Why Hollywood hates Baltimore

GREGORY P. KANE

April 16, 1992|By Gregory P. Kane

BALTIMORE, we got dissed again. In fact, we got dissed twice.

For those of you not up on the current vernacular, "dissed" is a term coined by rap musicians. It derives from "disrespect," but it's used as a verb meaning, in essence, to look down on or to show contempt or disrespect for.

So where did this "dissing" of Baltimore occur? At the recent Academy Awards show. How did Hollywood "diss" us? Barry Levinson, Baltimore's beloved native son and producer-director of "Bugsy," got it first. Nominated for 10 academy awards, "Bugsy" could muster only two measly Oscars. Hollywood could have stopped there, of course. Hollywood could have said, "OK. Baltimore lost the Colts. They've lost the Bullets. The Orioles are depressingly awful. The city's suffered enough." But Nooooo. Then it compounded the insult by handing out five major awards to that anti-Baltimore diatribe "Silence of the Lambs."

I'll bet most of you didn't notice the subtle anti-Baltimoreisms oozing out of "Silence of the Lambs," did you? But they're in there. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lechter, the lead psycho in "Lambs," is a Baltimore psychiatrist who kills his victims, chows down on their various body parts and is imprisoned in a mental hospital in Baltimore.

Why did the producers of the film select Baltimore as Lechter's place of residence? They could have selected Washington, D.C., a city in which you'll notice -- if you ever have occasion to visit -- the residents have taken the trouble to put a nut on almost every corner.

But let's assume the producers of "Lambs" had the artistic license to portray Hannibal Lechter as a Baltimore resident. Did they have to give us the coup de grace in Lechter's great confession scene? It went something like this: In order to secure Lechter's cooperation in nailing a serial killer who has kidnapped the daughter of a U.S. senator, he is transferred from his prison in Baltimore to one in Tennessee. When asked to give a physical description of the killer, Lechter instead responds with some mephitic remark about the senator's anatomy. "Take this thing," the senator snarls, "back to Baltimore."

Oh sure. Baltimore is the official national repository for all things repulsive. But the ultimate insult is Lechter's reaction to the senator's "return to Baltimore" threat. Hannibal the Cannibal starts singing like the Vienna Boys' Choir, as if to say "Baltimore: No, not there! Anywhere but there! Even a cold-blooded, psychopathic, homicidal maniac like me deserves better than that!"

Poor Baltimore. Dissed again. But one diss deserves another. So gather round, ye citizens of Charm City, and listen to how we shall get our revenge. First we get some enterprising soul to get the home phone numbers of all those cruel, horrible people -- had they lived in ancient Rome, I'm sure they would have rooted for the lions to eat the Christians -- behind "Silence of the Lambs." Then we appoint a harassment committee to call them early in the morning -- say around twoish. When they pick up the receiver, they are treated to a high decibel dose of rap group Public Enemy's "Burn, Hollywood Burn."

Gregory P. Kane writes from Baltimore.

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