This Week On Metro Connection: Profiles (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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This Week On Metro Connection: Profiles

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And at this point in the week, most of us are still digesting our Thanksgiving feasts, whether said feasts involve, turkey, tofurkey or the new meat free sensation that's apparently sweeping the nation, veggie dukan. Basically, you take a bunch of yams, you stuff them inside a bunch of leeks. You stuff those inside a banana squash and then you put layers of vegetarian stuffing in between somehow.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

I am not kidding. But anyway, whichever way you culinary swing, this week is an excellent time to be thankful, To look back with gratitude on everything and everyone that made our lives a little bit brighter this past year. And here at "Metro Connection," we have a whole roster of individuals for whom we give thanks. I'm talking about the scores of generous souls who've lent their voices to the show to share their tales with listeners across the D.C. region.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

So this week, we're bringing you a collection of profiles of memorable "Metro Connection" characters from the school principals who quit their jobs and are literally enjoying the sweet life, to the man who gets permanent pleasure from creating works of art that are destined to disappear. First, though, in September, the Washington D.C. community lost a much beloved member, one who was vital in affecting the city's artistic transformation.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Jaylee Mead was a patron board member and dedicated friend of the Washington theater and arts community for more than 25 years. She was also a retired NASA astronomer. Numerous theater spaces are named for the petite North Carolinian and her late husband Gilbert Mead, including Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

The Meads $35 million gift was the largest donation every given to an American regional theater. Jaylee Mead was born in Clayton, North Carolina, and was 83 years old when she died at her home in Northwest Washington. Victor Shargai is a former actor and longtime D.C. theater patron, as well as the president of the Board of Directors for theatreWashington.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

That's the umbrella organization that promotes D.C.-area theater and produces the annual Helen Hayes Awards. Victor was friends with the Meads for years and years and years and I spoke with him shortly before Jaylee Mead passed away. And Victor says although Jaylee had become renowned for her generous behind-the-scenes support of local theater, she actually got her start in the spotlight.

MR. VICTOR SHARGAI

Years ago, in the early '90s or could be late '80s, I was privileged to see Jaylee appear on the stage at MAD, Music and Drama at Goddard. And that's kind of how she and Gil, I think, became special friends through that because they were both members of this organization. And she did the role of Bertha, the grandmother, in "Pippin." In the last twenty minutes of the show she had almost a 10-minute-long number, and she came on and took that theater over and took every person over. If she had chosen to become a Broadway actress, she would have been a star.

SHEIR

Is there anything this woman hasn't excelled at?

SHARGAI

I think anything she set her mind to, she excelled at. I mean, she was an incredible leader as chair of the board at Studio Theater. She's an incredible board member of any organization she's ever been on. And I've served with her on a couple of things and she had the same quality that Gil had. They would sit in the meeting, they would not talk, and you would think sometimes they weren't paying attention.

SHARGAI

And all of a sudden, a half hour or three-quarters of an hour into the meeting, either of them would come out with, well, this is what I see it as. And everything would come into perspective. And whatever Gil did, whatever Jaylee does, they did it with a full heart. Neither believed in giving money without being involved.

SHEIR

Will you take us back to when you met Jaylee? What was the moment when you first encountered here, when you first found each other?

SHARGAI

It was either the end of the '80s or the beginning of the '90s and they become kind of secret theatergoers as a result of MAD at Goddard. They started coming to Studio Theater and the wonderful story which is not myth or legend, it's true, I was on the board then there. And it was in the hole in wall on Church Street that Woolly eventually took over. And we put this acrylic box out in the lobby and people put in dollars or five dollars. And one day there was a check for $3000 dollars in there.

SHARGAI

And it was from Gilbert and Jaylee. And Harriet Blum, who was chair of the board at that time, Harry said, Oh my God, we've never seen anything that big. I have to meet this woman. So Harriet made up her mind and she met Jaylee, brought her to the board of Studio, and that's how we met.

SHEIR

You've become so close. I've seen both of you out at shows all around town for the past few years since I moved here. What is it that connected you two, do you think?

SHARGAI

Well, when Gil was sick, we spent a lot of time together. It became a closer relationship, I suppose then. And I spent the month before he died in the hospital with Jaylee because he was in a coma for a month before he died. And we just became very close. We both have this great love for theater and I always would tease her she would teach me how to be and I would teach her how to be bad because she needs a little badness.

SHARGAI

And we still joke about that. And then, I lost my partner a year before Gil and the three of us would always go out, Gil, Jaylee and I. And then after Gil died, we just took up and started doing everything together. And it became a very special friendship.

SHEIR

So Victor, given all you know about Jaylee, all the times you've shared together, how do you think Jaylee Mead will be remembered?

SHARGAI

I think probably the most important effect her presence in Washington has had is as a great teacher of how to do something worthwhile to support something you really care about. Beyond the names on the lobbies, beyond the names on the theatres, her passion has really caught fire and brought so many new people into the theater. And I think that will be remembered more than anything, her belief in the community and the love that she has for the artists. This passion that she has will live on forever, I think.

