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LA CRESCENTA : Would-Be Chili Lobbyist Plans His Wild Ride

September 11, 1993|SONDRA FARRELL BAZROD

In the kitchen of his La Crescenta home, lanky, gray-bearded Ormly Gumfudgin--whose mother named him Stanley Locke--is engaged in a labor of love.

"Concocting a winning bowl of chili requires the proper state of mind," the 70-year-old says as he stirs the pot. "That includes uniform, attitude and music."


Locke is wearing black shirt emblazoned with chile peppers, white pants that as yet have no chili spilled on them, black cowboy boots and a special top hat replete with buttons and ribbons.

He picks up an odd instrument made of brass pipe and a whiskey funnel known as a bazooka. He blows, and it makes a haunting sound in the lower register.

"The sound penetrates into the pot of chili, mesmerizing the contents," he says seriously.

Today, Locke--who took the pen name Gumfudgin from a writer for the Los Angeles Daily Herald in the 1860s--plans to leave for Washington, D.C., where he hopes to lobby to make chili the national dish of the United States.

Along with other members of the International Chili Society--he's its historian and cook-off judge--he plans to board a motorized stagecoach in the nation's capital and set off on a trek across the continent promoting chili as America's official food.

The trip is also meant to raise money for the Red Cross, and people can sponsor the stage for $10 a mile.

The stagecoach, donated by chili lover Jim Lotito of Redlands, will set off from Capitol Hill on Monday, stopping in 22 cities before returning to Los Angeles on Sept. 23. From here, the coach and its entourage plan to venture out again, this time to Reno, for the Oct. 3 World Championship Chili Cookoff.

Locke's life has been more than chili. His newspaper column, "Warmly, Ormly," appeared in the Sunland/Tujunga Record Ledger for 15 years, and he ran the recreation department at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for 23 years.

Of his trip, he says: "I'm taking Mr. Chili's Wild Ride for other senior citizens and diabetics so I can be a role model. You can do things if you just put your mind to it."

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