stars in new Malibu Stage Co. play
Howard Ferguson, known around town as ‘Hub the Handyman,’ stars this weekend in the Malibu Stage Company’s “The Oldest Living Graduate.”
By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times
When Howard Ferguson takes center stage at the Malibu Stage Co.’s “The Oldest Living Graduate,” which debuts this weekend, he’ll be doing so from a familiar vantage point: a wheelchair. The 76-year-old also played a wheelchair-bound character in the theater’s production of “Looking for Normal” a couple of years back.
This time he plays the bitter, disabled World War I veteran Jefferson C. Kincaide in “Graduate,” which explores a father-son conflict over Kincaide’s property. The son’s quest to convince his colonel dad to let him develop the real estate commercially becomes symbolic of winning the approval of his father, who favored an older son killed in World War II.
Directed by Nancy Little and based on the Preston Jones play, “Graduate” represents one-third of Jones’ Texas trilogy. Despite the serious subject matter, the play is both drama and comedy, with bursts of humor scattered throughout.
Ferguson believes his fellow Malibuites will not go home disappointed after seeing “Graduate.”
“They’ll get a lift out of this play,” he said. “And it is a comedy, so they’re gonna get a laugh out of it.”
Known around town as “Hub the Handyman,” Ferguson, a locksmith and carpenter, acts even when he is not on stage.
“That’s a character I developed 31 years ago to pay the bills because acting is not steady work,” said Ferguson, who has played in skits opposite John Benjamin on Comedy Central and George Lopez on his recently canceled talk show.
You won’t find an online hub for Hub though. Eschewing websites and Facebook, Ferguson lands his carpentry and locksmith gigs the old-fashioned way: by “word of mouth.”
Born Howard Weitzman in Chicago, Ferguson came to California at age four. He lived in East L.A. and moved around the city before leaving at 18 for Maine, where he finished high school.
Married to Candace Bowen for 31 years, Ferguson met his wife in Malibu in 1981 after bouncing around in the Northwest territories of Canada, where he made a living as a retail advisor for the Inuits. A paparrazo pal of his named Phil was visiting from the Arctic circle, where he worked with Eskimos, and Ferguson had joined his buddy as he hung around to catch photos of what was then the hottest couple around: Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson. The two buddies were staked out near the beach, sitting in the parking lot of what was then Nautilus [now Johnny’s Pizza] and Candace was working out at the gym.
“Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson had just got together and no one had gotten a shot of them together,” Ferguson said, “so [Phil] was waiting for the garage door [of Reynold’s house across PCH] to open.”
Ferguson happened to be sitting next to Candace’s car when she emerged from the gym. “She didn’t like [Phil], but we talked,” he said.
In a moment of inspiration, Phil decided to use Howard and Candace as a ruse to try and land that money-making shot. So he photographed the pair as if they were a couple walking along Carbon Beach in a scheme to spy on Reynolds’ house. Phil never got that Burt and Loni exclusive, but he inadvertently took hundreds of photographs documenting their budding relationship. “The more we talked, we realized we had a lot in common,” Ferguson said. “We fell in love right then.” (The couple still has those photos.)
The pair kept in touch when Ferguson returned to his farm in Nova Scotia, and Ferguson eventually moved to Malibu to be with Bowen, a Philadelphia native, as she pursued her career in acting.
Ferguson was there for Bowen as she carved out a career as an African-American actress, which at times was a difficult process. Bowen often struggled to avoid the degrading roles offered to African-American women, such as prostitutes. Today, Bowen leads Malibu’s monthly Women in Film gatherings.
“My husband and I have been together for over 30 years,” Bowen said. “He’s my best friend.”
Ferguson had four daughters from a previous marriage, while Bowen has a daughter from a previous relationship. The couple, who have resided on Point Dume for 30 years, both say Malibu has been the perfect home for their unconventional family.
“Malibu is just a city full of activists and rebels, really,” Ferguson said. “If you’re going to live on the West Coast, Malibu is probably the best place in the world to live…It’s just the best environment.”
Together they helped raise a grandson, Aaron Smith, who most locals know as the rapper Shwayze.
“He’s my son!” Ferguson says.
Shwayze divides his time between Malibu and New York with his supermodel wife, Shelby Keeton, and their young son Hendrix. Only 16 months old, baby Hendrix “is a musician,” Ferguson said, proudly. “He’s already banging the drums.”