Pausing in midsentence and pulling a sponge from his desk drawer, the well-rehearsed but heavily perspiring mayor-cum-actor is asking for another shot at his lines.
"It's the lights," Mayor Marion Barry said, dabbing sweat from his forehead and motioning to the spotlights trained on him by the camera crew crowded into his office. "Let's try it again," he said.
"D.C. is just a great place to work and to work here as the mayor is a great feeling," Barry said when the filming resumed. "D.C. is my hometown."
Barry's rocky acting debut is part of a new antidrug, proeducation music video that will be shown in junior and senior high schools across the city beginning next year.
In addition to Barry, other prominent Washingtonians, including school board Superintendent Floretta McKenzie, former Redskin George Starke, and disc jockey Donnie Simpson have been literally singing the praises of the District, hoping their words and success stories will inspire youth here.
"What do I love most about D.C.?" asks Starke jokingly during his segment in the video. "I love it because they let a little fat guy, a tight end from an Ivy League school come here and make a living playing football."
Stacy Lattisaw and Johnny Gill, a native daughter and son who have launched successful singing careers, perform the theme song, an upbeat celebration of life in the District.
The video also features a crew of singing D.C. firefighters, a pair of irrepressible ponytailed starlets, the Redskin Hogettes in full drag, local television journalists James Adams and Pat Lawson, and another musical segment recorded by jazz vocalist Al Jarreau singing "Dare to Dream."
Riggs National Bank gave the bulk of the estimated $18,000 needed to make the video, entitled "DC -- My Home Town." The D.C. Department of Human Services donated money to pay the production costs of the two songs featured in the video.
The video was produced by Crossroads, a national nonprofit group sponsored by the National Conference of Black Mayors, the American Council on Drug Education and RCA Records. Crossroads' executive director Mark Williams wrote the lyrics for the video's theme song.
The Crossroads program was organized about a year ago to stress community awareness and civic pride, and to help urban teen-agers cope with problems like drug and alcohol abuse, premarital sex and pregnancy, according to video consultant Laurie Stinson.
"What we want to do is to create a powerful tool of communication that will grasp and stimulate teenage audiences and encourage them to explore and examine themselves and their problems," Stinson said.
The local husband-wife production team of Jim Hristakos and Sharon Flynn donated their services at cost to produce the 10-minute video.
Hristakos said wrapping positive images into the popular music video format would make the messages more acceptable to younger viewers.
"We are doing the song as a music video, but there are speeches by successful black people who are telling kids how they made it through commitment and hard work," Hristakos said.
Bypassing the picture postcard image of the District that tourists associate with the city, the highlight of the video is a rousing crowd scene filmed two months ago in Pershing Park across from the District Building.
"Oh the tourists and politicians come and goAnd that's fine by me,As long as they know -- This is my home town,My home town!"
When released, the video will be shown at school assemblies and be accompanied by reading materials and informal discussions conducted by the Crossroads staff, Williams said.
"We are hoping to show it in large groups and then break into smaller groups and have some in-depth discussions with each student identifying his strengths and weaknesses so that we can direct them to agencies that can help them with their problems."
Stinson said the video's release is tentatively set for the end of the year, but much of it is still on the cutting room floor.
If the project succeeds here, Stinson said Crossroads hopes to produce videos for youths in other cities. "We think video and pop music are the tools for getting through to young people," she said. "That is the language they understand."