Aisle Seat

Baby Face
A long-running joke among those who know local actor Luis Saguar is that he always plays hoodlums; he's a sweet, gentle sort of guy, but for some reason directors take one look at him and think “criminal.” Rather than fight the typecasting, Saguar has found a way to milk his peculiar talent for exuding shady vibes: For some time, he has been working for Fair Housing, posing as a potential renter in order to see if landlords discriminate. (They do.) More recently, however, his moonlighting activities got a little out of hand — Saguar was so convincing that he ended up in the pokey for an afternoon. The story goes like this: Well-known attorney Tony Serra (whom James Woods portrayed in a 1989 movie about Serra's life called True Believer) brought Saguar on board in a private investigation of the California Highway Patrol in Bakersfield. They'd heard that a certain CHP officer, Connie Sellers, had a rep for harassing motorists — especially motorists of color. Gregg Stutchman, private investigator and retired police captain, set up Saguar with a rental car, cellular phone, and pager and sent him cruising down I-5 on Sellers' beat. Sure enough, she pulled him over. Saguar says she had him get out of the car and then alleged he was on drugs. She asked when was the last time he had taken something, and Saguar — who doesn't even drink — replied, “Nineteen eighty-seven.” She patted him down and found the tape recorder the PI had given him (the tape is still missing, according to Saguar), gave him a sobriety test, then cuffed him and stuck him in the patrol car. She then proceeded to search the car and trace the cellular phone. Meanwhile, Saguar was sitting with too-tight cuffs in 100-degree heat. He told her he was in pain, and he passed out momentarily, but she still couldn't be persuaded to loosen the cuffs. At the station, she arrested him for driving under the influence and transported him to Lerdo Detention Center, where he was fingerprinted and photographed. “I was like, 'God, does anyone know I'm here?' ” recalls Saguar. “Finally, they released me and whisked me out to this bus station [in Bakersfield], but didn't tell me the PI was waiting for me in the front.” Stutchman caught up with Saguar in Bakersfield and took him to a toxicology lab, where tests showed he was clean. Saguar appeared on the Bakersfield news, and now Serra is filing a complaint against the officer on Saguar's behalf. “I'll be doing San Francisco Shakespeare in Tahoe, and I have a performance one night and have to fly down to Bakersfield to testify the next day,” Saguar says. “I don't want to sound like a martyr, but it's my civic duty.” So what's Saguar playing in this production of Two Gentleman of Verona? The outlaw, of course.

By Laura Jamison

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