He was a former lawman who called himself "Mask" and advocated a hold-nothing-back lifestyle that helped transform mixed martial arts fighting into a craze and turned his own fighting apparel company into a multimillion-dollar business.
Before dawn Wednesday on a long, straight stretch of road in Newport Beach, Charles Lewis was killed when his red Ferrari collided with a white Porsche in an accident so violent that the red sports car was ripped in half and his female passenger was hurled into the street.
Police said the two cars appeared to have been traveling side by side at a high rate of speed at 12:57 a.m. on Jamboree Road near the Upper Newport Bay when they collided. Officers said they are investigating whether the drivers were racing.
The Porsche driver, identified as Jeffrey David Kirby, 51, of Costa Mesa, was arrested after allegedly abandoning his car on a side street near the collision and taking off on foot with his female passenger. Kirby is being held on suspicion of felony drunk driving and driving under the influence. Bail is set at $2 million.
Kirby's passenger, Lynn Marie Nabozny, 32, of Newport Beach, was arrested for public intoxication and later released. The motion picture database imdb.com lists a Lynn Marie Nabozny as having acted in the 1997 television series "The Heartbreak Cafe."
Lewis' passenger remained in critical condition at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.
Before he broke into the mixed martial arts scene, Lewis, 45, was a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who worked at the Central Detention Center in downtown San Bernardino from December 1996 to May 1998.
The Ferrari had "confidential plates" registered with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department because Lewis was a former deputy.
According to Orange County Superior Court records, Kirby has been cited for at least eight traffic violations since 2001, including a conviction for driving under the influence in which he was sentenced to three years' probation.
In the 2001 drunk driving arrest, Kirby allegedly told the arresting officer that his father was a retired CHP patrolman who always advised him to never submit to a sobriety test. He also told the officer that "he shouldn't be picking on people with money," according to the police report.
At TapouT offices in San Bernardino County, the secretary who answered the phone was in tears. The company's Web page was updated during the day to acknowledge the death of "our beloved friend, brother and co-founder."
TapouT spokesman Adam Feigen said Lewis and co-founder Dan "Punkass" Caldwell started TapouT in 1997, selling T-shirts out of the trunks of their cars at mixed martial arts shows to earn gas money. Fight promoter T. Jay Thompson recalled having to pick up hotel costs for the two men so they could sell their shirts at the shows.
As mixed martial arts exploded in recent years, TapouT became the apparel of choice for many fighters. TapouT was the exclusive apparel used in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's popular reality fighting television series on Spike TV, "The Ultimate Fighter."
"Everyone's going to miss him," said Ultimate Fighting superstar Chuck Liddell, who said he was looking forward to seeing Lewis at his upcoming fight next month in Montreal. "He had a great personality and he was at all the shows."
Lewis' infectious personality was captured for two seasons on the Versus reality show, "TapouT," in which Lewis and his partners traveled the country seeking mixed martial art's next star. A third season was about to begin filming.
Times staff writers Tami Abdollah and Ari B. Bloomekatz contributed to this report.