The squeal of a tape recorder being rewound screeched out of the phone's ear piece, sounding like a 33-rpm Donald Duck being played at 78. "Hang on just hang on a second," said Jimmy Dixon. Finally, he asked: "Ready?"
Out boomed the trumpets, snare drums, flutes and trombones of the United States Air Force Band, in Sousa march tempo. After eight measures or so, Jimmy Dixon's baritone voice started singing along:
"There's no place so pretty/As Washington City/In springtime, in summer or fall . . .
"Washington and Lincoln/Jefferson and Lee/The men who did the thinkin'/To make our country free . . .
"That's why I'm proud to say/The District of Columbia-a-a-a/Is my-y-y-y home town!"
James Lamb Dixon is a man with a musical mission. A wealthy real estate broker, Dixon has written more than 100 songs at the piano in his living room just for fun. "Some were good, some were bad, some were indifferent," Dixon says. "Most of them were bad."
But Dixon doesn't think "The District of Columbia Is My Home Town" is among the bad or indifferent ones. Dixon wrote it in 1951 when The Washington Post learned that the city didn't have an official song and ran a contest to fill the void. Dixon's entry finished fourth out of 1,374, but it might as well have finished 400th.
"Nobody's heard of it since," he says.
Still, for 30 years, Dixon has sung his song at bars, dinners and social events, and he still burns with the desire to see his composition become the official song of the city.
"I'm not talking about money," he explained. "I'd give any royalties to charity. I just love this city and I want to give it my song. It wouldn't have to be the only one. Hell, this is the nation's capital. Let's give it six official songs!"
Dixon didn't know it, but the city already has two.
According to Kathryn Ray, a reference librarian at the Martin Luther King Library, Washington may be the only city in the country with both an official song and an official march.
The official song is called "Washington." It won the contest that Dixon's song didn't. Written by Jimmie Dodd, it was adopted by the city on March 19, 1951.
The official march, called "Our Nation's Capital," was written by Anthony Mitchell and was accepted officially on Feb. 25, 1961. But it's got to be one of the least-renowned official pieces of music ever put on paper. Ray spent three hours scouring the Library's music section the other day, and couldn't find either a recording or a copy of the sheet music. "I guess we must not get much call for it," she observed. o
Jimmy Dixon has his tape recorder at the ready. His next intended telephone audience is Nancy Reagan. "I'm going to call her up, play it for her and ask her to get Sinatra to record it," Dixon says. "Sinatra may be what it takes to get it going. Like Irving Berlin said, the easiest thing in the world is to write a song, but the toughest thing in the world is to write a hit."
Pauline K. Liebowitz of Rockville wrote the other day to tell me that, in her experience, the car most likely to take up two parking spaces in a public lot is a sports car.
I wasn't convinced. In my experience, the bigger the car, the more space-hoggish the driver. Lincoln Continentals head my Line Straddler list.
But then Tom Hooker of Sterling called. Tom drives a 1978 Corvette, and he admitted that he Line Straddles whenever he can. The reason: money.
"I've got a semi-custom paint job, and whenever I take up just one space, invariable someone will ram their door into mine," Tom said.
"Each time I get a 'ding' in my car, it costs a minimum of $30 to fix it. I've got so many 'dings' that I don't bother to repaint any more."
Tom acknowledged that just because he drives a sports car, he isn't above the law. "But look at it this way," he said. "If people practice some kind of restraint and respect for other people's property, this wouldn't be a problem."
I still say the answer is either a) buy some rubber stripping, several inches thick, and seal it to your car doors, or b) take the bus.