Some friends threw a party last night billed as a celebration of former Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns' 72nd birthday. But the bash was intended as much to weigh interest in a Burns campaign for mayor.
Organizers of the $250-a-head party, held at Martin's Preston Room, say interest in a Burns candidacy is running high. The reason, they say, is that incumbent Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke -- who narrowly defeated Burns in the 1987 Democratic mayoral primary -- is not doing the job.
"There is nothing wrong with Schmoke as a man, but Schmoke as a mayor has been a disaster," said John Hubble, a real estate man who helped pull together the event along with several others, including Joe Townsely, a former union official turned consultant.
"Go to any city department and it is run wrong," Hubble continued. "As a businessman, I have a vested interest in seeing Du run."
Hubble said 106 tickets were sold to the party, which featured a fashion show with breathtaking models wearing designs by Giorgio Deronde of Beverley Hills. "Few people knew about this, but the tickets went in no time," he said.
For his part, Burns said, he is not giving any serious consideration to running for mayor until his backers lay some serious money on the table.
"Right now, this is a birthday party, an honest-to-God birthday party," Burns said as he greeted well wishers. "But it could lead to other things."
And Burns sounded like a candidate on the stump when asked to assess Schmoke. "It's as plain as the nose on your face that everything's a mess in this city right now," he said. "This is not the city it was three or four years ago."
To run for mayor in 1991, Burns said, he would want $500,000 in the bank up front. "You can build from there," he said.
But he is still carrying $60,000 in debt from 1987, and much of the money raised last night will go to Burns' campaign organization, Hubble said.
Among the 75 or so guests who made it to the party were William L. "Little Willie" Adams, a developer; Allen Quille, the parking magnate; former city Finance Director George Piendak; city public works legend Frank Babusci, and a handful of contractors, real estate people and political operatives.
Desite the turnout and political talk, Burns said, his only immediate plans are to continue enjoying retirement. Since leaving City Hall, the dapper Burns has traveled and even modeled -- "people tell me they've seen the ads in airplane magazines." He also continues to work the political vineyards in his native East Baltimore.
"I was on the polls in my precinct from 6:30 a.m. until all of the votes were counted on Primary Day," he said. "Politics is like any other disease. It gets in your blood and you can't cast it out."