Ernest Easley keeps an eye on the Meyerhoff, and his ears...


March 21, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Ernest Easley keeps an eye on the Meyerhoff, and his ears open for its music

As a child, Ernest Easley faced a tough question: Should he become a policeman or a musician? As an adult, he found the solution patrolling Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

"It's the best of both worlds," he says. "I get the chance to do the security work I love and listen to music for free."

A 25-year veteran of security forces, he's become a friend and adviser to patrons and performers, escorting them to their cars and giving them tips about personal safety.

Others appreciate his efforts. David Zinman gave him a Christmas present (a money order), and BSO musicians sent cards when he turned 58 in January.

A laborer at Bethlehem Steel, Mr. Easley began this part-time work to help provide for his wife and put their three children through school.

One of the perks has been meeting people -- including celebrities like Patti LaBelle, Hal Linden and Red Skelton.

A particularly memorable assignment for this rock music lover was pitching in as the Temptations' bodyguard when the group was in town.

The most difficult part of his job is keeping the homeless from loitering in the area. He likes to think he's helped avert robberies by surveying the building at least 20 hours a week.

Although the business has made him more cautious around his own West Baltimore neighborhood, he says symphony-goers often forget safety precautions when --ing into the hall.

Take this recent incident: Mr. Easley watched a husband leave his wife's fur coat and pocketbook in the car with the window nearly half open. He spent most of his evening guarding their belongings.

"I told them about it when they came out," he says. "And the wife got after him. I kind of enjoyed it. She was chewing him out for something he did wrong." The Artist. Is he starving, tortured, successful or nuts?

None of the above, says Jeff Gates, an artist himself and an arts advocate.

To dispel such myths, he's created ArtFax -- at (410) 563-1903 -- a free monthly "faxazine" of news and information about the arts world. (Faxless artists can receive the newsletter through the mail.)

The effort is really a continuation of Mr. Gates' first love, ArtFBI, (Artists For a Better Image). He formed the non-profit group five years ago to promote the process of being an artist and examine how stereotypes affect it.

Partially funded by bumper stickers ("Make Art Not War!" "Art Is Not A 4 Letter Word"), the organization has conducted town meetings around the country. A sure-fire conversation starter: a video entitled "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes: Media Representations of Artists." In it, he shows how misperceptions of artists turn up on sitcoms, dramas and talk shows.

Mr. Gates, who is also a teacher at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, says these pursuits haven't kept him from his own art, photography, but have enhanced it.

His work is currently on exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, and he's developing a photo documentary about Los Angeles.

"I love the excitement of dealing with various spheres. . . . They're all works in progress to me," says the 43-year-old, who lives in East Baltimore.

The only drain on his time these days is planning his wedding to fellow artist Susie Krasnican.

"When you have two artists getting married," he says, "the wedding itself becomes an art piece."

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