SHEIR

The man we'll hear about next also made a major contribution to society in this case to the realm of aviation. Now, most of us know that Orville and Wilbur Wright built the world's first successful airplane. But what many of us may not know is there's a lot more to the story. Emily Berman sorted through 100 years of D.C. history to bring us the tale of a local man who was one of the unsung heroes of early aviation.

MS. EMILY BERMAN

Yep, Al Welsh.

SHEIR

Hi, Emily.

BERMAN

Hi.

SHEIR

So, All Welsh, tell us more about Al Welsh.

BERMAN

Al Welsh was an immigrant from Russia. He was Jewish and his name originally was Laibel Welcher. He lived in southwest D.C. and worked as a bookkeeper and a part-time gym teacher.

SHEIR

So how did a Russian immigrant living in D.C. get hooked up with the Wright brothers?

BERMAN

It all began when Orville Wright came to D.C. to show off their plane. They were looking for customers. And who better to sell to than the U.S. government? There were no airports at the time, because this was the first plane. So the testing ground was a big grassy knoll at Fort Meyer.

MR. PAUL GLENSHAW

It was right adjacent to Arlington Cemetery.

BERMAN

This is Paul Glenshaw. He is an airplane history fanatic.

GLENSHAW

So you would have heard the noise of the engine quite far away. And they actually handed out tickets and thousands of people would come. In fact, one day, Congress shut down and all tromped across the Potomac to come see him fly.

BERMAN

Al Welsh was one of the faces in the crowd. And like everyone else watching, he found these Wright airplane flights amazing.

GLENSHAW

They are these magnificent creatures when they actually leave the ground. They're very big and the wings are bright white. And they move very slowly.

SHEIR

Wait, but it isn't like Al Welsh had a background in mechanics, right? You said he was a gym teacher?

BERMAN

Right. But the way Paul Glenshaw sees it...

GLENSHAW

There was something about the airplane that compelled him to change everything.

SHEIR

Change everything, that sounds dramatic.

BERMAN

It was actually. When the Wright plane was sold to the U.S. government and Orville headed back to the Midwest to kickstart production, Al Welsh was right behind him.

GLENSHAW

He chased them all the way to Dayton, Ohio, where they lived and approached them about becoming a pilot or joining them, just being part of what they were doing.

BERMAN

Part of the Wright brothers' business was a school and they needed flight instructors. But Welsh was turned away. They were looking for a certain type of guy -- elegant, daring.

GLENSHAW

A lot of them had a background in automobile racing or they were, you know, wealthy, sportsman types. Al Welsh was none of those things.

BERMAN

But Welsh stayed in Dayton and kept knocking on their door.

GLENSHAW

What we know is that he persisted and whatever it is that he said to the Wright brothers worked.

MS. LAURA APELBAUM

I think it was a totally huge tale that as a Jew he was admitted to the Wright brothers training school and became a pilot.

BERMAN

Laura Apelbaum is the executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

APELBAUM

It's kind of unbelievable. You're living shtetl in Russia and then you're flying a plane with Wright brothers. You know, it's amazing.

BERMAN

So Welsh and the other birdmen, as they were known, learned to fly.

GLENSHAW

There's no proper fuselage or a cockpit. It's just a little bench on the wing.

SHEIR

Oh, that's crazy. That's really different from today's airplanes. I'm assuming then no seatbelts or...

BERMAN

No. No seatbelts. And when you see these planes now, it is so hard to believe that anyone would have ever gotten on one of them.

GLENSHAW

And Welsh just -- he delivered. He was reliable. He was safe. You see a mastery of the airplane. And no need at all to hotdog, to put on a show.

BERMAN

Because they trusted him, the Wrights had Welsh train their most important students, especially those first few army officers to come through their flight school.

GLENSHAW

A young lieutenant named Henry Arnold who later became more famously known by his nickname Hap Arnold, who became the five star general who led the Air Force during World War II.

BERMAN

Two years passed and it was time to upgrade the planes used by the U.S. government. The Wrights trained Welsh on the new plane and then sent him over to College Park Airfield to demonstrate it for the military. He didn't know it then, but he'd soon be taking his last flight.

GLENSHAW

Welsh left the ground and circled out away from the field for about a half mile. And then turned and came back towards the field. And as he did, he dove. Apparently, at a pretty steep angle to gain speed so that as he made this climb, he had the speed that he needed. And as he pulled out of the dive, the wing tips came up and almost touched.

BERMAN

The plane fell straight down to the ground.

GLENSHAW

And in those days, they didn't wear helmets, they didn't wear parachutes. The airplane was completely demolished.

SHEIR

Oh, wow. So that's how he died?

