Schaefer at `low ebb,' he says

At launch of hunger drive, he imitates dog, orders sing-along


"I'm at a low ebb," Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer told onlookers at the kickoff of a statewide hunger drive yesterday. "I'm at a low ebb, and I don't know why."

Schaefer barked like a dog at one point before the meeting, then ordered a sing-along. He also asked an apparent stranger in the audience whether he was happy.

It all started when first lady Kendel Ehrlich summoned Schaefer, 84, to take his seat at the front of a ceremonial room in the State House while the crowd of 50 to 60 waited for her husband, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., to arrive. When Schaefer stood up to walk to his seat, he held his hands in front of him like paws and barked like a dog.

Schaefer explained that he had been warned to be on his best behavior.

"I do not say anything, any time," he said. "I do not look left or right."

A few moments later, Schaefer wondered aloud why the event had not started and decided to organize some entertainment. He spotted cantor Melvin Luterman, who works in the governor's Office of Service and Volunteerism.

"Sing us ... a song," he told the cantor. He directed Kendel Ehrlich to stand beside the cantor and sing along with him.

Luterman led the audience in "God Bless America."

Schaefer and the first lady attended the event as co-chairs of the statewide Harvest for the Hungry food drive, a weeklong effort in which postal workers, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts pick up food that people around the state leave by their mailboxes.

During the event, speakers, including the governor and his wife, vaguely referred to the Board of Public Works meeting Feb. 15 during which Schaefer ogled a young aide to the governor.

Kendel Ehrlich praised Schaefer when she addressed the audience, saying he is largely responsible for the food drive's existence. "If you know him, you know how big his heart is," she said.

While introducing Schaefer, Harvest for the Hungry founder Larry V. Adam Jr. warned him to "behave."

"Such a temptation," Schaefer said.

Schaefer spent much of his time thanking food drive sponsors and complimenting the Ehrlichs but took time to make his "low ebb" comment and to ask an audience member, "You back there, are you happy?"

"You're putting me on the spot here," responded the startled man, who told the audience that he lives in East Baltimore, has a family and a job and is happy.

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