The clientele was clearly the attraction at Harry's. On a typical Friday night, one regular would arrive early in his Bentley, bring in an assortment of imported cheeses, salami, bread and mustard and spread it out on the bar; everyone helped themselves. As the evening wore on, a tugboat crewman might review the work that a recent Maryland Institute graduate had hung on the walls, journalists disputed with priests, symphony players jammed with country and western guitarists, Emile and his troupe of itinerant buskers would work their way through, (''The Incredibly Bad String Band,'' as they were known in Harry's), political arguments raged, the finer points of Ellington and Coltrane were assessed, assignations proceeded blatantly into early bloom or late decay, while Harry sat in his rocking chair, a solid anchor in turbulent seas, happily presiding. He had worn out two rockers and was working on a third when he sold the bar.
Harry was mercurial. If his forensic ability failed him, he might close early. On the other hand, if the evening was a success, he sometimes locked the door at 1 A.M. and everyone kept going. ''I don't want to say anything bad about the Liquor Board or the Police Department, but I don't believe either one of them knew that I was in business,'' he said. ''I didn't sell beer after hours -- I gave it away.''
Harry's recent death brought home the realization that a special
era in a unique part of Baltimore was over. And it crystallized his totally off-hand contribution. Harry's brand of contentiousness, a mixture of exasperation and humor, people found engaging. (One of the few times he really got angry was when Rabbit, a full-blooded Yaqui Indian from Arizona who had dug subway tunnels all over North America, and a friend, climbed into a pair of his pants -- one in each leg -- and appeared in the bar.) And Harry believed that everyone's talent, whether for plumbing or writing, music or labor, was unique and worthwhile.
''Harry never ran a saloon,'' recalled John Denney. ''He just opened the door to his living room and invited people in.''
James Dilts is a free lance.