The bloody mouthpiece lies on canvas under crystal chandeliers in the palace of dreams. A ringside helper retrieves it just before the fantasy in the green thong bikini thrusts a long, tanned leg between the ropes and struts around with the sign announcing ROUND 5.
The mouthpiece and the blood belong to Gerry Walker, the young Baltimore man in the yellow, blood-splashed trunks who comes to La Fontaine Bleu on this Wednesday night in his continuing battle to rebuild his life.He is off drugs and alcohol, he is newly married. His fondest dreamspoint him to La Fontaine Bleu.
Fighters, lovers, boxing promoters and bikini-clad sign toters seek their dreams in the supermarket-turned-catering hall on Route 2, where the lobby fountain suggests more romantic places than Glen Burnie and the wallpaper evokes Italian marble. Hallway sconces painted tofeigned gold, or possibly brass, light the way to ballrooms with such names as Rue De La Paix, Place De Concorde and Chateau D'Or. The Bridal Mall stores offer to launch new lives in white puffs of satin and taffeta. The boxing ring beckons young men with a shot at a title.
"My name is Vince, I'm your maitre d' today."
A black tuxedoed Vince Yukevitch squeezes into a bridal suite packed to the door with members of the Panutty wedding party -- men in pearl gray tuxedos with pink cummerbunds and women in white, blue, pink gowns. The party is fresh from the Harundale Presbyterian Church, where 30-year-oldTimothy Panutty has just married his hairdresser's daughter, 23-year-old Mia Groves.
"POP. . .POP"
That's the Roget spumanti, the bottles left in a bowl of ice on a coffee table in front of the sofa. Glasses are filled and palates lubricated. Yukevitch delivers marching orders.
"What we'll do is we'll do the blessing, then we'll do the toast and we'll go right into the dinner."
It's 2:15 p.m. on the first Saturday in June and all three suites are filled with weddingparties in waiting: the Panutty-Groves party in one room; Harry Wallace and Melanie Langford, Peter Davies and Heather Allan in the othertwo. The Jason Lopez and Jacqueline Kernane wedding is already underway in L'Amerique and Place de Concorde, the guests having just beenserved a flaming appetizer. Soon enough, Richard Allen and Theresa Shai will begin celebrating their union in the gazebo, a glass-walled ballroom with diaphanous white curtains shielding the view of the parking lot.
Five wedding receptions will be going simultaneously today at La Fontaine Bleu, the site of more than 500 wedding receptions a year.
The building with the arched facade was a Big Value supermarket until Thomas Stuehler, owner of La Fontaine Bleu, pulled out the checkout lanes, hung the chandeliers and opened it as a catering hall in 1978. It's now part of a company that caters events in Maryland, Delaware, Washington and Virginia and includes five halls: three inBaltimore, one in Washington, one in Glen Burnie.
Paul Maltese, general manager in Glen Burnie, has been there since the place opened.He's supervised scores of company banquets, award ceremonies, anniversary parties and bull roasts. And yes, nights of professional boxing, nights where the collapsible walls that divide the ballrooms are pulled back to make one giant five-chandeliered room. On these nights the schedule of bouts might be printed on the back of a flier flyer declaring, "We take particular delight in catering BRIDAL SHOWERS."
"We do a little bit of everything," says Maltese, who will spend thisafternoon running from ballroom to ballroom to kitchen and back to ballroom, overseeing everything from candle lighting to dessert slicing.
"I walk about 10 miles on a Saturday," he says.
Gerry Walker sits mum in an upholstered chair in a bridal suite surrounded by pink and green birds that perch and flutter on the wallpaper's foilbackground. A spray of artificial pink flowers rises out of a vase behind him. No Roget on ice, no chips, cheese or crackers on the side tables. Not on this Wednesday night.
Walker, a 158-pound middleweight, clasps his big hands together and waits for his fight with Ray Ruiz, a 160-pounder from Cleveland. In a few minutes Walker's trainer will tape his hands.
"Sometimes you can feel the stillness, that'sthe concentration," says Dom Baccala, a trainer at the Harding-Lowrygym in Pasadena. Two fighters from Harding-Lowry are on tonight's six-bout card.
Walker, who trains at the Loch Raven Optimist Boxing gym in Baltimore, is trying to keep his mind clear, letting his arms hang loose, not rushing himself into the ring.
"You don't want to focus too much on the fight too much before because you can drain your energy," says Walker, a 28-year-old who will enter the ring tonightwith a record of 4-2-1. "Right now I focus on relaxation. . . . Right before I go on I focus myself on the ring."