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They planned to ease the cost somewhat by enjoying the hospitality of other colleges along the route, but fell badly behind schedule and got little for free. The bus motor died in the first 10 miles, delaying them for 36 hours within hearing distance of a Los Angeles burlesque theater. After trading earfuls of UCLA spirit for eyefuls of Betty Roland, who is currently billed as "the ball of fire," they rolled on eastward, pausing only when necessary: 1) to remove a screwdriver which someone had carelessly left between the smoking sidewall and inner tube of one tire, 2) to play touch football with 10-year-olds, 3) to hold pep rallies at busy city intersections, and 4) to serenade the lingerie counter of an Indianapolis department store (an extravagant gesture, considering the problem of getting their emblematic palm tree through the revolving door).
In Columbus, Ohio their bus died for keeps, and the Kelps dipped into their return fare to make it the rest of the way by regular bus. A UCLA alumnus, who owns the Diplomat Hotel, put them up, four to a room, for a buck fifty a night, but beyond that the prospects looked dim. Enjoying New York in the holiday week from Christmas to New Year's is a matter of how much cash you've got or whom you know. Close to flat broke, the Kelpmen of UCLA set about getting to know everybody. "How are you this fine day?" they asked the men of New York and "Hey! the Queen!" they shouted to the girls. Among New Yorkers this is cause enough for alarm—lotta crazy heads going around wishing everybody well and calling girls queens when most of them definitely are not.
"You can't come in here without a necktie," warned the headwaiter at the Keyboard Restaurant to four Kelpmen who, within an hour, were taking free mambo lessons as guests of the Keyboard management.
In New York you do not get behind scenes unless you know somebody. Not realizing this, three Kelpmen leaked behind the scenes of the Jackie Gleason show, which in the world of television is comparable to prying up the heavy floor vault lid at Windsor for a look at Henry the Eighth. "We waited," explains Kelpman Don Allison, "until some important people walked by the guard, and went with them. The guard says, 'Hey, Mac! Hey, Mac!' to us, and we say 'Hey, Mac! Hey, Mac!' back at him. So, we get in." That same day the same three Kelps saw a first-run movie free (by exuding more of their baffling good will), and that night they saw the last two acts of a Broadway show (from box seats, carefully timing their entrance to coincide with the intermission).
To recoup their traveling losses and assure themselves enough to get home, the Kelps won $300 on a quiz show—more correctly, perhaps, it should be stated that they were given $300, since the show producer, caught up in the old college spirit and noting that Kelpman Dave Hart was muddled by the last question, hissed the answer sotto voce from the wings.
"You can't bring a palm tree in here," the ticket taker grumbled as the Kelpmen came to Madison Square Garden to cheer their team. "You're gonna stick somebody in the eyes with that thing." The Kelpmen began to yell. Figuring no palm tree was worth all that noise, the ticket man let them through.
New York not being much of a college town, cheering in the Garden is generally an expression for something well done or an indication of approval that the contest is going the way the crowd would like it to go. The Kelps yelled all the time. And through the first half and during half-time, when the Kelps took the floor to throw oranges to the crowd, Emil Rubano, the aisle guard near their seats, wore a frown, fearing the worst from such noisy hellions. But during the second half, Kelpman John Odabashian patted Rubano's balding head now and again (as Odabashian is wont to do to waiters, ushers and all men of authority) and assured him the Kelps were men of good will. Thereafter Guard Rubano beamed. "It must be the California air," said he in glowing approval. "Never saw anybody here so loud. We get a lot of boisterous ones, the kind who throw fish. But here you got real loud gentlemen."
Since UCLA's players lost a seesaw game to All-American Tom Gola and the tricky La Salle team to take third place in the tournament, it would appear that the odyssey of the cheering Kelps is without much moral. Strictly as a basketball story, perhaps there is no moral. But in general one might say that if you compliment all the ladies, pat officialdom occasionally on the head, and pass out a few oranges, you can go a long way, even in New York.
The loused-up weekend
After seven months of Technicolor disagreement in the new Vista-scope process with a little stereophonic sound thrown in, the 1955 Los Angeles Open finally got straightened out—or, in any event, there will be no double-feature the weekend of Jan. 6 through 10. Instead of a program calling for a PGA-endorsed, William B. MacDonald-sponsored Inglewood Open to be shown at the Inglewood Country Club while a separate and competing Los Angeles Open sponsored by the L.A. Junior Chamber of Commerce ran simultaneously at the Rancho Municipal Golf Course (SI, Jan. 3), the feuding parties finally got together last week and settled on one tournament. It will be called the Los Angeles Open, parts of it will be played at both courses, there will be celebrity goings-on at both courses, the LAJC will help Mr. MacDonald and Mr. MacDonald will help the LAJC.