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The politics of bowling

April 06, 2003

Lolita Harper

Long before the showdown between recreation-loving residents and

Kohl's department store, Kona Lanes bowling alley on Harbor Boulevard

was scheduled to be the spot of a national political showdown.

In October of 1992, representatives of President George Bush, Bill

Clinton and contender Ross Perot agreed to a bowl-off, of sorts, at

Costa Mesa's very own Kona Lanes. The event was billed as "Stars and

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Strikes Forever" but was dubbed the "Perot Challenge," by the Texas

billionaire's supporters because they were the first to accept the

challenge.

General manager at the time, Cherie Nagy, said she wasn't as

concerned with the bragging rights of the best bowler, rather the

entertainment of the event. She was quoted as saying, "We could use a

little levity in this election."

The 1992 election was at a time of unparalleled historical peace

as the familiar landmarks of the Cold War -- from the Berlin Wall to

intercontinental missiles and bombers on constant high alert -- were

gone. Eastern Europe was independent, the Soviet Union had dissolved,

Germany was united, Arabs and Israelis were engaged in direct

negotiations, and the threat of nuclear conflict was greatly

diminished.

Our troops had recently returned from their first tour in the

Persian Gulf, but the cheers faded into financial distress. People

were left reeling from one of the worst recessions since 1980s and

there were layoffs across the board, from white to blue collar and

middle management.

Locals were looking forward to a lighthearted showdown that had

nothing to do with the economy, unemployment or health care. The

bowl-off offered the perfect venue but the representatives never

showed.

Perot's officials were ready to go, with their balls buffed and

bowling shoes shined. Bush and Clinton campaign officials never did

show and the rest is history.

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