Some enchanted evenings -- that's what we were looking for. They didn't have to include strangers or crowded rooms, but they did have to represent the night ne plus ultra in Baltimore.
What is it that puts the charm in Charm City for night owls, we wondered.
The local folks we caught up with had some grand ideas -- from gourmet dinners and dancing to bowling and 3-D double features.
Don O'Brien, WMAR-TV weekend weatherman and 92 Star morning show personality, would start his night of nights with a limo, a good plate of ribs and Sen. Barbara Mikulski. "She's Baltimore, through and through," he explains of his escort. Soon as they'd wiped their hands clean, they'd be whisked off to the Baltimore Arena for an NWA wrestling show. His ideal match-up: a tag team duel involving the Four Horsemen and Doom.
"After a good battle to the finish, we'd, of course, go to Hooters to look at the beautiful, um, scenery," he says. "We'd end with the perfect nightcap -- bowling two games at Timonium Fairlanes. Hopefully, Barbara would get a 300 game so we could get a free one."
Interestingly, former Block stripper and club owner Blaze Starr was the only person who mentioned the beloved Maryland crab in her plans. She'd begin with the seafood platter -- and requisite crab cake -- at the City Lights restaurant in Harborplace and follow that with a concert by Lee Greenwood at Pier Six, where he'd perform her favorite song -- "God Bless the U.S.A."
"Then," she says, "I'd hope somebody real nice would come along and we'd get a romance going."
George Figgs, owner of the Orpheum Cinema, would simply ask himself a question: "What is the most stupendous movie experience I could have in Baltimore?" His answer: a 3-D double feature -- "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" -- at the Senator with his date, the late Italian actress Anna Magnani. When the credits rolled, he'd dazzle her with a trip to Fells Point via water taxi. "I'd fantasize that I'm in Venice," he says. "I'd hear gondoliers singing in the background." He quickly confesses, however: "It would really be arabbers selling bananas and soft crabs."
For Orioles pitcher Jeff Ballard, winning big at Pimlico Race Course would set the tone for the ideal evening. He'd spend the money eating at Hersch's Orchard Inn and bar-hopping in Fells Point. "I like the Horse [You Came In On] or Admiral's Cup," he says. "You don't get your ears blown away there like you do in some clubs." And finally, he'd stroll along the harbor arm in arm with a pretty woman.
And who would his dream date be? Actress Julia Roberts.
A meal at Mencken's Cultured Pearl or Harvey's might get things started for tennis pro Pam Shriver and her desired companion, John Kennedy Jr. Taking him to see "White Palace," the steamy romance starring Susan Sarandon and James Spader, probably wouldn't hurt either, she says. They'd wind down with drinks at the Owl Bar or the Rusty Scupper. "Of course," she says, "I would hope the gentleman would make some decisions."
A dinner at Hampton's would be the beginning of a memorable night for State Delegate Elijah E. Cummings, D-39th. "Sitting in that restaurant, you get the feeling that you're not in Baltimore," he says. Things would liven up for him later at 32nd Street Phase III (formerly the 32nd St. Plahza) where he'd listen to jazz and dance.
While he concedes that others might not consider that a four-star evening, he says: "To me, that sounds exciting."
Performance and visual artist Joyce Scott wants to pack so much into her evening that it would have to start during the day. A caravan of limos ("one silver stretch, one snow white, one black patent, one red") would arrive in the afternoon to take her shopping to Cross Keys and Howard Street with idols such as Frederick Douglass and the late Gracie Allen.
She'd catch her breath over drinks at Peabody Court where the staff would prepare a "post-happy hour, pre-dinner snack pate." Recharged, she and her entourage would feast on soul food, dance at the International Pavilion, attend a marathon comedy show at Theatre Project, host a champagne movie party at the Senator and have brunch.
"After that," she says with a sigh, "we'd be just about burned out."