Unforgettable 1990 moments

Dan Rodricks

December 31, 1990|By Dan Rodricks

Pieces of 1990 too good to forget . . .

Most memorable moment? The blessing of the new Victorian fountain on the lawn of the Governor's Mansion last April. The governor was there, of course, and so were First Companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, and many other dignitaries. The clergyman assigned to bless the fountain spoke with British affectation and was quite blustery. He went on and on and on, calling to mind an old Monty Python routine: "Oh, God, thou art so big, thou art so very, very huge." The reverend invoked "ye fowls of the air" and "ye beasts and ye cattle." When the $169,000 fountain was unveiled, the reverend chimed: "Oh, God, thou art Ev-er flowing with goodness . . ." (If I reprinted the entire blessing, there wouldn't be any room in this column for other fond memories of 1990.) After the ceremony, lunch was served inside the mansion; we had fish sticks and baked beans. I hope they make the blessing of the governor's fountain an annual event.

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The biggest disappointment of the year? November's decision to remove the cigar from the mouth of Manny, one of the Pep Boys, in an attempt to dress up the company's image . . . Next to that, the biggest disappointment had to have been the dropping of assault charges against Rep. Helen Delich Bentley. That case had tremendous theatrical potential. The pint-size "Fighting Lady" had been accused of choking a process-server and former cop with a neck like a tree stump. The case was set for Towson District Court. That's a true people's court, where men and women point fingers, scream, gripe, and haggle things out the old-fashioned way. But what happened in the Bentley case? Some angst-ridden prosecutor announced that after examining the facts and searching her soul, she was dropping the charges against the congresswoman. Bentley didn't even post. Had they charged admission, I would have demanded my money back.

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Most exciting moment? It had to have been the spring day I was walking down Falls Road in Hampden, right near 40th Street, when some dude in a T-shirt and sweat pants ran by, two civilians at his heels. The civvies grabbed the guy and spun him around. One of them locked his right arm around the guy's throat and shoulder and held him there. His buddy ran off to call the cops. I took notes. The "suspect" had a plastic bag clenched in his hands. Apparently, he had just shoplifted something from the Royal Farm Store around the corner. Police cars descended on the corner from three directions. Boy, was that exciting! The cops pulled the plastic bag out of the suspect's clenched hand -- also exciting -- and examined the contents: a dozen bottles of Excedrin and a three bottles of Extra-Strength Tylenol.

Most interesting discoveries of 1990 . . . The movie, "Out Of The Past," wonderful film noir starring Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas; the chicken lo mein at Yung's carryout on Guilford Avenue; the view from the roof at Church Hospital; Chuck Diehl's antique-appliance collection (including the cast-iron combination washing machine-meat grinder); Big Little Joey Peske; jazz saxophonist Hassan Sabree; the polenta at Troia's in Towson; Merv Griffin is a good guy, but wears terrible suits; William Donald Schaefer appears to be getting shorter, thinks my name is "Don Brodrick," and says he's never read a single "Don Donaldo" opera column, though he finds them quite nasty.

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A story from 1990 we shouldn't forget: Woman Makes Date With Thief! This happened back in the spring, too. Paula Thistle's husband was the victim of a burglary; someone had stolen his car phone. Paula decided -- what the heck -- to call the number. After a few rings, a man picked up. Paula said she was a lonely lady looking for some fun. Paula enticed the man to a rendezvous at the Naval Academy. The man kept his date. He was arrested on the spot. Paula's husband, Mickey Thistle, sounded like a Mickey Spillane character when he speculated on the affair: "I can only guess that this guy thought he was getting very lucky. He started giving her the make, and she let him." Case closed.

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Favorite story of 1990 . . . Last January, at the Deer Island Jail in Boston, a prisoner wrapped himself in a sheet and climbed scaffolding until he reached the jail's roof. Then, he refused to come down until someone on the jail staff named all six children from "The Brady Bunch." It took five hours to get him down.

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