Invitation From Bush For Polisar

Singer Banned By County Will Play At White House

March 28, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes | Dianne Williams Hayes,Staff writer

A mob of 2,500 young White House visitors will get to hear something Monday that most county school children cannot -- the songs of folk singer Barry Louis Polisar.

Polisar, whose material has been banned by county schools, and his three-toed, triple-eyed, double-jointed dinosaur will be the guests of George and Barbara Bush at the annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn.

The singer and composer hasn't worked much in the county since September, when a review committee ruled his tapes, records and six books inappropriate for children. It's the same work that won him an invitation to the White House and an award this week from the Maryland Library Association.

In a telephone interview from his Silver Spring home, Polisar laughs about the invitation and the battle over his material and said he will be at the White House, "unless it's an April Fool's joke."

"I think it's a great thrill and honor," Polisar said. "I said all along that Arundel County missed the point where my work was concerned. I'm doing songs to excite the imagination of children.

"That's the way the world works. One day you're down and up the next."

The swing in luck for the spirited performer is a welcome change after finding his county engagements that usually averaged 130 dwindle to only 35 this school year. Before the committee's ruling, Polisar enjoyed a 15-year relationship with the schools.

"There is no question, news of the ban and ensuing publicity affected my career," he said. "Some said they would book me, but there was too much controversy. People unfortunately picked up the wrong message of what the story was all about. Others booked me despite the dispute or perhaps because of it.

"On a national level, I was not hurt. Most think it's funny or consider the county provincial."

In January, Polisar threatened to sue the school system in hopes of protecting other performers from what he described as a "ban because of personal taste."

School system attorney P. Tyson Bennett has said that it was the material, not the performer himself, that the committee refused toallow as part of the curriculum.

But the winds of change may be blowing in his direction. Bennett, and Polisar's lawyer, Frank Morgan, are expected to settle the dispute within two weeks. Bennett was not available for comment.

Polisar is not requesting monetary damages, but he does want another evaluation of his material by a "suitable"committee and public notice to county schools that he and his materials are free to be consumed.

He complained that the review committee was handled by Bruce Horner, county coordinator of music, who did not understand his work. Polisar is requesting that the works of satire be considered by librarians or a language arts committee.

Polisar lets out a long sigh of relief when asked about his awards. "It's so funny to talk about something positive," he said. "I've been talking about the negative ban so long."

In the sing-song voice that fascinates his young audiences, he rattles off the contents of a letter from the Maryland Library Association, which will honor him in May for his works. The association's letter says his award is based on his"contributions on behalf of children of all ages for your joyous silliness," and "his ability to communicate with and excite children to read is especially noteworthy."

Polisar and his three-toed dinosaur song and video were also singled out for the "Parents' Choice Award," given by a Massachusetts educational clearinghouse, which reviews materials and makes recommendations to parents. That video was also banned by the review committee.

"The whole thing is so arbitrary," he said. "You win an award on one hand and banned on the other. My work is in lots of Maryland libraries, and to some degree they (LibraryAssociation) are probably aware (of the ban). They needed to be on record about it."

For now, Polisar is basking in his new recognition and a revival of his work, which carries this tongue-in-cheek label: "Songs on this recording may offend some adults, children are advised to use discretion when exposing these songs to grown-ups. Exposure may result in a sense of humor."

George and Barbara, you've been warned.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.