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Centerpiece : MISSING: PHILIP (TAYLOR) KRAMER

March 30, 1995|LEONARD REED | Times Staff Writer

* First at a school bus stop on Mulholland Drive, where a woman was seated and asked by a man fitting Kramer's description--albeit with matted hair and dirty clothes--"Are you waiting for someone?"

* Then at sites in Canoga Park, where Kramer lived in the 1970s while playing with Iron Butterfly. The bus stop witness says she saw him at a Latino market. A pawn shop manager recalls a man fitting Kramer's description who had no interest in selling his wedding ring but instead "talked computers." A woman tending her front yard says she saw him walk by and, while crossing a busy street, politely move out of the way of women with strollers. And some young men say they saw a man fitting Taylor Kramer's description behind a Burger King. Others still saw him eating at the salad bar at a Carl's Jr.

* Then at a soup kitchen in Long Beach.

* Then at the Santa Monica Pier.

Sightings are difficult in that family members view them with hope while the detached view them with cocked eyebrow. Sgt. Paige cites a random-occurrence factor: "If you took a stack of these flyers to downtown Houston, we'd get a lot of calls."

But Taylor Kramer's cashlessness once again left tracks and ignited the conviction that he's out there, alive, somehow getting by. In yet another sighting, almost three weeks ago, at a Ralphs supermarket in Agoura Hills, an elderly couple was approached by a very tall man fitting Kramer's description.

" 'I'm in trouble and need to call my family and only have 40 cents,' is what he told these people," says Ray Kramer. "He then said, 'Can you help me?' " Whereupon the man "figured him to be a bum and said no, but his wife told us she later scolded the husband because Taylor didn't seem like a beggar. She told us he seemed genuine, that he was polite.

"That's Taylor, I'm certain."

Jennifer did receive a phone call from a man whose voice she is convinced is Kramer's, but it is deeply stressed and, as she puts it, the voice of a person who is "out of it." Faintly, the caller said, "Hello . . . hello . . . hello."

The family continues to post flyers and recently held a press conference on Santa Monica Pier, hoping TV news would expand the story across the Southland. Large-scale search efforts have become difficult and are expensive.

TMM sent Chuck Carter, whose fee was $600 a day plus expenses, home to Texas after a month on the case. Last week, it hired a local investigator to pick up where Carter left off. Says Dan Shields, TMM's vice president for business development: "Taylor has been a visionary as well as founder of this company. He is also my friend. We're doing everything we can--as well as try to do business day-to-day--to find Taylor."

For her part, Jennifer Kramer is trying to get back to work as a real estate agent in Thousand Oaks.

"How do I deal with this?" she asks. "I went to a psychologist for the first time in my life. She told me to assume Taylor's gone and get on with my life. Well, that's not to be. Taylor's one in a million. We have to keep searching. But I do have a mortgage and kids and insurance, and so I've got to get working."

'Taylor Was Always Upbeat'

One in a million. If Jennifer Kramer and Chuck Carter and Dan Shields and Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy are any indication, Taylor Kramer is certainly that.

"Taylor was always upbeat; I never have known him to be otherwise," says Bushy. "To Kramer, there was no problem that could not be met. That goes back to our Butterfly days together, and even then, part of that optimism seemed to be how engaged he was on the science questions. He was talking about Ray's equations back then."

Actually, it goes back further than that. At age 12, Taylor Kramer won the science fair at Liberty School in Youngstown, Ohio, by building a laser. It threw a beam strong enough to pop a balloon.

A recent initiative by Kramer was in the Hueneme Elementary School District, where he engaged teachers and administrators in devising an interactive CD-ROM-based curriculum. While it is not complete, one title on the explorations of Lewis and Clark did emerge; and the model for hooking up the school system with such vast resources as the Library of Congress was given form.

Kramer's efforts were widely known in Thousand Oaks, as well. He launched an independent, nonprofit group called FACET to serve as the Conejo Valley Unified School District's "next technology" steward. Always looking to the future, Kramer announced his sentiments at a meeting at Redwood School, which his daughter, Hayley, attends.

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