'L.A. Law' 'case' gives actor chance to sing anthem at Orioles game


Ron Taylor isn't really a singer who performs the national anthem before ball games -- but he played one on TV.

That was enough for the Baltimore Orioles, who have enlisted Mr. Taylor to sing the anthem before their game July 1.

Mr. Taylor played a gospel singer who sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" on a recent episode of "L.A. Law." His unconventional rendition -- in which he embellished notes, holding some for unusually long periods -- caused him to be blipped. He sued and, with the help of the McKenzie firm, got an out-of-court settlement in his favor.

When Charles Steinberg, director of Oriole productions, saw the episode, he found himself "rooting for the singer, and against the close-minded ball club.

"I thought, wouldn't it be good for our ball club, which prides itself on being open-minded, to invite this man to sing at one of our games?" Mr. Steinberg said.

He added that he thought Mr. Taylor's unorthodox performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the TV show was "thoroughly respectable and patriotic and altogether American."

Mr. Taylor says he was "thrilled and honored" to be asked to sing at Memorial Stadium where the Orioles will be playing -- appropriately enough -- Motown's own Detroit Tigers.

"A producer from 'L.A. Law' told me that when the show ran, I'd get some requests," Mr. Taylor said on the phone last week from his Los Angeles home. "I said, 'Nah.' But the Orioles called, and so did the L.A. Kings" hockey team.

Mr. Taylor added that he does not plan any kind of outrageous interpretation of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"I don't want to really take it out," he said. "The song is self-explanatory. I'm just going to sing the song straightforwardly and that's that."

Mr. Taylor will receive no payment for the engagement, just airfare and hotel accommodations.

The 38-year-old actor and singer, a native of Galveston, Texas, did the voice of Audrey 2, the plant, from 1982 to 1987 in the stage version of "Little Shop of Horrors." He also played the Cowardly Lion in "The Wiz" on stage, and Hank in the recent film "A Rage in Harlem."

On TV, he was the high school coach in "Twin Peaks," a blues singer in a special two-part "Matlock" that was written for him, and the voice of Bleeding Gums Murphy, the soulful saxophone player, on "The Simpsons" (although, because he had commitments in New York, someone else substituted for him in an episode in which Bleeding Gums sang the national anthem).

Mr. Taylor, who said he is "a big baseball fan," expects to have a group of friends at Memorial Stadium to hear him sing. Most exciting for him, though, will be one listener in the crowd.

"I really like Cal Ripken," he said. "He's my favorite Oriole. He's great."

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