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Revved Up for a Good Cause

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A sea of shiny chrome.

The unrelenting roar of Harleys.

And thousands of people who dared to wear black leather in the July heat. At the beach no less.

This was the scene Sunday at the Seventh Annual Exceptional Children’s Foundation Beach Ride at San Buenaventura State Beach Park.

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The festival drew an estimated crowd of 10,000, including motorcycle enthusiasts from throughout the country, organizers said. The event was expected to raise $180,000 to benefit developmentally disabled children and adults.

Among the biker groups that helped organize the event were the Hells Angels, whose national convention in Ventura last March caused a ruckus. During that three-day event, police saturated downtown preparing for riots that never came.

In contrast, Sunday’s event was low-key. Rocker Stephen Stills belted out such oldies as “Love the One You’re With” while Randy Meisner, formerly of the Eagles, sang “Take It Easy.”

It wasn’t exactly the Summer of Love, but some couples swayed to the mostly ‘60s and ‘70s tunes in a grassy area in front of the stage.

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“It’s a day to cut loose, have a good time and let your body roll with the music,” said Danae Brockett, 32, who was dancing with her boyfriend, John Wheeler, 39, both of Reseda.

Others preferred to smoke a fat cigar or crash out on the grass during the day, which began with hazy skies that cleared up about 2 p.m. Temperatures at the beach peaked at 67 degrees.

Some self-proclaimed former flower children brought their kids to the event.

Nancy Boulineau, 36, was busy changing the diaper of her daughter, Chase, while her two other young daughters sang along to the music. Her husband, Keith, 41, lounged with them on a blanket.

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“We always listen to this music at home,” said Lindsay, the Camarillo couple’s 12-year-old daughter. “My dad has over 1,000 CDs.”

Wearing attire that ranged from black leather chaps to T-shirts that read, “If the Music’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old” and “Real Men Don’t Line Dance,” revelers ambled around eating barbecue tri-tip sandwiches and drinking beer. They stopped at booths that sold everything from leather vests for tots to toe rings to vintage gas pumps.

“Leather and lace, it kind of goes together,” said vendor Betsy Blank of Atascadero, who was selling lingerie.

“I love these festivals,” Blank said. “Mostly it’s fun to people-watch. You never know who or what you’ll see.”

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Just then Flip Wilson walked by.

The comedian said he never misses a biker convention. He owns three Harley-Davidsons, which he named God’s Fool, Sane Day and Great Spirit.

Wilson, 64, rode one of his Harleys to the event from his Malibu home.

“I ride bikes, helicopters, other kinds of aircraft, and I also take cruises,” said Wilson, who wore black leather chaps and pants. “If life is a box of cookies, I’ve eaten most of the cookies in the box.”

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Wilson was headed to a “most outrageous outfit contest” in which women wearing black leather, silver-studded bras and little else were waiting to be judged.

So what would Geraldine--Wilson’s flamboyant female character in his ‘70s TV show--do at such a festival?

“She’d be right there, honey, at the bikini contest, pushing her way to the front,” Wilson joked. “And I’m going over there right now, too, to get a very good look at the contestants.”

Wilson was not the only celebrity in attendance. Actor Larry Hagman, best known for his role as J.R. Ewing in the old television series “Dallas,” traded his 10-gallon hat for an “Easy Rider” helmet. The owner of two Harleys also wore a skull-and-crossbones necklace.

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Hagman, a member of the Ugly motorcycle group in the San Fernando Valley, was the event’s grand marshal. He also helped judge some of the contests.

“I’ve ridden Harleys for more than 40 years,” said Hagman, who lives in Ojai. “It’s part of my lifestyle. It’s a fun event, it’s for a good cause, and the weather is beautiful.”

Hagman said he was glad he didn’t have to judge the tattoo contest in which about 20 men and woman showed off their body art to a large, hooting crowd.

Before the contest, Kevin O’Sullivan, 38, of Van Nuys discussed why his legs, arms and entire back were covered with colorful tattoos.

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“It’s self-expression,” said O’Sullivan, who designs computer graphics for a print shop. “Whatever ticks in your head you can put on your skin.”

He regrets only the wedding-ring tattoo on his ring finger.

“It was a dumb move,” he said. “The marriage didn’t last.”

The elaborate dragon tattoo on O’Sullivan’s back earned him top honors Sunday in the “best overall male” category.

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