BERMAN

That's how he died. His body was taken from College Park to his parents' home in southwest. And the family actually delayed the funeral so Orville Wright and his sister Katherine could come in from Ohio. And this is pretty remarkable since the Wrights, by most accounts, really didn't have friends. But they loved Welsh and actually Orville was one of the pallbearers at his funeral.

SHEIR

Nowadays, you know, we travel so much that flying can really seem, like, tedious. But when you think about the people who took those first steps toward figuring out what flight is and how to do it, it's amazing.

BERMAN

I know. There were no pilots before the Wright Brothers. It just didn't exist. You have to have a lot of guts to get on one of these planes. And I guess you had to be willing to sacrifice everything.

SHEIR

So when it all comes down to it, Al Welsh really was a daredevil after all.

BERMAN

Yeah. And the world's first Jewish aviator.

SHEIR

Well, thank you so much for coming in and sharing his tale, Emily.

BERMAN

You're welcome.

SHEIR

Time for a quick break, but when we get back, rock it out with a rather memorable music maker.

MS. DEBBIE FLINKMAN

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I figure, you know, a song is in the ear of the listener. So I think it's music.

SHEIR

That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." This week, we're giving another listen to some of our favorite profiles from the past year. And so far, we've been profiling people, like a major philanthropist in the D.C. arts world and a man who took to the skies as one of the world's first pilots. But we're going to kick off this part of the show by moving from humans to animals, More specifically a certain large animal at Smithsonian's National Zoo who recently revealed her love of music.

SHEIR

Sabri Ben-Achour has the story.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

So here's some music.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

And this is also music. It's from a pygmy celebration in eastern Congo.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

But what about this?

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

That last ditty is by Shanthi. She's kind of new. You might not have heard of her because...

FLINKMAN

Shanthi is our 36-year-old Asian elephant.

BEN-ACHOUR

That's National Zoo elephant keeper Debbie Flinkman. Shanthi plays/plays with the harmonica.

FLINKMAN

She's just so interested in finding ways to make interesting noises. If a lock makes noise, she'll flip the lock repetitively. She will blow across the top of toys that we have drilled holes in.

BEN-ACHOUR

Flinkman ended up fastening a harmonica to a wall in Shanthi's enclosure, and Shanthi would play it.

FLINKMAN

It's not usually a long ditty, but it always ends in this really sort of fanfare at the end, this big blowout.

BEN-ACHOUR

But is that music? And actually, what is music? Like, why do we even have it? Dan Levitin is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University. He doesn't subscribe to this theory, but he's helping me explain it. He says back in 1997 this scientist Steven Pinker at Harvard got up before a group of musicologists and cognitive scientists at their meeting and was like, you're all wasting your time because music is...

MR. DAN LEVITIN

Cheesecake.

BEN-ACHOUR

Auditory cheesecake.

LEVITIN

Cheesecake is interesting. We have this great fondness for it, but we didn't evolve a taste for cheesecake. It's an evolutionary byproduct or accident. In our hunter gatherer days, it was an adaptive strategy, if you found any, to load up on fats and sweets because they were very hard to find.

BEN-ACHOUR

So because we, for other reasons, like fats and sweets, we like cheesecake too. It doesn't mean that cheesecake serves an evolutionary purpose goes the argument.

LEVITIN

And he said the same thing applies to music that our brains evolved to want to communicate with language, and music just hopped along for the evolutionary ride.

BEN-ACHOUR

So let's take the idea of the beat. The beat. The beat.

BEN-ACHOUR

Human babies can keep a beat. Most music has a beat, but most animals have no rhythm. Like Gibbons -- these are monkeys that do kind of sing to mark their territory.

BEN-ACHOUR

But researchers tried to train these guys to just tap their finger in time to a metronome.

BEN-ACHOUR

Four hours a day they practiced for a year. The gibbons could not do it. And then there's this guy.

BEN-ACHOUR

That's a cockatoo named Snowball and he's dancing, like straight up dancing, keeping time, bobbing his head, kicking his feet. No problem keeping a beat.

MR. GREG BRYANT

Species that do this seem to be species that do vocal mimicry.

BEN-ACHOUR

That's Greg Bryant. He's an assistant professor at UCLA's Department of Communication Studies. Cockatoos don't dance in the wild, as far as we know, so there's no evolutionary reason why they would have evolved to keep a beat, but they can. The birds evolved vocal mimicry and it just so happens that helps with keeping a beat and dancing.

BRYANT

And so that might be the evolutionary origins of our ability too, since we also can also do vocal mimicry.

BEN-ACHOUR

But does that mean our music is an evolutionary accident? Really?

MS. ELLEN DISSANAYAKE

Oh, look at the key.

BEN-ACHOUR

Ellen Dissanayake is the author of "Art and Intimacy" and she's watching a video of a mother and baby.

DISSANAYAKE

All over the world, adults behave with their babies in ways they don't with each other. They make funny facial expressions, they move their heads and bodies in different sorts of ways, and they talk in a higher pitched tone with a lot of repetition, a lot of vocal contours. It's, I think, very musical.

