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Tapout founder Charles 'Mask' Lewis dies in Ferrari crash

charles lewis jr mask tapout charles lewis charles lewis junior charles lewis tapout

Charles  Lewis Jr., a.k.a "Mask," founder of the Tapout brand of mixed martial arts apparel label, has died in a Newport Beach car accident, reports our L.A. Now compatriot Ari B. Bloomekatz.

Although Newport Police would not release the name of the car crash victim pending notification of next of kin, press representatives of the  San Bernardino County-based company confirmed Lewis had passed away on Monday evening, with the following statement:

It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we must regretfully confirm the passing of our beloved friend, brother and co-founder Charles 'Mask' Lewis following a car accident that occurred last night. We are currently in the process of setting up a memorial service in his honor and will release more details as they become available.

Many thanks to all for the outpouring of blessings and well-wishing during this incredibly difficult time.

charles lewis jr mask tapout charles lewis charles lewis junior charles lewis tapout I  first met the San Bernardino native and his Tapout brethren -- who go by the names SkySkrape (real name unknown) and Punkass (a.k.a. Dan Caldwell) at an MMA expo in Long Beach last August as part of my Image section cover story about the boom in MMA apparel.

I spent several hours with him after that, each time walking away impressed how much he seemed to be genuinely grateful for each fan, clasping their hands in his, mugging for photos, hoisting toddlers on his broad shoulders for snapshots.

He seemed to be afraid of disappointing them. If initial reports are correct -- that he was racing his Ferrari against a Porsche before he died Wednesday about 1 a.m. -- his passing will have done just that, shuffling off this mortal coil as flamboyantly as he strode through it.

He was always quick with an analogy. I remember something he said when I asked about the future potential of MMA brands: “If this is the Yellow Brick Road and Oz is in the distance, we’re still trying to go up the path to find the Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Lion."

But even in my brief encounter with him, I could see something deeper and more meaningful behind the face paint and floppy camo hat. At one point before I left the Tapout compound in Grand Terrace last August, Lewis sat across from me in the conference room. After a question about the spiritual undertones of the sport -- the good vs. evil, the abundance of crosses and crusader imagery -- he leaned forward, flashed a wide Chesire Cat smile, and whispered almost conspiratorially. "We all want to feel like we're David taking on Goliath." For a brief instant, I had met the man behind the Mask.

It's a shame that so many MMA fans will mourn the passing of the outsized gentle giant with the drill-sergeant demeanor and and so few will have had the rare privilege to see the man beneath it.

-- Adam Tschorn

RELATED:

L.A. Now: Crash kills mixed-martial-arts designer

Image section: As cage fighting's popularity grows, Tapout label no longer battles for recognition

Web Gallery: Tapout's fighting style

Web Gallery: Battle of the MMA apparel brands
 

Top photo: Charles "Mask" Lewis  (center) with Dan "Punkass" Caldwell (l) and SkySkrape (r) at the Tapout headquarters in Grande Terrace, Calif. in 2008; Bottom photo: From left, SkySkrape, Mask and Punkass are the faces of Tapout. Mask, a.k.a. Charles Lewis Jr. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.

 
Comments () | Archives (62)

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From the first moment I watched a TapOut Episode, I was hooked; it's pure genius and genuinely REAL. And that insidious laugh, who wouldn't love it. I am saddened by the passing of such a wonderful person and human being. My only regret is not having ever met in person Mr Lewis.
Life is certainly full of influences. Thank you my brother for reminding me of that. Peace!

if your not livin on the edge your takin up to much room life is short kick ass and have fun

Real men, live hard and they play hard, boys just want to have fun too. yahoo/ hat's off to the tap out crew, keep making product, I have a saying from betting at the horse track, everything in motion, is out of control, speed had nothing to do with it. rest in peace, I will miss you. Pet Detective.

It is sad that a human being died, however some of these posts realize that in general Mask's lifestyle and the Tapout brand has brought shame to MMA, by turning it from a sport of true warriors to a sport supported by meatheads and bozo's who think its ok to be reckless in a motor vehicle. What if he was the one who lived and the other guy died? would you be as supportive? What if he had killed an innocent kid?

TO ALL OF YOU WHO THINK HE WAS RACING AND/OR DRINKING ---

I WAS IN THE CAR WITH HIM THAT NIGHT, I AM HIS GIRLFRIEND LACY, AND HE WAS NOT RACING OR DRINKING.

IN OVER A YEAR OF DRIVING WITH HIM EVERY SINGLE DAY HE NEVER ONCE RACED ANOTHER CAR WITH ME IN IT. NOT ONE TIME. EVER! HE WAS THE SAFEST DRIVER I HAVE EVER IN MY LIFE BEEN WITH. HE ALSO GOT FIRST PLACE THREE YEARS IN A ROW IN DRIVING CLASSES WHEN HE WAS A COP BEFORE TAPOUT.

THE DRIVER OF THE PORSCHE WAS DRUNK -- WHICH IS WHY HEEEEE HIT US. CHARLES WAS NOT AT FAULT AT ALL.

ALSO, I NEVER SAW HIM TAKE 1 SIP OF ALCOHOL IN 2 YEARS. NOT ONE SIP. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, HE WOULD ALWAYS SAY "I DONT HAVE TIME TO DRINK, THERE IS WORK TO BE DONE" WE WERE ACTUALLY AT THE GYM THAT NIGHT, NOT DRINKING...WE NEVER DRANK.

I UNDERSTAND PEOPLE JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS BECAUSE WE WERE IN A FERRARI AND IT WAS AT NIGHT -- BUT NOW YOU KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT MY BOYFRIEND AND I AND WHAT REALLY HAPPENED.

I HOPE YOU CAN TAKE IT FOR WHAT ITS WORTH AND STOP SAYING SUCH MEAN THINGS, HE NEVER WANTED ANYTHING BUT THE BEST FOR PEOPLE AND IT HURT MY HEART TO SEE SOME OF THESE COMMENTS.

LACY WHITE

I

Skyscrape's name is Timothy Katz per LA Times.

Mr Schorn:

Sorry I confused my sources on my last post. According to MMAmania.com, his name is Timothy Katz.

http://mmamania.com/2009/04/11/orange-county-district-attorney-clears-charles-mask-lewis-jr-of-any-substance-abuse-during-fatal-crash/

Thanks for the great piece. I live in Chile, so it was the first I hear about this.

Regards,
Kenneth Katz

It is sad how some insecure people have to try and create their own sense of power and rejoice in their own stupidity by criticizing someone who they never knew and who obviously had more courage than themselves. You are wimps and you know who you are.
Every one of you wishes secretly that you were the mask. Admit it... you couldn't be like him and your self centered side makes you so damn important. Leave the man alone... he was a great entertainer and followed his passion. Why don't you go and help someone like he did so you too can freely enjoy life.
Sorry to family and friends, I have passion for people who have passion and good hearts.

i remember him on tv living life then i hear about this i didnt know him that well but he was and still is a great guy til this day his memory will never die it will be with all of us who knew him tapout will live forever as long as he is in our hearts
shake n bake baby
we love you always man

I didn't know Charles even owned a clothing line. I thought he was just a character! lol. Wow, that sucks. So much success and so much to live for. R.I.P.

mask was the best thing for mma and tapout ever

you know i hope when i die ppl dont talk about how i died.... just how i lived. mask did alot for this industry. even if you didnt like his personality it doesnt give you the right to talk trash on him after he makes a mistake like your stupid life is perfect. all you haters are just fake asses that dont have the guts to build nothing into something! RIP mask

 
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