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Will Rogers' Message Still Comes Across : Lance Brown's one-man show proves the homespun humorist's philosophy rings true in the 1990s.

September 02, 1993|ROBYN LOEWENTHAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I'll tell you how to solve Los Angeles' traffic problem. Just take all the cars off the road that aren't paid for. That'll turn them boulevards into playgrounds overnight.

-- Will Rogers, Nov. 4, 1925, The Birmingham Post.

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Will Rogers fans won't want to miss "A Tribute to Will Rogers--A Voice for the '90s," Sept. 15 at the Camarillo Senior Center auditorium.

"A Tribute to Will Rogers" is a journey into the roots of the American experience according to its creator, Lance Brown. During his show, Brown moves from first-person portrayals of Rogers to spirited third-person accounts of Rogers' life and times. And the actor/musician plays and sings cowboy songs and popular music of Rogers' day as a backdrop to the humorist's era.

"But this is not a nostalgia show," said Brown from his home in Chicago during our recent telephone interview. "It is designed to reach people who weren't alive when Will was. And the musical tradition of cowboy songs are important to Will's value system."

Brown contends that Rogers was a man far ahead of his time. In the 1920s and 30s he addressed issues that confront us today: the environment, national debt, corrupt politicians, gender roles and more.

"Will Rogers was a part of my tradition growing up," said Brown, born in New Mexico and raised in Texas and Colorado. The 48-year-old performer even resembles Rogers, who died at age 55 in an airplane crash.

After years of study, including extensive research at the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Okla., Brown has an intimate knowledge of his subject. In striving for authenticity, Brown has even mastered other requisite skills.

"In the last few weeks I've felt confident enough to introduce a Texas skip--a rope trick I've been working on for a year and a half. I throw a large vertical loop and jump through it in both directions," Brown said.

But the emphasis of his show is on heroism and role models. Rogers led an "exemplary life," Brown said.

"Eight or nine historians have dug through his life with a fine-tooth comb and they have never found a scrap of scandal," he said.

"His values were based on the strength of the individual and the value of hard work, fair play, honesty and integrity. But he was not hesitant to point out shame and deceit."

"Here we are struggling with the budget and Will would say to look on the bright side of taxes. 'Thank God we don't get as much government as we're payin' for.' "

And Brown offered the next quip to illustrate the serious side of Rogers: " 'On Judgment Day, civilization will have an alibi. It'll say 'I never took a human life. I just sold the fella the gun to take it with.' "

According to Brown, "Will's humor might have had a barb in it, but it was always coated with goodwill."

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Do you use Dial-A-Ride? If you are disabled or unable to use the fixed bus route, you might be eligible to receive paratransit service. As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people who have a certification card will get priority service on transit vans. For details, call toll-free 1-800-438-1112.

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The 50+ Dance Club of Thousand Oaks will hold their dances at the Goebel Senior Adult Center ballroom, 1385 E. Janss Road, in Thousand Oaks. The Johnny Olins band will play Saturday evening from 7:30 to 10:30. And at the same time on Sept. 18, music will be provided by the Jerry Dokken band. Admission is $4 per person for club members and $5 for non-members. Annual club membership dues are $6. For details, call 497-1639.

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The Goebel Senior Adult Center is planning a Labor Day breakfast for adults age 50 and older. Breakfast will be served at 9 a.m. Monday. Activities will include live entertainment. The breakfast will be provided by McDonald's, and $1 meal tickets must be purchased by Friday at the center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. For more information, call 497-1639.

* WHERE AND WHEN

Lance Brown will perform "A Tribute to Will Rogers-A Voice for the '90s," at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 15 at Camarillo Senior Center auditorium, 1605 Burnley St. The program is sponsored by Heritage House--a Wilshire Foundation Retirement Center--as a fund-raiser for the Camarillo Senior Center. Admission is $1 per person. For details, call 484-2777.

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