BEN-ACHOUR

That universally sing-songy kind of way mothers and babies interact, she says, could have been the kernel, a million years ago, of what we now know as music. She says it could have started as an emotional bonding system that increased the survival of infants.

DISSANAYAKE

Babies come into the world ready to respond to the repetitions and exaggerations and the elaborations of the voice that the mother gives in baby talk.

BEN-ACHOUR

And they kind of move together, too.

DISSANAYAKE

At some point in human evolution, humans invented what they call, what we call ritual ceremonies.

BEN-ACHOUR

As human societies became more advanced, they developed rituals and built on that fundamental parent-baby bonding. We went from baby talk to Beethoven.

BEN-ACHOUR

But maybe music was a different kind of adaptation.

BEN-ACHOUR

And adaptation for getting along. Here's Dan Levitin from McGill University again.

LEVITIN

We now know that when people play music together, oxytocin is released. This is the bonding hormone that's released when people have an orgasm together. And so, you have to ask yourself, well, that can't be a coincidence. There had to be some evolutionary pressure there. Language doesn't produce it, music does. So the idea is that there's no primate society that I know of that has more than 18 males in the living group, because the rivalries cause the groups to break apart and there's too much fighting.

LEVITIN

But human society has thousands of members have existed for thousands of years. And the argument is that music, among other things, helped to diffuse interpersonal tensions and to smooth over rivalries.

BEN-ACHOUR

Back at the zoo, Shanthi loves to make sounds. Is it music? Elephant keeper Debbie Flinkman says it sounds like more than just playing around to her.

FLINKMAN

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I figure, you know, a song is in the ear of the listener. So, I think it's music.

BEN-ACHOUR

Dan Levitin thinks Shanthi is just basically playing around. But...

LEVITIN

I think that music is really -- falls along a continuum. There are things that are music-like, where you put the dividing line, I think, is subjective.

BEN-ACHOUR

After all, we can hardly figure out why we even have music, let alone whether Shanthi does. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

You can check out videos of dancing cockatoos and musical elephants and read more about the origins of music on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

We turn now from music to movies.

SHEIR

The sound you're hearing is one that's becoming increasingly rare actually. It's the whirring of a film at a drive-in theater, actually one of the last drive-in theaters in the country. It's called Bengies and the third generation family business in Maryland draws patrons from near and far. But Bengies is in trouble, at least according to its owner.

SHEIR

The theater's been fighting a four-year battle with a nearby convenience store whose lights, Bengies says, bleed onto the theater property and distract viewers. Martin Di Caro headed out to see how the next scene in this drama will unfold.

MR. MARTIN DI CARO

Inside the projection room, high above a rolling grass field of 250 parked cars, all facing a giant movie screen...

MR. MARTIN DI CARO

...D. Edward Vogel puts on a show.

MR. D. EDWARD VOGEL

Hey, I got to go quick.

CARO

Like a pinball, he bounces from one mighty projector to the other, empty reels under his arm, careening around his friend, Sam.

VOGEL

SAM is a Simplex Aromatic -- in fact, I don't think anybody has a SAM left.

CARO

SAM is a giant platter wound with an entire film, ready to be fed at 24 frames per second. Yes, SAMs are rare, so are people like D. Edward Vogel whose father designed and built his screen.

VOGEL

The monolith, a 52x120 foot monolith, that's the biggest screen left in the United States of America with a perfect picture and continuously operative.

CARO

Vogel tries to immerse moviegoers in nostalgia from the classic hits blaring from the speakers, to the aroma of tubs of buttery popcorn sold at his refreshment stand. In this atmosphere, it's easy for him to remember the first time his Dad let him into the projection room at nine-years-old. He still has a lot of kid left in him. But he says the past four years have taken the fun out of his life's work.

VOGEL

In 2008, I did not take a 16-acre of parcel of drive-in movie theater, designed and built by a famous architectural engineer, a perfect example of roadside America, I did not take that and park it next to a brightly lit farm store. That's not what happened here. And the fact that I was here first, apparently doesn't mean anything at all and that -- wrap your mind around that.

CARO

His tone might surprise you since he just won his lawsuit.

VOGEL

Did I?

CARO

A jury awarded Vogel more than $800,000 so he can build an 800-foot long fence to block the light coming from the Royal Farms Gasoline and Convenience Store on the other side of four-lane Eastern Boulevard. But the jury did not award him damages. In fact, he has not lost business since Royal Farms opened in 2008.

VOGEL

The business numbers are not down. They are always up. Is the bottom line? No. You're looking at a 56-year-old physical plant. Look -- look what I haven't done in the last four years because I've been spending money on legal fees.

CARO

Vogel's attorney, Wray McCurdy, convinced a jury that Royal Farms lights are a nuisance to the operation of the theater. He had a lighting expert testify at trial.

MR. T. WRAY MCCURDY

Royal Farms signs were anywhere from 10 to 100 times brighter than the movie attempting to be projected onto the screen.

