The entertainment scene in Washington will take a significant step downward on Dec. 19 when Mark Russell gives his last show at the Shoreham Americana, ending a 20-year relationship. Russell says the split does not reflect unhappiness with the Shoreham's management (though he says there has been some of that in the past) but a new decision on what he wants to do and where. "I just don't want to work any more nightclubs," says Russell.
In recent years, the politically oriented comedian has been spending about half his time on the road, including appearances at conventions and other special events, which he now intends to escalate. His new slogan: "America is my cocktail lounge; God is my bartender." His complaints about cocktail lounges are fairly standard in the trade (drunks in the audience, smoke in the lungs, insults, etc.), but he thinks he may also have spent too much time in one place: "I've started to clash with the decor. I'm as old as my father was when I started, and that's depressing." His immediate plans include "more travel, more television and more time in California." He plans no tearful farewells because he will be back in Washington, working for private audiences at special events, and next fall he plans to perform publicly here in a theatrical setting -- probably at Ford's Theatre. "I've been talking to them," he says, "and there's nothing on paper yet, but I think we're going to try it in the fall." Ford's director, Frankie Hewitt, agrees. "I've been a Mark Russell fan for 20 years," she says. "He's very talented and a terrific human being. There's nothing fixed yet, but I'm sure we'll work out something for the fall.