CSUB Prof Turns Talent into Charity By ROBERT PRICE, Californian staff columnist
e-mail: rprice@bakersfield.com

Russell Travis has a highly refined talent for puns and wordplay. Strangers are wise to fear him. Left unchecked, irresponsible punsmanship can be nails-on-chalkboard annoying. Fortunately, the Cal State Bakersfield sociology professor now applies his talents exclusively to socially redeeming causes.

This month it's all about old boots. Travis has produced T-shirts ("I Love It When You Talk Crude," with the image of an oil derrick), chef's aprons ("Hard Wok Cafe") and other assorted schlock (like the "writer's block," made of solid hardwood). But he turned his act into a vehicle for charitable good a few years ago, his most notable creation being Homeless Quarters: Drop a quarter in the slot, help fight homelessness in America.

Now, in furtherance of that goal, Travis is putting together "Walk a Mile in My Shoes," named for the 1970 country-blues hit song. It works like this: Celebrities donate a lightly worn pair of brogues, pumps, sneakers, whatever, and Travis' group will offer them to the adoring multitudes, with proceeds going to homeless charities.

He'd love to start by convincing Buck Owens to let someone "Walk a Mile in My Boots." If Buck consents to kick off his Tony Lamas, Travis -- no relation to country crooner Randy Travis -- is certain other country-music stars will follow suit.

Travis, who also hopes to hold "Walk a Mile in My Shoes"-sponsored walks for the cause, says he got the idea for famous (used) footwear from Clothes Off Our Backs, a nonprofit that auctions off donated "celebrity attire" to benefit children's charities.

Travis just needs to work out the details for his new venture with his long-suffering board of directors. "I float all these ideas," Travis says, "and they just try to keep me from soaring off into the wild blue yonder."