CARO

Just like in the movies, there's more than one side to every great drama. Royal Farms has already filed the motion to have the jury award dismissed. And failing that, the company will appeal. John Kemp is Royal Farms' President.

MR. JOHN KEMP

Our concern here is that we at Royal Farms complied with the county regulations and we built the store with zero light migration and we have bent over backwards trying to basically rectify any issues that have come up.

CARO

His store has not been cited a single time by Baltimore County inspectors who were summoned to check out his lights dozens of times over the past four years. Kemp's attorney is Alan Abramowitz.

MR. ALAN ABRAMOWITZ

Our experts testified that not a single foot candle of light makes it across Eastern Avenue, let alone past the businesses, past the fence, past the tree line.

CARO

D. Edward led me around his property as Madagascar 3 played on his big screen, showing me where the lights were most visible. Sure, I could see them across the street, but are they distracting? Some moviegoers say, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE

Anytime you've got a bright light, it distracts you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE

It doesn't bother me, I'm here for the movies and that's what it's all about for me.

MALE

To be quite honest, it didn't -- I never even noticed it.

MALE

There's actually a stop light over there that's more annoying than the Farm store.

CARO

John Kemp was truly stunned when he lost in court. But Vogel isn't celebrating. He's says he needs to build a second screen to stay profitable, but he won't do so until the lighting issue is resolved and the expected appeal is over.

VOGEL

What other answer is there? I mean, I don't know. I would spend my last dime trying, absolutely.

CARO

Meantime, Bengies projectors rattle away, the show goes on. I'm Martin Di Caro.

SHEIR

And a quick update to this story, in September, a judge set aside the more than $800,000 jury award in favor of Bengies owner D. Edward Vogel. Vogel has appealed that decision so the sequel on this one has yet to be written.

SHEIR

We'll a little farther out in Maryland now and hit the beach for "On The Coast," our regular segment in which coastal reporter Bryan Russo brings us the latest from the eastern shore of Maryland and coastal Delaware. Now, Bryan does a lot of his reporting in Ocean City, Maryland, and if you've ever hopped over there in the summer, you've probably seen these massive sculptures rising from the sand right near the Boardwalk at Second Street.

SHEIR

These sculptures, often Biblical in nature, are the work of a man named Randy Hofman, whose been making sand sculptures in Ocean City for more than 30 years. Bryan chatted with Hofman about what it's like to spend so much time on art that's destined to disappear.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

When you start, you just have a mound of sand so going from the mound of sand to these exquisite and intricate scenes, you know, we're looking at probably a 15 foot Lord's Supper scene. Talk about creating that. How long did it take, what's the first steps, how do you do it?

MR. RANDY HOFMAN

These are mega sculptures now. I've worked up to -- the big efforts, the biggest sculptures I'll do for the summer, but when we come out in the spring, they're just little piles. They're like one-third the size of this Last Supper pile. And then, after we make a couple of them and they get decayed or vandalized, and then -- for example, this Last Supper here, we had to wreck two perfectly good sand sculptures and we lumped the two together to make this triple-sized sculpture, this Last Supper.

MR. RANDY HOFMAN

And we had about 15 kids out here digging, took about 3 hours to dig and took me probably 15 hours altogether to do this sculpture, you know, the whole day.

RUSSO

And you talk a little bit about the paste and using a little -- you know, you showed me the knife. It's like a little plastic carryout...

HOFMAN

It's a plastic knife. It's from the Mug And Mallet across the boardwalk in the Plim Plaza to pick the crabmeat. But it's a little plastic knife, but it's strongly made. I can remember some of the early years, I'd be looking for little sticks on the beach 'cause I'd want to do, you know, intricate details on the eyes and all and my hands were pretty good, but I couldn't really cut.

HOFMAN

And then this knife -- I don't know. I forget when I first started, but it's been my main tool and my whole life is this little plastic knife. It's so simple, but it's light and it's great to do lettering with.

RUSSO

Let's walk towards the sculptures a minute. Talk about how long that takes to kind of hone the craft to be able to have it this intricate.

HOFMAN

I remember when I thought, well, maybe I'll do sand sculpture and went over to asiatique so all alone and private so nobody could see how good or bad it would be. And I did a Jesus laying on the cross just flat on the ground and it was okay. But my early sand sculptures, they were like the Michelin tire people, you know, they were these blob kind of things. So it's taken a lot of devotion to keep honing the craft.

RUSSO

You know, certainly weather plays into the existence of these sculptures. I'm sure any time you watch, you know, the weather and you see a big storm coming, how much does a regular rain storm or wind storm damage these amazing pieces of art?

HOFMAN

Oh, my. You know, last couple of weeks, we've had a lot of rain, oh, and just some harsh storms have rolled through. Although now, we spray the finished sculpture with a little bit of water and Elmer's glue and it puts a crust on it and that protects it. And so they can last for about a month or so. But if it rains lightly, the rain will go in and wash off, but if it’s a heavy rain and it keeps raining hour after hour, it'll turn the Elmer's glue back into nature, you know.

