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Special Kids Cut a Heartfelt Record

A line from the old carol comes to mind: “Sing, choirs of angels; sing in exultation. . . . “

Not that the “Kids of Widney High” are angels. Far from it. “Exultation,” though--that’s what their new record is about. Exultation and primal energy and even insight, in such quantity that after a few moments of listening, the fact that they’re a little off key, that the beat is sometimes less than precise, becomes of marginal importance.

That they did the record at all, there’s the miracle.

The Widney kids are developmentally disabled. Some are victims of Down’s syndrome, others of muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, blindness, epilepsy. . . . Most have behavioral problems. Their chronological age averages 17; intellectually, they’re kindergartners at best. And they’re the stars of a new record, to which they contributed melody, lyrics and voices.

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Under the guidance of music teacher Mike Monagan--a young man of talent, compassion, rampant imagination and uncommon forbearance--the class began to flesh out a project worth a lifetime of pride. “There was no precedent,” says Monagan, who proceeded to play it by ear in more ways than one.

“I first played them songs that I’d written, but most of them couldn’t grasp the concept.” Undaunted, Monagan asked each to pick out several random notes, which he spun into a song line. “Then I’d ask a kid what he’d like a song about. One said, for example, ‘A new car.’ What color? Where would you drive it? Result: the song ‘New Car.’ ”

By similar procedure, there are songs about a girlfriend, Hollywood, even insects. One is called “Throw Away the Trash,” another “Stand Up and Dance.” “New York” is for an East Coaster who died of muscular dystrophy (“He just came to the end of his road”) midway through the class.

The record is on sale at Tower outlets. Channel 5 will feature the kids on “Sunday’s Heros.” Monagan’s writing a book; someone else a screenplay. For the protagonists, most of the fuss is incomprehensible, except for this: They’ve always been called “special children”; now they know they are.

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Wimbledon: The Court of Appeal for Set of Older Players

Ed Baumer’s in Wimbledon this week. Not at Wimbledon-- in it. Baumer, of Pasadena, is one of 12 players picked to represent the United States against the best of Europe in a tourney for men 75 and older.

“They have the Brittania Cup for 65s,” Baumer lamented before enplaning for Blighty, “the Crawford Cup for 70s. We’re not official yet, so there’s no name (for the competition). Not yet. We’d like to name the cup for (former U.S. champ) Bitsy Grant. Great guy, Bitsy, but his eyesight’s going. Hey, all of us have something. Why do you think we need 12 on the team?”

Gardner Mulloy, another renowned Yank, was going to be on the team, Baumer said, “but at the last minute the King of Morocco called and asked if Mulloy would play with him in Monaco. He’s paying him plenty, I understand. Then Gardner’s going home to partner George Bush in a Maine tournament. He’s won 75 or 80 titles and swears he’s going to catch (Southern California’s) Dodo (Dorothy) Cheney, but she’s got 135 cups and she’s still going strong. She’s only 73, you know.”

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Baumer reckons he’ll play for another 10 years. Or more: “By then, they’ll probably have tournaments for 90s.” He stays in shape by playing “three or four times a week” at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, “only 10 minutes away from my office,” where Baumer is in the financial publishing and consulting game. Doesn’t the boss get on his case? “Not really. I am the boss.”

Whatever, Baumer figures that at 75, he has the edge on future foes. “I didn’t take up the game until I was 55, but I was All-American water polo, Rutgers ’34; my legs and my wind are good. So maybe by the time I’m 80 I’ll catch up with these guys. I hate to say it, but I think some of them have reached their plateaus. . . .”

Really? At 75? Imagine!

Roots of Royal Family Tree Run Deep

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Wherever you live, whatever your lot, if your surname is Clouston the blood of kings courses through your arteries. OK, it’s thinned some out here in Southern California. Nevertheless, a privileged portion of your plasma runs purple.

Or so says Robin Clouston.

Clouston is a civil servant in Holywood, a suburb of Belfast, Northern Ireland. His hobby is genealogy, his passion the Clouston clan. (Well, not officially a clan: “more a family, though we are entitled to wear the tartan of the kinsman Sinclairs (St. Clairs).”

The line traces directly back at least to the Viking monarch Magnus I (yclept Magnus the Good) and, on the other side, King Malcolm II of Scotland, both of whom strutted their stuff in the 11th Century, and whose family blood blended in presumed connubial bliss on the Orkney Islands.

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Clouston was kind enough to send a copy of the family tree, whose branches are adorned by an enchanting galaxy of ancestors: Gospadruig, King of Cumoria; Margaret, the Maid of Norway; Thorfinn, Jarl of Orkney; Erling the Archdeacon. . . . Immediate attention, though, focuses on one Haakon Havardson, also known as Klo, a Norse nickname for Claw. Haakon’s inherited land was called Klostath (Klo’s part), which segued in time to “Clouston.”

The rest is history. “A great many Orkneymen went to Canada in the early 1700s,” Clouston writes, employed by the Hudson’s Bay Co. because the English were not man enough to endure the Canadian clime. Of the Canadian Cloustons, Robin is sure that a number preferred the lotus to the maple leaf and bopped off to California, not least “a James or John who migrated to a place called Cottonwood in the early 1900s.”

The Ulster Clouston is compiling a broad history, hopes even to launch a family magazine. He’d love to hear from any of you Southland Cloustons (we’ll forward the mail). The reward? Not a scepter (however deserving; there is a statute of limitations) but rather a rare chance to walk again in the mists of Jarls and Maids.


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