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Short Takes

Tray Magnifique, Roger

December 06, 1987|DICK RORABACK

To anyone who's ever tippled tepid soup, the term world's fastest waiter seems at least slightly oxymoronic. It's Roger Bourban's title, though--has been for years--and one he is proudly defending this morning. Catch him if you can; annual 10K waiters' race starts at Beverly Hills High at 8:57 a.m., contestants in appropriate regalia and toting a full bottle on a tray.

Bourban, 39, is no longer a waiter (he's GM and maitre d' at Nicky Blair's on Sunset), possibly no longer as swift. Like an aging gunfighter, he's stalked now by youngsters trying for a piece of the Old Man, but he's convinced, withal, that his technique will carry the day. "I'm in the Guinness book five times," he says. "I've won more than 200 waiters races: four New York Marathons, two London Marathons, Rio, Seoul. . . .

"They can't catch me yet. OK, I train less, but I eat and drink better. It's conducive to running. I hate to give away my secrets, but I will tell you this: I drink only champagne, French champagne, and don't switch during dinner. Sure, for fine dining one has a red with this course, a white with that, a rose, but for an athlete, stick with the wine you started with."

Still, distance races at 39? Carrying a tray? Bourban minimizes the danger. "There are two ways I'd love to die," he says. "One: running in a race with a good friend; two, having a great dinner with a good friend. Not necessarily in that order."

Nature and Art Students Create a Shake-up at Cal State L.A.

An act of God got things rolling, but it was an act of man that really shook up the art students at Cal State L.A.

On Oct. 1, the Whittier earthquake caused $22 million in damage on the campus. It also toppled and cracked a large outdoor sculpture by artist Kosso Ellul.

Art students at the university might have forgiven nature for knocking this artwork off its pedestal. But they couldn't excuse what they see as the vandalism against art that followed.

As associate art professor Daniel Douke tells the story, the day after the quake, students heard another roar. The source, they discovered, was a crew of workmen pounding away at the stainless steel and concrete sculpture with jackhammers.

The administration maintains that the sculpture--which Douke describes as "a concrete wedge shape, more vertical than wide, with an angular slash cut into it that was lined with stainless steel"--was irreparably damaged and had to be removed for safety reasons. Structural engineers examined it and the decision that it had to go came from the chancellor's office, a spokesperson said.

The students interpreted the move as an insensitive attack on an artistic creation, and protested by constructing a cardboard "effigy" of Ellul's work, adorned with wreaths and quotations from the university's assessment of earthquake damage, Douke said.

"We wanted to make a statement about the destruction of art and the apathy of people towards Art," said Wendy Welch, a graduate painting student.

The original sculpture, valued at $30,000 to $50,000, has now been removed. So has the effigy.

But the cycle of creation and destruction came full circle on Monday, when 13 of Douke's graduate students finished filming a video project on the sculpture and resulting controversy.

"The video is going to be a work of art--a reflection of violence and destruction," Douke said.

True Grit at Peer Counseling Center

The way Carmen Woodyear sees it--in a manner of speaking--it's not she who is the inspiration; rather, it's the seniors she counsels who inspire her.

Woodyear, 55, of Venice, is one of 300 volunteers at the Senior Health & Peer Counseling Center in Santa Monica, carrying a full load of five "clients" a week. Not long ago, though, Woodyear was a client herself. "I went to learn self-assertivenes," she confesses, "to convince people that I'm still a person." Woodyear says she wasn't sure: In 1983, after a lifelong series of operations, Woodyear resigned herself to a lifetime of blindness. The resignation followed depression; resignation in turn was followed by hope, by grit, thanks to counseling at the center.

It worked so well, in fact, that Woodyear took a 12-week course and became a counselor herself, an occupation that "helps me. I don't spend so much time thinking about myself. And trying to help others understand their feeling helps us probe our own."

Blindness, of course, has its drawbacks, but acceptance by Woodyear's clients is not one of them. The breakthrough, she recalls, was during a particularly rainy day when one elderly woman, "in the middle of her own troubles, asked me, 'Do your feet hurt?' As a matter of fact, they did. 'No wonder,' she said. 'You've got your boots on the wrong feet!' We both laughed. It was so healthy, so comfortable. . . . " Maybe not so inspirational, but it'll do for now.

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