This is a tale of polyester warriors and budgetary axes and of the bard who sang their lay in the land of New Town.
"Once upon a time there was a little band at a high school called Wilde Lake. . . . They didn't get varsity letters, they didn't become well-known, but theyenjoyed their contributions to their school," the tale begins.
The bard, Wallace "Gene" Shipp Jr., went on to tell how the band members joked about being the polyester warriors in their 15-year-olduniforms, but played their hearts out when their champions met Damascus on the field of football in November of A.D. 1990.
Their hearts were high with the prospect that when autumn came, the green pants with the gold stripes and the white blouses in ribbed polyester with wide lapels would be gone.
Instead, the band would be costumed in black Dacron and wool pants with green, gold and white stripes and white blouses with military collars. For had not the band director, Lewis Dutrow, already gone over the design with a manufacturer's representative?
And was not Wilde Lake next in line for new uniforms fromthe
fund created by the Board of Education, the fund that bought new uniforms this school year for bands at Hammond and the Mills of Oakland and the Mount of Hebron?
Alas, a financial cloud came over the land. And it became the school board's lot to wield the budgetaryax and lay waste the fund that would have paid for 60 uniforms at $255 apiece.
In his 20th-century identity, Shipp is president of theWilde Lake High School PTA and father of Kelly Shipp, a sophomore who plays mallet percussion in the school marching band. He is a lawyerwho is usually bound with such prosaic language as, "In the case of Missouri v. Mississippi supra. . . ."
"This was just something I sat down and wrote from my heart, and I've been flattered by the attention it's received," he said.
His tale, titled "The Little Band That Could (a real fairy tale)," posed the question, "Are WE the fairy godparents who could help such a dedicated troupe?"
Shipp said theband could have done the usual candy sales and car washes, and in fact the booster club has planned some fund-raising activities to pay for the uniforms. "But some parents say, 'I'd rather just write a check.' And I thought, 'I'm going to give you the chance.' "
The tale of the little band went out in the Wilde Lake High School newsletter about one month ago. So far, donations have come in to cover the costof 13 of the 55 uniforms the boosters plan to buy.
Dutrow said nodeadline has been set for the fund-raising campaign, but he must put50 percent down for the uniform order. It takes about six months to get uniforms, he said, "So the longer we wait, the chances for havingthem for the '91 football season look slimmer."
The final verse has not yet been written. But since fairy tales do sometimes come true, the last verse may tell how the little bandmarched proudly onto thefield in sharp new uniforms.
HOLLYWOOD IN HOWARD
Hollywood has come to Howard County.
More specifically, to a tiny courtroom in Ellicott City's District Court that looked even tinier with cameras and dollies and tracks and overhead lights and smoke machines.
"Do you have any questions?" asked the serious-looking judge as he glanced at his folder.
"Yeah," replied the lady in red. "So, when will I be eligible for parole?"
His Honor adjusted his black bifocals as he stared down the mouthy murderess. "If you do good time, 15 years."
The above sentencing was a re-creation filmed 10 days ago for "America's Most Wanted," that crime-stoppers docudrama that alerts viewers of fugitives who may be lurking in their midst. The eight-minute segment that will air May 10 involved three days of shooting and 16 hours of editing, all at a cost of $45,000.
The real-life defendant is Bertha Keene, a former dancer on The Block in Baltimore. In1969, while under the influence of PCP, she shot and killed a doorman at a Block hot spot after he demanded identification.
Keene was tried, convicted and later incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup.
Keene's boots were made for walkingand so she did. Repeatedly. In 1979 she made her fourth escape from Jessup and has not been seen since.
"It's extraordinary," said Mickey McKenzie, the show's program segment manager. "Not every day do you have a woman who escapes, and four times at that."
Once Keene'scase was selected by the Washington-based show, producers contacted Baltimore free-lance director Steve Yeager, who in turn, contacted Stuart Cooper and his Lasting Light Productions company in Columbia.
Performers were procured and costumed in those ever-so classic 60s fashions: wide ties, loud suits and ill-fitting miniskirts. PolyesterParadiso. They also sported those ever-popular chin-length sideburnsand teased Sassoon haircuts.
Following a day of shooting in Jessup, the 15 technicians and 10 actors were brought to District Courthouse for that 30-second sentencing scene, which took two hours to set up, one hour to shoot and another half-hour to break down.
Once done, the crew packed up and headed to Patapsco State Park for a staged get-away, a scene that never actually happened there.
"We needed the woods, and it was convenient," explained Cooper, who hopes that more county-produced projects will follow.
"This area seems ideal, and the people here are not as jaded. Howard County is getting to be metropolitan, but it's just as friendly as a small town."
The Maryland Film Commission seems to agree.
Two weeks ago, as part of a statewide effort to explore potential locations for future film and television projects, the three-member commission spent the day touring the county.
Transported by county police and escorted by members ofthe Tourism Council and Public Information Office, the team videoed and photographed Oakland Mansion, the Columbia Lakefront and Centennial Park.
So, Howard Countians, spruce up the yard, get out your dark glasses and prepare to join the ranks of Liz, Sean, Frank and Agnes.
(My cousin Agnes. Her lawn was trampled by moviemakers shootinga scene across the street from her Los Angeles home during production of that great cinema classic, "10.")
Stardom is beckoning.