ben has come up with the perfect gig: CBS is doing a humor retrospective that will trace the life of comedy in the US and wants Willie in the show-if he'll perform with Al in the old skits that won them lots of laughs and many fans.
It's a quandry that Ben finally solves after much frustration with his uncle and the similarly reluctant Al Lewis.
Given the underlying truth that Willie and Al are actually past their prime, with memories fading in and out and irascibility never far from the surface, it's a delicate task to keep the show from slowing down as the men carry on their feud. The Schuermanns and the rest of the competent cast do well most of the time, with only the second scene puttering along at too slow a pace.
The second act counters that by opening at the TV studio with the duo's famously silly "Doctor's Sketch" in which playwright Simon piles on the one-liners, sight jokes and double-entendres.
THe hard-working cast includes, in addition to Al Schuermann as the difficult Willie and Christopher Schuermann as the nice-guy Ben, Gary Cunial as the dapper, dignified Al Lewis; Linda Schaver as the stereotypical dumb-blonde nurse in the doctor sketch; Stephanie Moro as the off-the-wall sketch patient; and Diane Le Moine as Willie's no-nonsense real nurse.
Deep down, the play isn't just about weathered comedians but about the struggle against aging, the value of doing something well and the blessing of a support system that helps bridge the gap between doing it all and soing some of it well enough to earn applause. But it works even for audiences in it only for the laughs, because there are plenty of them.
Film clips of major silent film comics screened before the show opens provide the audience with a hint of how the old-timers did it, with their physical flair and quick wit.
The pavilion theater can seat about 500, though if all sit on the riser section they are a considerable distance from the stage. If they sit in the rows if seats in the level space, they are below the stage. The possible dislocation is alleviated by the use of personal mikes on the principals, with every word completely clear, if a little unnaturally so. The spacious stage requires a lot of set, and the result is a resonable facsimile in style for an old reclusive codger, if too large to imply a hemmed-in living space.
Technical aspects, especially sound and light, enhance the mood and flow of the show.
"The Sunshine Boys" is a good start toward reestablishing the site as a reasonably efficient performance venue in a county that has very few of them. Many will find it an enjoyable bit of theater, especially if the troupe can pick up the pace as they being to hum as an ensemble. And, as Oceanview Pavilion honchos like to point out, it's less than 20 minutes from Highway 101.
"The Comeback" and Oceanview Pavilion featured in The Ventura County Star
Professional boxing is back at Oceanview Pavilion
Battle of the Badges III featured in the Ventura County Star
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