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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Another Charity Case Here in Losersville, USA

April 16, 2002|T.J. Simers

A few years ago Dave Pasant, a retired insurance executive, bid $6,000 at a charity auction for the opportunity to have his wife take a ride in the pace car with Paul Newman at the big race in Long Beach.

"They were supposed to go around the track once," he said. "Five laps later she still wasn't back."

I've seen a picture of Dave Pasant.

"Our marriage hasn't been the same since," Pasant said.

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IT'S A good thing the guy was laughing, because I'm on my way to Colorado today to spend time with the Dodgers and Kings, and I'm not sure I could deal with another loser.

As it turns out, the guy's a real winner, bidding $76,000 two years ago as a charitable donation to take a 10-lap ride in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. If he was looking for some kind of death-defying thrill, I'd have let him drive with the wife to the corner for next to nothing.

Pasant, however, paid an additional $61,000 to ride in the same race this past weekend, and donated another $65,000 for a spot in next year's event. I buy 20 boxes of Girl Scout cookies every year for the charitable write-off, because they also make great dog biscuits for Ralphie, but I don't think I could come up with $200,000 in donations--even if I had the Salvation Army haul off every pair of the wife's shoes.

"Toyota has to put a perceived real-world value on the ride every year, and that's what can be written off," Pasant said. "I think it's around $23,000 or $24,000, or whatever the cost is for a totaled car--and that's what they got back from me."

That's right, Pasant spent $61,000 this past weekend for the privilege of driving a modified Toyota Celica into a wall. "It was either that, or taking out Dule Hill," said Pasant, and I presumed he meant some kind of Long Beach landmark.

"No, he plays the aide to the president on West Wing," Pasant said, and you would think if a guy has to pay $61,000 to join a celebrity race they would have some celebrities behind the wheel.

"What are you talking about?" Pasant said. "I got the chance to compete against Patrick Warburton, who was on TV in 'The Tick.' I loved that show--all six episodes before they took it off the air."

I would imagine it was Pasant's wife, Jill, who pulled a weapon on Newman and had him driving as far as that pace car would go before running out of fuel.

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"I'M REALLY not that strange," said a 50-year-old Pasant. This was after he had returned from his morning ukulele session with 75 senior citizens and after mentioning he had donated $26,000 to charity to acquire a helmet Mario Andretti wore in 1978. Imagine the improvements they have made in helmets since then.

"All the money goes to such a great cause--the Children's Hospitals of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Orange County," he said. "I joined all the celebrities for a visit to Children's Hospital before Saturday's race, and we went into this one kid's room and you should have seen how he lit up when he saw Bill Goldberg."

If Goldberg walked into my house, I'd have had him arrested like any other ugly stranger caught trespassing. That goes for Houston Mitchell too, and while I know you've never heard of the guy, take my word for it, you'd have him arrested too.

"Goldberg's a wrestler," said Pasant in explaining why Goldberg is ugly. "The kid had a huge WWF poster on his wall, and Bill was just great with the child. And when he gave him a wrestling action figure, well, right then and there that moment was worth every penny I've spent on these races--the look on that kid's face.

"Maybe it will add three days to that youngster's life," he said before excusing himself for a moment to regain his composure. "That guy has incredible appeal, and he was such a sweetheart with the kids. I wish I could do something more.... "

Winning, of course, is out of the question if you have seen him drive. But it would be nice if he could use his influence and invite some celebrities to compete in the Celebrity Race next year.

"I wouldn't mind bumping bumpers with Salma Hayek," he said, and I'm not sure where the bidding would start, but for a good cause like that, I'd want to help any way I could. I know there's a penalty for dipping into your 401K, but it'd be for charity.

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FORGET ABOUT the regular season. You put red jerseys on every one of the Lakers once the playoffs start, and they wouldn't be much different from Tiger Woods, who saves his best for the majors.

I guess that makes the Trail Blazers kind of the Phil Mickelsons of the NBA.

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PLASCHKE WROTE a heartwarming note about Mickelson, who was talking about "The Rookie," and how he could relate to the movie's message. And here I've always thought of Mickelson as a "Tin Cup" kind of guy.

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IT WASN'T that long ago when the Dodgers were relying on F.P. Santangelo to get them going. The Columbus Clippers released Santangelo this weekend after he opened the season hitting .067 (one for 15) in the team's first seven games. Tough to find someone who is hitting worse than Tim Salmon, but I did.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Jimmy F:

"Please note that in all the releases from the Chargers organization, including their new business cards, they no longer are referring to themselves as the San Diego Chargers--only the 'Chargers.' The move to L.A. is imminent."

Probably with Santangelo starting at quarterback ... at least he would be head-and-shoulders bigger than the guy they've got now.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com

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