Listen up everybody, this is important. The savings and loan crisis appears to have claimed another victim.
Hang the black crepe for the Legislative Follies, that venerable institution in which every General Assembly session pokes fun at official Annapolis. Every year for the past decade the musical revue produced by the Legislative Study Group took the seriousness and bombast out of the legislature by parodying everyone: Hughes, lobbyists, Hughes, legislators, Hughes, the press, Hughes, the governor's staff.
But these are serious times, and the Follies are apparently folding.
Savings and loans have taken the fun out of legislating, said Steve Sklar, the former Baltimore delegate whose wit fueled the Follies even after he lost at the polls in 1982.
"Basically, the whole thing is not funny, it's gruesome," Sklar said. "There's almost nothing left to laugh at. Any humor in this thing would be anticlimactic. It's dominated the whole mood and emphasis of the legislature . . . . You just can't squeeze any parody out of it anymore."
But what about the Levitts, that fun Baltimore couple whose alleged mismanagement of the Old Court Savings & Loan Association nearly ruined one industry, but whose spending habits and personal appearance have spawned another -- Levitt jokes?
"People know all the jokes," says Sklar. "What else are you going to say? You try to write it. People say we need humor, I say open up the Sunpapers and read about the Levitts."
But what about the governor? Who can ever forget those marvelous skits that mocked Hughes' style?
There was "Incredible Shrinking Governor," in which Hughes was portrayed by a series of ever smaller actors, from 6-foot, 11-inch basketball player Tom McMillen to 4-foot, 11-inch Del. Paula Hollinger (D-Baltimore County).
There was "Looking for Harry's G-Spot" in which doctors Masters and Johnson tried in vain to find Hughes' "government spot" to cure a case of "governmental dysfunction" and end his comatose state. The only thing that excited Hughes in that sketch was the prospect of election to the U.S. Senate, where, it was said, he could "do nothing for the rest of your life."
"We don't have to make fun of Harry," Sklar said. "We leave that to the editorials."
"My whole staff has deserted me," Sklar moaned: "My choreographer went to Florida, my executive assistant had a big falling out with somebody, the typist is gone."
What about Del. Gerard Devlin, another legislative wit who contributes to the Follies?
"Devlin's unreliable," said Sklar, who suggested the Prince George's Democrat is so desperate to get an appointment as a District Court judge that he's afraid to be party to any more Hughes spoofs.
Despite Sklar's reluctance, there is a move afoot in the legislature to save the Follies.
"We can't let it die," said Del. Joan Pitkin (D-Prince George's). "We have too much material."
Perhaps the final Follies joke will be this one: In their desperation to "Any humor in this thing would be anticlimactic." -- Steve Sklar save the revue, some legislators have turned to the League of Women Voters as a possible sponsor. The thought horrifies some Annapolis veterans who do not exactly look on the League as a hotbed of comedy.
"That's almost a skit in itself," said Montgomery's Sen. Howard A. Denis.