Having a brush with fame, with affection, apparel, music...


June 23, 1996|By Richard O'Mara

Having a brush with fame, with affection, apparel, music; 0) Fan: Earl Bozman, 68, paints himself in the image of his cowboy hero.

Earl Bozman seems determined to revive the reputation of one of the heroes of the old silver screen -- Gene Autry.

"He was about the best singing cowboy we ever had," Bozman said of the man who called himself -- what else? -- "The Singing Cowboy."

Bozman is a lifelong fan and emulator. That's not easy for someone who hasn't got a horse, never punched a cow and lives in Mount Washington, far removed from cowboys of any kind.

But he does his best. He affects a costume similar to the trademark get-up worn by Autry in the 82 movie westerns in which he appeared from 1934 to 1954. He wears a string tie, a belt with a bright buckle, a fancy shirt and big boots made from dead snakes.

He, too, sings. He advertises himself right on his truck: "The Singing Painter."

They are the words he lives by: They encompass his vocation and avocation. Which is to say, he's a professional house painter and an amateur singer. He volunteers his talents for picnics, at nursing homes around East Baltimore and occasionally in the Star Lounge in Dundalk. How does he sound? So far nobody's given him the hook.

Bozman is 68. He comes from Somerset County, not far from Salisbury. He specializes in his trade, which he takes quite seriously: He paints only interiors. He'll also clean your gutters and flush your spouts.

His affection for Autry began back in the 1920s, when he first heard Gene sing. He's got all the records. Some of his favorite Autry songs are "Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine," "Goodbye Little Darling" and, of course, "Back in the Saddle Again."

He says he gets a lot of requests to sing from the people who

hire him to paint, but he usually declines. "You gotta concentrate when you do interior painting," he said.

But occasionally, when things are going right, he'll whistle.

When the Maryland congressman stepped out of a Ways and Means Committee meeting into the hallway, Matthew May, boy lobbyist, was waiting for him. He and Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin talked one-on-one for 10 minutes, says Matthew, "about my issue."

The 14-year-old Baltimore boy was one of 51 young people -- one from each state and the District of Columbia -- who spent a week in Washington last month learning Lawmaking 101 and getting a taste of life on Capitol Hill.

The youngsters were chosen from 15,000 students based on letters they wrote to their congressional representatives as part of a National Youth Forum sponsored by the Lutheran Brotherhood of Minneapolis.

Matthew sat in on a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee and toured the House and Senate chambers. He met with aides to Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski as well as Cardin.

Matthew, who enters ninth grade in the fall at Greater Christian Grace Academy, wrote 1 1/2 pages to Cardin saying that the federal government could save money by printing IRS forms with a two-color process, rather than four. Cardin's office evidently passed the letter to the IRS, which wrote back to Matthew saying that the four-color process costs only 1 percent more. One percent more than what? Matthew wanted to know.

In their conversation, Cardin told him he would get back to the IRS and try to find out.

Some of the other students wrote about welfare, homelessness. Matthew chose his subject because his father, Bruce, is in the printing business and his mother, Susan, is a graphic designer. Matthew figures on going into the printing business some day.

Matthew, whose favorite school subjects are science and math, says he doesn't follow politics, doesn't read the papers and only occasionally watches television news. But he found his glimpse of government interesting.

"They have a real busy schedule," he says.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

Arthur Hirsch

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