Growing up in the slums of Detroit, actor Harrison Page, who plays Police Capt. Trunk on ABC's comedy series "Sledge Hammer!" was a kid headed for big trouble. It was the local boys club that "really straightened me out," he says. Without the guidance he found there, "I probably would have perished with one of those gangs."
Now, as a volunteer at the Challengers Boys and Girls Club, Page is reaching out to other youngsters, many of them street kids, to whom the club offers an alternative to drugs, violence and petty crime. Page will be among celebrity participants in a fund-raising basketball game at 1 p.m. Feb. 14 at the club, 5029 S. Vermont Ave.
The celebrity team, coached by former Laker Jamaal Wilkes, will square off against one drawn from boys club alumni and members of the community. Celebrity-watchers are invited to come at noon. Admission is $2 and proceeds will go to the club, described by Page as a "dilapidated" and overcrowded facility that serves 450 youngsters each week.
Page was recalling that, when he was 10, his mother, a single parent, laid down an ultimatum: Find something constructive to do after school or be grounded. At first the boys club "was like a prison" to him. Youngsters were required to punch in and punch out, he remembers, "and I had to show that card to mother when I got home."
Ultimately, he said, it was the club that "gave me a sense of responsibility, a sense of growth. It was a big turnaround for me."
Last December, Page visited Challengers Club for a get-acquainted "rap session," the first step in repaying the debt he has long felt to Boys Clubs of America. At first, he struck out; the youngsters weren't about to open up to a stranger. On a subsequent visit, he persuaded one boy, a leader, to talk, and soon others began talking.
"It was an amazing experience," Page said. "There I was, face to face with myself."
He added, "Those children are more interested in being athletes than they are in being actors but they relate to me as a person who's had the same experiences and is not afraid to tell them about it, not afraid to tell them there's a better side."
Information on the game is available at (213) 971-6161.
'Abe's' Favorite Month
As every schoolchild knows, Feb. 12 is Lincoln's Birthday. But for Charles Brame of San Bernardino, every day is Lincoln's day. He is "The Living Lincoln," as he bills himself--a look-alike in stovepipe hat and frock coat. And he's done so well doing Lincoln well that he was able to retire early from teaching history to become a full-time Abe.
This Feb. 12--Thursday--Brame, 60, is booked into St. Paul's Elementary School in North Hollywood and Barranca Elementary School in Covina. "All my February slots were already taken up last September," said Brame, who recently notched his 1,200th performance as Honest Abe.
Not bad for a second career that was launched in 1976, with Hal Holbrook's portrayal of Mark Twain as inspiration. "I have no training at all," Brame said. "I just did what came naturally."
His repertoire ranges from a 30-minute "Sesame Street Lincoln" for the kindergarten crowd to serious dramatic monologues for older students and adults. His going rate is $315 for two shows at an elementary school, jumping to $350 for two shows at a junior high or high school; "The stress factor is a little higher," he explained.
Accompanying himself on autoharp and banjo, Brame plays "the songs that Abraham Lincoln loved" and, in original material, speaks to the triumphs and tragedies in Lincoln's life. Most "Lincolns" fail because they are "too moody, too intellectual, too introspective," Brame said. "They miss the real essence of the man, the warmth, the simplicity. Abraham Lincoln was the epitome of the keep-it-short-stupid, keep-it-simple-stupid approach to writing."
Brame, who just wants to be "the best Lincoln in the country--there's some competition out there," talks to schoolchildren about American values and the realities of politics and the tragedy of slavery. To hold his audience's attention, he added, "I kick in some stuff about Madonna."
'Bike-Aid' in Gear for '87
Last June, a band of cyclists pedaled off from the West Coast on a 3,000-mile cross-country fund-raiser, "Bike-Aid '86." The goals of the bikers, among them 12 from Los Angeles, were to raise money for small self-help projects in Third World countries and in impoverished areas of America--and to touch the conscience of Middle America.
Now, with the bills paid, "It looks like a little over $85,000" raised, reports Nazir Ahmad, a Stanford doctoral student and co-founder of the sponsoring Overseas Development Network, a national student organization with West Coast headquarters at Stanford.
And, Ahmad said, "Bike-Aid" is being planned as an annual event, with the second cross-country ride scheduled to begin June 17 and wind up Aug. 19 in New York. There will be five routes, originating from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Houston.