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HERB BENHAM: What's in a name? A lot when it's Studley

I learned something about a friend. Now that I know, I can never look at him the same.

His name is Steve, he lives in Del Mar and is married to Jobi, a high school history teacher.

He is a terrific surfer, smooth, graceful and seems to glide over the water as if his board is finless, which sometimes it is, when he wants to make the sport more challenging than it is.

Steve also makes beautiful guitars from exotic wood and has been a children's musician for the last 20 years. He's the San Diego version of Raffi, bigger than life for a couple of generations of the 6-and-under set.

Artist, athlete, I dare say you could almost call him the four-letter word that begins with s and ends with d and that's where the rest of the story comes in. As it happens, his great-grandfather took off and left his great-grandmother and the rest of the family high and dry.

His great-grandmother remarried a man whose last name was Studley.

"Fortunately, my grandfather (her son) chose to keep his original last name which was Denyes," Steve said. "Otherwise, I would have become Steven Studley."

Fortunately? That's a problem? Steve Studley versus the other name? I think you've swallowed too much salt water.

"Can you imagine what it would have been like in junior high school?' he said.

Yes I can. You would have been a Studley amongst a sea of pencil necks. They would have looked up to you like Moses on the mount.

High school could have been better still.

"Playing left tackle for the Lions, Steven Studley."

"Steven Studley takes one high off the glass."

"Steven Studley hits a screamer through a hole on the left side of the infield."

I would have paid to see the expression on the face of the father whose daughter you were taking to the Spring Fling.

"Mr. Flynn, good to meet you," you would say at the door, engaging him in a firm handshake. "Let me introduce myself: My name is Steven Studley."

Picture the wedding. Bride and groom have said their vows and it is time for the minister to present the newly married couple.

"Please welcome Mr. and Mrs. Steven Studley," he says.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of the woman taking a man's first name and more and more, the last name either but "Mr. and Mrs. Steven Studley has a ring to it that should not be ignored.

Consider the children should the Studleys choose to have them and I would suggest that they do. Sammy Studley, Susan Studley, Shlomo Studley and Steven Studley Jr.

Imagine interviewing for a job, one that is highly competitive and has 40 qualified applicants.

"What is your name, son?'"

"Steven Studley."

When can you start? Would you like the corner office with the view of downtown or mine?

The end comes, as it does for all of us. The funeral is an open casket affair because you know who we're dealing with.

"We come here today to say goodbye to an American legend," and suddenly Steven Studley jumps out of the coffin and says, "Who do you take me for?"

I'm not sure I'll ever look at my surfer, musician, guitar-making friend the same again, or maybe I will. He might as well have an S emblazoned across his chest. An S or maybe two.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.