HOFMAN

It'll dissolve and the sculpture will get heavy and blobbed down and just fall down.

RUSSO

Do these ever get vandalized? And, you know, I guess, talk about that, the way that the community interacts with these sculptures. Are they respected enough to not be damaged?

HOFMAN

Most people pretty much enjoy it for one reason or the other. It's kind of a combination of two. Wow, look, using natural materials on the beach, very appropriate, beach presentation of the Bible. So that's a cool thing. So most people like it, but then say like early in the morning, somebody's half drunk and they're not really mentally there and so they may jump on it or -- you know, in every crowd there's some wise guy that just wants to be cute and do something daring and he'll run up to it.

HOFMAN

So I don't know reasons why, but it does get vandalized once in a while.

RUSSO

Do you ever wake up in the morning and say, man, I gotta go do the sand sculpting again today?

HOFMAN

No, actually, I do so few now. In the early years, before the Elmer's glue, we'd do about 100 a summer. We'd have to come out every night. I was a Sabbath abuser. But now, I do about 15 of them or so, besides the commercial contracts I do of sand sculpture. So I kind of look forward to it because it's more fun than when I'm just by myself down in the studio just painting.

RUSSO

Are you looking to teach the next person that will keep this going, you know, when you can't do this anymore or when you choose not to do it anymore?

HOFMAN

I'd like to see it go on. I mean, it'd be a failure if it just dropped out when I drop out. I'm 60 right now, you know. I feel like I got maybe up to a decade. You know, they say, is this your church? Well, in a way it's a church, but more, I'm an evangelist, which means the bringer of the good news, the guy who just comes in, says, I got good news.

HOFMAN

You know, it's like a gossip. It's a Paul Revere guy riding on the horse, you know, runs into town, the British are coming. And I'm in Ocean City, says, the kingdom of God is coming. It's good news and he accepts you. You're welcome

RUSSO

But instead of holding the Bible, you're holding a little plastic knife and you're creating sand sculptures.

HOFMAN

Oh, exactly. I'm a visual communicator. I think God's equipped me with these skills to do this job in this way. And it's just as valid of a way as if I'm just - if I was in a church or on television or something like that.

SHEIR

That was sand sculptor Randy Hofman, speaking with WAMU's Bryan Russo. To check out some of Hofman's work, head to our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

After the break, catching up with a swaggering iconoclast of the D.C. jazz scene.

MR. ANDREW WHITE

Anybody involved with commerciality will tell you that there's certain things that they will not do, cannot do and I challenge all of that.

SHEIR

That story and more coming your way on "Metro Connection" here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And today we're looking back at some of our favorite profiles from the past year. And one of the people whose profile we simply cannot get out of our heads is a guy...

WHITE

Look at this. Here's a list of all the names they call me.

SHEIR

…who's been called some pretty wild names.

WHITE

Let's see now, Saxophoniac, Bionic Saxopohonist, Mr. Vocalese Buzz, Droobie Drooroo Rambo Sax, Saxophonic Eboniac, Slide Saxophonist, Zorro Sax and Chicken Alto. All among many others.

SHEIR

I'll just call you Andrew.

WHITE

You just call me -- yeah.

SHEIR

But you can also 70-year-old Andrew White an author, transcriber, improviser, composer, producer and ever-enterprising entrepreneur.

WHITE

Hi. My name is Andrew Nathaniel White the third. And I'm the president and founder of Andrew's Musical Enterprises Incorporated, Washington, D.C.

SHEIR

White's self-run, self-produced publishing company boasts more than 2,800 items in its catalogue -- from recordings to transcriptions to essays to novels. You can even buy White's 840-page autobiography, "Everybody Loves The Sugar."

WHITE

It is the largest autobiography in the history of music and we sell it here from Andrew's Music direct. And this is public station, right? You can't -- you don't call prices and stuff, right? Yeah, okay. Well, at least I'm saying it, you know. They can contact me.

SHEIR

Like I said, ever-enterprising entrepreneur. Andrew's music celebrates its 41st birthday on September 23. That's the day legendary saxophonist John Coltrane would have celebrated his 86th. And given yet another name White's been called Keeper of the 'Trane, the matching birthdays aren't exactly a coincidence.

SHEIR

You've transcribed, what was it, all of Coltrane's solos? Most of Coltrane's solos?

WHITE

Well, that's what -- we publish 701 Coltrane solos. Here's one here.

SHEIR

Stretching all the way across the wall. Wow.

WHITE

Mm-hum.

SHEIR

Before we go any further, a quick word about where we are right now. We're next door to White's Brookland residence in a cozy house he calls his Music Museum. I am, like, amazed by what I'm seeing on these walls. There are, like, hundreds of framed reviews, articles, photographs...

