No more hats on the belfry for Schaefer--governor is going straight

May 02, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

Perhaps it was the article in this week's Star, the supermarket tabloid that calls him "the screwball with the rubber ducky." Or maybe it was the radio talk shows questioning his sanity. At any rate, Gov. William Donald Schaefer has made a lifestyle decision:

No more funny hats.

"People misunderstood and they used pictures of me to discredit me," Mr. Schaefer said yesterday as he strolled through Baltimore's annual Flower Mart -- wearing a yellow hard hat.

The photos "were used to make me look foolish all over the country," Mr. Schaefer said. "They wouldn't let a governor look human. They turned it around and made it look mean and obnoxious.

"I'm not going to wear funny hats anymore."

This week, the Star uses a classic photo of then-Mayor Schaefer clutching a rubber duck and wearing a Victorian bathing suit -- the get-up he wore when he swam in the Aquarium seal pool in 1981 -- to illustrate a story headlined "The wackiest governor in America."

"Gov. Schaefer of Maryland performs another bizarre stunt," the caption on the photo reads.

Indeed, the zany shtick that was considered charming when he was mayor of Baltimore -- the ridiculous headgear, the dressing up in costumes for public appearances -- now is deemed by some a symptom of gubernatorial madness. What once was cute is now crazy.

At a ceremony Tuesday in Annapolis, the governor hesitated before accepting a cap given him by a forestry group.

"You know, I don't put many hats on anymore," he said. "People thought that was wrong, for a governor to be human. I couldn't put hats on, I couldn't put bathing suits on, couldn't jump in the water, because that wasn't gubernatorial."

Just last week, Mr. Schaefer turned up at a party for state workers dressed as Elvis, in a white outfit, a bad wig, black sideburns and a guitar. Those appearances are over, the governor said -- at least for now.

But at yesterday's Flower Mart, where ladies wore straw hats as a shield against the sun and men sported baseball caps, Mr. Schaefer wore a construction worker's chapeau.

Why? "To keep his head from getting sunburned," snapped Lainy LeBow, Mr. Schaefer's devoted assistant, who stayed close to her boss as he bought a few plants, admired the daisies and posed with schoolchildren.

Mr. Schaefer -- who confesses he's become "a little self-conscious" about the photos accompanying stories about his sanity -- does leave open the possibility that Marylanders may one day again see their governor posing in weird headgear.

"Soon as the press lets me alone for a while," he said, "maybe I'll get around to putting the hats on."

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