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Bright & Brief

April 21, 1990

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Read their lips - the people competing in the 17th annual National Whistlers Convention take the art seriously.

″We once thought that this was a rural kind of art found in small towns or Americana,″ said Allen De Hart, founder and director of the competition held in Louisburg, about 30 miles north of Raleigh. But he said the contest attracts people of all ages and economic and ethnic backgrounds.

″Obviously the art is like the art of music - it has no limitations,″ he said. ″People with all kinds of interests and backgrounds whistle.″

On Saturday, the 1989 national grand champion whistler, Sean Lomax, a 28- year-old computer specialist on a submarine based at Pearl Harbor, will defend his title.

He won last year by whistling ″Dance Boheme″ from ″Carmen″ and ″The Entertainer″ from the movie ″The Sting.″ Lomax will open this year’s contest with the national anthem.

The 58 contestants competing this year range in age from 3 to 88 and come from 20 states. Categories include best child whistler and best supporting whistler. Prize money this year totals $2,500, which won’t make anyone wealthy, but De Hart says winners receive national attention.

″All of our whistlers sooner or later get on some kind of a show, either the Johnny Carson show or the David Letterman show,″ De Hart said.

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NORTH SAANICH, British Columbia (AP) - Liz and Len Zedel are sleeping in the living room these days because the occupants downstairs are noisy and smell like fish.

The couple rent a cottage in this Victoria suburb two blocks from the ocean and near a small creek. About two weeks ago, they heard puppy-like whimpering under the bedroom floor.

″We thought it was ’coons or something,″ says Zedel, an oceanographer at the Institute of Ocean Studies. Then one day, ″I was brushing my teeth, looked out the window and was nose-to-nose with an otter,″ he said.

The couple soon found that a whole litter was being raised under the house. The landlord tried to block off the entrance to the lair with boards, but the adults dismantled the obstruction in five minutes, Ms. Zedel said.

Ms. Zedel, an opera singer who performs under the name Elizabeth Planje, said she practices scales and arias every morning and it doesn’t seem to bother the river otters.

However, she’s had to use some potpourri to freshen up the bedroom, which she said smells ″a bit fishy.″

The couple said they would sleep in the living room until the young otters grow up and move out. Wildlife expert Alex Matheson said that should take about three months.

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NELLIS, W.Va. (AP) - Jerry Lewis and Jerry Erwin have $500 riding on a hair-raising bet they made in 1963: Which man will shave off his beard first?

The winner, if there ever is one, undoubtedly will claim victory by a whisker.

The wager began 27 years ago when both men decided to grow beards in honor of West Virginia’s 1963 centennial celebration. Both shaved when the festivities were over, but soon grew back their beards because, as Lewis explained, ″when I shaved if off, I felt naked.″

To make things interesting, Lewis and Erwin bet $100 on who would be the first to shave. Neither has since, and as the beards have grown, so has the pot, to $500.

″That’s because of inflation,″ Lewis said.

Lewis keeps his beard trimmed to about 5 inches. Erwin’s, without a moustache, is about 9 inches long.

Neither Lewis nor Erwin, who work together at a Boone County automobile towing shop, will predict who’ll be the first to come clean-shaven. When asked recently, both just smiled and stroked their fluffy beards.

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