WHITE

Ah, you can look -- go ahead and look around. I don't know. I can explain anything to you, you might want...

SHEIR

Show me some of your favorites maybe.

WHITE

All of them's my favorites. All of them. Because it's all me.

SHEIR

White obviously takes pride in his career, which started in 1960 when he began studying music theory at Howard University by day, and playing sax with the JFK Quintet on U Street by night.

WHITE

We were at the Bohemian Caverns for, well, two and a half years. And we were famous for being groundbreakers. You know, we were doing a lot of original material. And then we had a stark contrast in our band between the trumpet player, who was a good soul trumpet player, and whatever you want to call me. I consider myself a swaggering iconoclast.

SHEIR

Yet another name we can call Andrew White. See if you can hear why in this selection from the JFK Quintet's album, "New Jazz Frontiers from Washington."

SHEIR

Since his days with the JFK Quintet, White and his alto saxophone have swaggered all over the world. But sax isn't the only instrument White has mastered. He's played bass with The Fifth Dimension, The Weather Report and Stevie Wonder. He even studied oboe in Paris and toured as principal oboist with the American Ballet Theatre of New York.

WHITE

I was with Stevie Wonder and the American Ballet Theatre for three years, concurrently. And I did have close calls where I was doing back-to-back work, and people would look around and didn't believe that they saw the same guy doing the same -- they thought I had a twin.

SHEIR

Which actually reminds me of yet some more names the indefatigable Andrew White has earned.

WHITE

Marathon Man and Hercules and everything.

SHEIR

He got these monikers in 1975, after a rather Herculean event. Can I ask -- I'm seeing these signs for your Marathon '75.

WHITE

Yeah.

SHEIR

What was that?

WHITE

That was a 12-hour concert that I played right here at the Top o'Foolery down on Pennsylvania Avenue, from 6:00 p.m. November 16 to Monday morning 6:00 a.m.

SHEIR

It's true. White and two quartets took over the old House of Jazz for the night with one intermission. And today, Andrew's Music offers the live recording...

WHITE

Here's the Marathon '75 series, right here. Whoo.

SHEIR

As a nine-record set.

WHITE

Volume One, Volume Two, Volume Three, Volume Four, Volume Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine.

SHEIR

Can we play one? Like, right now?

WHITE

Sure, sure. You ready for them?

SHEIR

I'm ready.

WHITE

All right. Here we go.

SHEIR

The quartets performed in shifts. But White, our Hercules Marathon Man...

WHITE

Yeah. It was hot.

SHEIR

He played the entire 12 hours. So talk about swaggering iconoclasm. The guy's recorded a nine-disc set of a 12-hour concert. He's done double duties with a pop-funk superstar and a classical ballet company. He started his own publishing company. He's been known to hawk his own merchandise at gigs. He's never even hired an agent or a manager.

WHITE

As an artist, I got something I'm doing and so on and so forth. I can't stop that simply because I have a contract with you that says that I owe you this and blah-blah this.

SHEIR

Here's the thing, though. If you ask Andrew White if he'd recommend that other musicians follow his lead -- so would you encourage more people to do what you did and just go your own way?

WHITE

I have never done that. No. You know, from an artistic perspective, it might sound noble. But when you index all of that with the practicality and the economics of it and all that, no.

SHEIR

But if you ask White what he does recommend? So what do you recommend? His answer is simple.

WHITE

I don't. Because I know it's different for everybody artistically or professionally. So you gonna sink or swim. You need to find that out for yourself.

SHEIR

And Andrew White has had his share of sinking and swimming since those early gigs on U Street. And though these days he performs and composes far more rarely, he says he manages to stay afloat all the while remaining true to the music that has made him D.C.'s very own swaggering iconoclastic, saxophoniac Marathon Man.

SHEIR

Another name Andrew White calls himself is Technological Dinosaur, especially when it comes to the internet. But for information on how to reach out to Andrew's music by phone or U.S. mail, visit our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

Clearly, Andrew White gets a ton of pleasure out of making and selling music. In fact, it's pretty safe to say he feels like he's living the sweet life. Well, the people we'll meet next are also living the sweet life. And I mean that more or less literally.

SHEIR

Adele Cothorne and Bill Kerlina used to be principals with D.C. Public Schools. And last June, they both left their jobs. Not for another school system mind you, but for the gourmet cupcake business. Kavitha Cardoza brings us their story.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Adele Cothorne cuts up chunks of slippery, glistening white cream cheese to weigh.

MS. ADELE COTHORNE

I use a scale because I've learned when you're producing large batches, it doesn't help to use measuring spoons.

CARDOZA

She wakes up at 4:00 in the morning to begin a long day. At the beginning of the week, she bakes about 500 cupcakes a day. But by Friday...

COTHORNE

I might bake 700 or 800 and then on Saturday, we pretty much lose count.

CARDOZA

Cothorne delights in dreaming up new cupcake varieties. There's a pomegranate martini cupcake, a bacon cupcake, and even a fried chicken cupcake.

