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‘Mad’ Mark? Cline will make you smile

Story by Chris Graham

The man responsible for the herd of fiberglass elephants up on the ridge overlooking Waynesboro earlier this year has been entertaining people here since his days in elementary school in the River City doing impressions of characters from popular television shows like “Green Acres” and “The Andy Griffith Show” in front of classes at the behest of amused teachers.

“As an entertainer, I needed props, so I started making my own props,” said Mark Cline, a Waynesboro native known worldwide for his art and sculptures, and locally for his annual April Fools’ Day jokes that have included the memorable Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, the dinosaurs that threatened Glasgow and the flying saucer that had all of Rockbridge County aflutter for a few weeks.

This April Fools’ Day had Cline, who opened his Enchanted Castle Studios in Natural Bridge in 1982, back in Waynesboro with five elephants that he positioned along the mountain ridge above the old city landfill that were originally only supposed to stay in place for two weeks but survived for three months and had a group of locals trying to persuade City Hall to leave them up through the fall.

Cline was more than happy with the time they had in Waynesboro. You might remember Cline as the man behind the idea to put a 60-foot bust of “Mad” Anthony Wayne up on the landfill back in 1987. City Council nixed the proposal, which Cline said later was for the best.

“I learned in my research later that ‘Mad’ Anthony wasn’t necessarily a nice man,” he said. “Back in the day when they were naming towns, that didn’t matter so much. People were one-sided. But when history tells the real story, it’s not always so pleasant to deal with.”

The entertainer who compensated for poor grades in school with comedy isn’t at all the “Mad” Mark that he’s sometimes made out to be. Looking through a stack of photos, you see Cline as a spot-on Jack Nicholson, to a point where you want to ask Cline why he has a photo of ol’ Jack in the stack. Another screams Barney Fife from “The Andy Griffith Show,” prompting Cline to go into a dead-ringer impersonation of the Don Knotts deputy-sheriff character.

And then Mark Twain. “Who would have known that Mark Twain attracts the babes the way he does?” he said looking at a photo of himself dressed as the satirist with a pair of comely college coeds on either arm.

Cline, the lead in the upcoming Theater at Lime Kiln production of Dracula, or How’s Your Blood, Count?, grabbed a photo of himself as Elvis to tell another story. “I’m not a good Elvis,” he said, but asked to do a show at a local senior facility, he decided on an Elvis impersonation for three songs.

He ended up doing several more, and was choked up when the daughter of one of the residents went back to his dressing room to thank him. “She said her mother hadn’t smiled since 2004, and she laughed out loud today,” he remembered.

“We’re on this planet to help others, and use our abilities to help others. This is my strong belief, and why I do what I do,” Cline said.

“This is what gives me the energy and momentum to go on to the next project, to the next venue. People need to smile, and when they smile, there’s a good chance that they’re going to laugh, and laughter has been proven to heal people.”

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