Chuck Panama wants you to know that the whole thing is an accident.
“I’m not a pin collector,” Chuck, a seven-year volunteer at the Getty Center, told me. “I’m not one of these people who studies it. I’m sure there’s a pin magazine for collectors. I’m not one of those.”
It’s hard to miss him. The pins that weigh down his vest of bright green, the color worn by all volunteers who work with school groups, make him the most decorated of all his peers. Nobody is as pinned or as proud as Chuck.
He amassed the collection from sporting events and gifts from other volunteers who come back from travel, pins in hand. Chuck can’t say exactly how many he owns, though about 58 of them were hanging from his vest last Tuesday morning as he greeted schoolchildren for their visit to the Getty Center.
Chuck showed me just a few of his constellation of pins: One is from China, another from Japan. There are a few Dodgers and Lakers pins, ones from the Olympics, UCLA (his alma mater), Culver City, even one celebrating Vin Scully (a good friend). They create a cosmic order of flair.
What’s his favorite pin? Besides the one celebrating his five years of service here, it’s a small one that reads “Steamboat” given to him as a gift by his daughter, who now lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It lives on his right side, just above his heart.