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Remember bowler Andy Varipapa? Randy Silverman does

Randy Varipapa watched the incomparable Andy Varipapa in action.
Randy Varipapa watched the incomparable Andy Varipapa in action.
Fred Eisenhammer

This story originally ran May 27, 2012, and is being re-run in commemoration of the 30-year anniversary of the death of bowler extraordinaire Andy Varipapa. He died at age 93.

One thing often lost in bowling is its rich history – how Don Carter ruled the lanes in the 1950s and 1960s, how Earl Anthony did the same in the ’70s and ’80s and how there were some other pretty fair bowlers.

The occasion of a West Coast Senior Tour event on Saturday at Mission Hills Bowl triggered the memory of Randy Silverman about another bowling great.

Silverman, a plucky 67-year-old league bowler from Westlake Village, remembers watching Andy Varipapa perform a one-man exhibition at Mission Hills Bowl some 55 years ago.

Yes, 55 years ago.

“He was beyond being a tremendous bowler,” said Silverman (shown in photo), who watched the one-hour show with his Northridge Junior High bowling team. “He was an incredible trickster with a bowling ball.”

Varipapa was an all-star bowler but was perhaps recognized more for being “the greatest one-man bowling show on earth.” Varipapa was known around the world for his amazing bowling exhibitions before he died in 1984.

He performed such tricks as slowly rolling the ball down the lane and then allowing the ball to roll back to him as a result of his famed “boomerang” ball.

Even more than five decades later, Silverman remembers one of Varipapa’s most eye-popping feats.

“One thing that stands out in my mind – and you have to remember that it’s been about 55 years – is that he set up the 7-10 split with one pin (the seven) on one lane and another pin (the 10) on the lane to his right,” Silverman said.

“He used two bowling balls, one in each hand, and he released the balls and they would cross each other. One ball would pick up the seven pin on the lane he was on and the other would cross the lane and pick up the 10 pin.”

That was typical Andy Varipapa.

“He was spectacular,” Silverman said.

Even 55 years later, the memory of Andy Varipapa is certainly worth reliving.

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