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Locals sparkle at Lions variety show

March 20, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

CLEAR SPRING - Getting old isn't easy for Harry Bryan.

He's got every ailment you can imagine - including dementia - and prescriptions for dozens of pills.

He's also got something else - his Maryland driver's license.

A ba-da-bing drum roll and guffaws greeted jokesters like Bryan who took the stage Sunday at Clear Spring High School during the final show of the Clear Spring Lions Club's 55th annual Minstrel/Variety Show. According to figures provided by Lions Club members, about 300 people turned out to see each of three performances over the weekend.

The audience heard songs such as "Somewhere over the Rainbow," and "Sweet Home Alabama," and they laughed along to lines as groan-inducing as a knock-knock joke.

"You know, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be ... And, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be," Bryan told the crowd Sunday.

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According to Bryan, the Lions Club used proceeds from last year's minstrel show to fund eight $1,000 scholarships for high school graduates. He started singing in the variety show in 1976 - after the group abandoned minstrel-style black face and made a transition to Ed Sullivan-style variety.

"They weren't allowed to do it anymore. It wasn't politically correct anymore," Bryan, 73, said.

Finding jokes that are appropriate for the whole family sometimes presents challenges for performers, Lions Club secretary Norris Belt said. Thirty-two singers and comedians, including about seven or eight Lions Club members, entertained the crowd, he said.

"Very seldom can you take little ones ... to an event and not hear four-letter words, but we try to keep it above board and clean," Belt, 55, said before the show.

Audience member Lena Mills said she enjoys the shows. As a resident of Clear Spring for 50 years, Mills said she recognizes the performers.

"I know, I know of them, or know them all. Yeah, they're all local people, home folks," she said.

Dressed in a red-checkered suit and tie and a green buttoned-down shirt, Belt said the performers' job was to leave the audience laughing.

Though Belt said he enjoys performing for a crowd, he admitted before the show that he and his castmates still get jitters.

"It's just you get out there, and you're nervous as a cat because you've got 400 people out there," Belt said.

To avoid feeling like a fool, Belt said the performer on stage must win some laughs.

On stage, Bryan agreed.

"My old pappy used to say you don't stop laughing because you get old, you get old because you stop laughing," he said.

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