If Boogie's a flake, Leonard's just plain corny

MIKE LITTWIN

November 15, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

This is hard for me to say because the real Boogie is a role model, but the real Boogie wants me to spread the word that you might as well call him "Leonard" because that's who the real Boogie is in real life.

Call him "Leonard" Weinglass, prospective owner of a prospective Baltimore NFL expansion team.

Call him "Leonard" Weinglass, upstanding citizen, businessman, philanthropist, husband, father, non-gambler, straight-shooter and (excuse me, yawnnnnn) dog owner who says -- and he's breaking my heart -- "I am not a flake." He said it over lunch yesterday in front of witnesses, just so the NFL suits would get the message.

But, gosh, if Boogie's not a flake, what's the point of Boogie? For that matter, what's the point of flakiness?

The thing I love about Boogie is just the concept of being Boogie. It's getting the chance to say, "Mr. Tagliabue, Boogie. Boogie, Mr. Tagliabue."

I mean, you think Mickey Rourke ever plays Tags in a movie?

Come on, folks, taking the Boogie out of Boogie Weinglass is like taking the boogety out of boogety-boogety-boogety shoop.

And yet, "Leonard" met a bunch of guys over lunch at the deli -- he had a hot dog; I had corned beef on rye -- to say that even Diner Guys grow up. That's when he passed around, and I'm not making this up, pictures of his three children. A big packet of them. Kids playing with the dog. Kids playing with mom. Kids playing with dad. He passed them around as if to say: "Look, I'm the kind of guy who goes to the PTA. Why can't I own a football team?"

Yes, he wants to own a football team -- our football team. He has the money. He has a very impressive group of backers. He has Baltimore roots so deep that they easily stretch all the way to Aspen. And he says Baltimore should get a team and that he's the obvious choice to own it.

But he still looks like Boogie. In fact, he looks exactly like Boogie, starting with the silver ponytail right down to the "Boogie's Diner" jeans jacket. He's 50 years old, and he reminds me exactly of a New Yorker cartoon I saw the other week. It's a guy sitting on a doctor's examining table to whom the doc says: "You've got the clothes of a man half your age."

He looks like Boogie and he sounds like Boogie, and it's a plain fact that most people who own NFL teams haven't embraced anyone with a ponytail since their junior proms. These are guys who think casual means no cummerbund. They are not regular folk. They are Malcolm Glazer kind of folk -- Glazer, of course, being a businessman and Weinglass' principal competition for a Baltimore franchise along with Tom Clancy.

Boogie is, of course, so regular he's irregular. Maybe "Leonard" is different. Somebody built Merry-Go-Round into an $800 million business. But then he goes ahead to describe himself as "generous and fair-minded" and what kind of businessman is that? What kind of NFL owner is that?

The kind of owner I figured Boogie would be is the kind from the story he told on himself yesterday. It seems that when Jerry Hoffberger was selling the Orioles back in '79, Boogie's late partner, Harold Goldsmith, suggested they investigate it.

"I asked him how much they cost, and he said $12 million, but they've got $2 million in the bank, so it's only 10," Boogie says. "I said, 'If that's all, let's buy 'em. If we get the team, maybe I'll be the general manager, my brother can be the third-base coach, I got a friend who could pinch run.'

"But Harold says, 'Hey, we've got to get other people.' I say, 'OK, but at least let's take care of my brother.' "

Goldsmith sets up a meeting with Hoffberger for the following week. "Harold tells me," Boogie says, "that it's for 8 o'clock in the morning and we'll meet at such and such a place and that I should wear a suit. I told him I wasn't going to wear a suit. I'll wear a sports jacket, a nice pair of pants. I mean, I wasn't going to meet the president.

"It gets to be an argument. Then Harold says, 'If you don't wear a suit, I'm not coming.' We didn't go, and if we had, we probably would own the Orioles today."

Which means we eventually got Eli Jacobs instead. Now the grown-up "Leonard" says that if it meant getting a football team, he'd actually cut off his ponytail.

"But I'd grow it right back," Boogie says.

Yes, you know he'd grow it right back. He is a businessman, but he's still Boogie, a 50-year-old semiretired guy who wants a football team as a hobby. I don't know if that's good enough for the NFL or for Jacobs, who wouldn't even return his phone calls when Boogie expressed interest in buying the Orioles, but it's absolutely fine with me. He says he's young at heart and the NFL needs some young blood. He says he loves Baltimore, and even though he's worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he spends his summers in Ocean City just so he can see the Orioles.

He says his group has a legitimate $350 million. He says his group, which includes important Baltimore people, has sunk $12 million to $16 million into Baltimore charities alone. He says he employs 15,000 people in Maryland. But what he said that sold me was when he passed around those pictures of his kids that their names were Sage, Bo and Skye. Don't tell me "Leonard" did that.

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