COTHORNE

So it's a cornmeal cupcake with a chicken nugget breast inside of it, topped with maple butter cream and drizzled with maple syrup. If you like the savory and the sweet, it's the perfect cupcake for you.

CARDOZA

Opening Cooks 'n Cakes Bakery has been a leap of faith for Cothorne. She was an educator for 16 years in Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery County school districts. But she says one year as principal of Noyes Education Campus in Northeast D.C. was enough for her. Last year she left a $127,000 job with DCPS to start a gourmet cupcake business along with another disillusioned principal, Bill Kerlina.

MR. BILL KERLINA

And so I did jump on with the Michelle Rhee bandwagon, and was really hoping for true, strong reform for the school system.

CARDOZA

Both Kerlina and Cothorne were hired by former chancellor, Michelle Rhee, but left under current chancellor, Kaya Henderson. At least 17 principals are leaving DCPS this year, and a majority of them were hired by the former chancellor.

CARDOZA

Kerlina has 17 years of experience in education, mostly in Montgomery County. He was head of Hearst Elementary School in Northwest D.C. for two years. Both he and Cothorne stayed a far shorter time than the average five-year tenure of an urban public school principal. But both these former school administrators brighten when they recall their teachers, principals and especially the children.

COTHORNE

I loved the kids, of course, because they always come to you as they are. No hidden agendas.

CARDOZA

Ask them what they didn't like and they answer almost in unison. It's what they call DCPS's extreme, intense, overwhelming focus on testing.

COTHORNE

Just because you teach it on Monday at 2:00 and the kids don't get it, doesn't mean they're not going to get it Saturday at 3:00 pm, when a light bulb when they're at soccer practice. But we have gotten to a point that every child in that class must get it by Monday at 2:00 because we're going to test Tuesday morning at 9:00 and so you must have it. That's not natural learning.

CARDOZA

Both former principals say they received little support from DCPS's Central office.

COTHORNE

If your numbers don't look right, you're going to get a phone call or a nasty email, even though you're there 12-14 hours a day, sometimes getting advice from people who have never walked in your shoes. For me, personally, it was way too much.

CARDOZA

Kerlina says one incident in particular still upsets him.

KERLINA

The power went out at our school and it was rainy and cold and completely dark and I ended up asking the Sidwell principal if we could move our students over there.

CARDOZA

He says no one from the central office ever contacted him, so he decided to send everyone home.

KERLINA

I got my hand slapped. But if nobody calls from the central office, and I'm at a privately funded school who can only host me four hours, what am I supposed to do?

CARDOZA

DCPS doesn't offer any explanations about why principals leave. In general, DCPS spokesperson Melissa Salmanowitz says DCPS takes several issues into consideration, including test scores, family and community satisfaction, school culture and enrollment figures. But she says the focus is always on what's best for students.

CARDOZA

But research from the Wallace Foundation shows what's called principal churn creates serious problems for a school. Students, teachers and parents have to get used to the new person's priorities and new relationships have to be formed. Plus, there's always the danger staffers believe they don't need to do things differently because the new principal will leave soon as well.

COTHORNE

I'm about to melt some semi-sweet chocolate that is going to go in the middle of the s'mores cupcake and then top it with a marshmallow topping and some graham crackers. It's delicious.

CARDOZA

Cothorne says it's ironic the cupcakes she baked as gifts to cheer up her teachers have become her fulltime career. She says it was hard to leave her job in education, even though she would never go back to being a principal. For his part, Kerlina hasn't completely closed the door on returning.

KERLINA

Who knows what will happen in the future? I'm only 40, but certainly DCPS will not be in my future.

CARDOZA

Kerlina says he walked away from a $95,000 job and is making hardly any money now. Still, he believes he has something even more sweet, something that makes it easier to get out of bed early in the morning, a renewed sense of purpose. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.

SHEIR

You can see a slideshow of Bill Kerlina and Adele Cothorne at work in their cupcake shop, head to our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Emily Berman, Kavitha Cardoza, Martin Di Caro, Sabri Ben-Achour, and Bryan Russo. WAMU's managing editor of news is Meymo Lyons. "Metro Connection's" managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts," and our "Door to Door" theme "No, Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see all the music we use on our website, metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song.

SHEIR

Also on metroconnection.org you can find our Twitter link, our Facebook link, you can read free transcripts of stories and if you missed part of today's show, you're in luck, you can hear the whole thing by clicking the this week on "Metro Connection" link. To hear our most recent episodes, click the podcast link or find us on iTunes.

SHEIR

We hope you can join us next time when we'll explore the many ways we communicate. We'll ask whether D.C. has its own way of speaking and we'll explore the communication or lack thereof between the Districts bicyclists and drivers. Plus, we'll meet a man whose brother communicated all sorts of lessons even after he died.

MALE

When he got to the Marines, he knew what he wanted his life to be and he just went at it full force.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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