Singer gets past old woes Children enjoy his funny songs

December 14, 1992|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Lynore Arkin and her schoolmate, Lauren Solonche, sat in the front row singing and laughing.

"Don't put your finger up your nose," the two 11-year-old Columbia girls chanted in unison, "because your nose knows it's not the place it goes."

"It's got a good beat," Lauren observed.

"I need a tape of this," added Lynore.

Lynore and Lauren were among 150 children and parents who packed Linden Hall in Dorsey's Search Village Center yesterday afternoon for a Hanukkah party with children's singer and songwriter Barry Louis Polisar.

The party was sponsored by the Dorsey's Search Village Association and the Ellicott City chapter of Hadassah, a Jewish community service and fund-raising organization.

Mr. Polisar, a nationally known children's entertainer who lives in Silver Spring, knows his audience. His off-beat, humorous songs seemed to touch a rebellious chord and a sense of the grotesque in just about every child in attendance.

Strumming his 12-string guitar, Mr. Polisar played such crowd favorites as "I Got a Teacher, She's So Mean," "He Eats Asparagus, Why Can't You Be That Way?" and "I Wanna Be a Dog."

"He Eats Asparagus," -- in fact just the word, asparagus -- drew a visceral response from his audience yesterday. The song focuses on a boy whose parents always compare him to a child next door who eats asparagus, cleans up his room and loves to take baths.

But like many of Mr. Polisar's songs, the seemingly subversive message has an unexpected twist at the end:

"You know he goes to bed at nine each night and brushes all his teeth/Mom wishes that I was him and he was me/You know I've never seen him even burp, he does what he is told/but the boy next door is 34 years old."

Another favorite, "I Wanna Be a Dog," discusses the advantages of the canine life, which include chasing cars, knocking over garbage cans and lying on the floor. During the chorus, Lynore, Lauren and many of the other children held their hands before them like begging dogs, stuck out their tongues and panted in unison.

Mr. Polisar, 38, got his start as a professional entertainer in 1974 in Howard County while he was a student at the University of Maryland College Park. He now plays 200 to 300 dates a year, including concerts and writing workshops for children. He recently toured Europe.

Performing in suburban Baltimore has been a mixed blessing for Mr. Polisar. Although he is booked here often, the Anne Arundel County schools created a stir in 1990 when they dropped him from a list of approved performers. The school system deemed Mr. Polisar's recordings and books "unsuitable for use as instructional material."

During the ensuing controversy, Mr. Polisar's bookings dropped by 50 percent, he said. But an appearance last year at the White House helped revive his career. Later in 1991, Anne Arundel dropped its objections to him performing in exchange for a promise that he would not sue.

Mr. Polisar said the criticism came from people who didn't listen closely enough to his lyrics.

"People are so quick to make assumptions," he said. "I think we're also less open-minded than we were in 1974 when I first started."

But, he noted, "Kids are the same."

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