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NEIGHBORS : Battle Guide : A Ventura historian tours the scene of a war between Northern and Southern California, while a Moorpark teacher takes on Elvis.

March 07, 1991|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

This may not be the best time to bring up the subject of battlefields, but Ventura is coming up on an anniversary of being one.

It was 153 years ago this month that a civil war of sorts took place between an army from Northern California and one from Southern California. The two sides were fighting for control of the seat of power.

"One of the minuscule battles took place in San Buenaventura," said historian Richard Senate, who has scheduled a walking tour of the event Saturday. "In the whole battle of two days, only one person was killed. He died, we believe, near Figueroa Street."

So how did the battle find its way to Ventura? One army started out from Los Angeles, the other from Monterey. "And they collided here," Senate said. "And almost nobody knows about it."

No need to ask which side won the battle. "Ever since that day, the capital has been in the northern half of the state," Senate said, "rather than where it should be, in Southern California."

Raymond Michael Hebel, a 37-year-old teacher at Chaparral Middle School in Moorpark, has a large international following. That's less because of his curriculum and more because he moonlights as a successful Elvis impersonator or, as he refers to himself, an Elvis impressionist.

Hebel will take his act to Cal Lutheran University on Saturday for his third annual benefit performance for the Pederson Ranch House, a Ventura County historical landmark.

Since 1972, Hebel has been doing his show throughout the United States and has performed in Japan, Guam, Korea and Australia. He said he could do the act for years to come, thanks to continued interest in Elvis Presley.

"The popularity of Elvis is incredible worldwide. He's known more than any historical, religious or political figure. A lot of countries where they don't speak the language, they can sing along with the songs," Hebel said. "Elvis was the epitome of the American dream, so doing Elvis is their real close connection to the American dream."

Hebel told of a trip that he made to Japan. "I was in a big hotel in Tokyo. One block to the left of the hotel was a big store called Love Me Tender, which had only Elvis memorabilia. One block to the right was a place called Pub Elvis. They played only Elvis songs, and guys were getting up to sing Elvis."

Hebel, who owns 20 Elvis-style jumpsuits, has developed a pretty decent following in this country too--to the point of having groupies. "I have fans that will follow me across the United States," he said. "At one place, I hold the attendance record over some big names, like Chubby Checker and Chuck Berry."

The show at the Cal Lutheran auditorium in Thousand Oaks will begin at 8 p.m.

Partial congratulations to 23-year-old Ventura College student Denise Kato, one of 183 finalists in the national Truman Scholar competition. She and the other students, selected from among 1,100 candidates, will compete in the final interview Wednesday in San Francisco.

The scholarship is awarded to students who show leadership potential and a commitment to public service. "I'm interested in international relations and communications," Kato said. "I'd like to work in the Pacific Rim. I'm fourth-generation Japanese-American."

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