Former boxer has a good right, and an eye for antiquesFrom...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

January 30, 1994|By Rob Hiaasen

Former boxer has a good right, and an eye for antiques

From years of boxing, the top of Archie Hickerson's right hand looks as if another hand had melted onto it. At rest, his fingers fan out unnaturally. The skin feels like a tea-colored hide. There's no firm in his handshake.

"Taped my hands too tight," mumbles Mr. Hickerson, 75.

In the 1930s and '40s, he was a welterweight fighter nicknamed "The Tampa Kid." Mr. Hickerson had a pencil-thin mustache and a good right hand. No title fights, but he kept high company. He hung out with Joe Louis and Archie Moore and sparred against Sugar Ray Robinson (talk about hands).

For the last 30 years, Mr. Hickerson has been spotting and selling antiques excavated from bales of donated furniture at the 75-year-old Goodwill Industries of Baltimore. Mr. Hickerson's "right-hand man," Willie Stephney, has 34 years of experience at Goodwill.

Mr. Stephney, 65, cleans and rebuilds the pine roll-top desks, maple headboards, walnut dressers and oak toy boxes that Mr. Hickerson sells. Mr. Stephney is a self-made carpenter. "Nobody ever showed me the rules. God showed me," he says.

The two friends' work can be seen at Goodwill's 6th Annual Antique Sale Feb. 4 at the Timonium Holiday Inn. "The difference between junk and furniture is that junk is the type of furniture they make these days," says Mr. Hickerson. "It's not solid wood. It will fall apart in a minute.

Get Willie in the picture, too," he says. They pose amid the furniture inside Goodwill's sawdusty furniture repair room.

The two friends are asked if they ever go a few rounds.

"No, he can't stand up to me," Mr. Stephney says.

"He's an old man," Mr. Hickerson says.

When Archie Hickerson kids around, his right hand jerks up a bit to feign a punch. And he still has his pencil-thin mustache.

Great, just what we need: another aerobics video to collect dust on the shelf, much as the unwanted pounds accumulate on our slothful selves.

To which Thea Johnson would respond, "Step to It!"

That's the title of her new exercise video, a breezy "funk aerobics" workout with hip-hop music and moves that, loosened-up a bit, wouldn't be out of place in a club. That's because before she was an exercise instructor, Ms. Johnson was a dancer -- she was part of the first graduating class of the Baltimore School for the Arts (1982) and then studied on scholarship with the Alvin Ailey School of Dance in New York.

"This was my way of having it all," says the 29-year-old Randallstown resident, who gave up her pursuit of a dance career for college and kids, but never lost her love for it.

Ms. Johnson, who teaches aerobics at several area health clubs, was interviewed by a local TV station last year for tips on getting in shape for spring. A local multimedia company saw the show and approached her about making an exercise video; they would put up the initial production costs, then split profits with her. She and two friends were taped at the studios of a local cable channel over the course of three days for what would end up as a 26-minute video.

In addition to her aerobics teachings, Ms. Johnson, a divorced mother of two, also has a "day" job: She and an employee run a child-care business in her home.

The video is available at some health clubs and through mail order for $15.74 plus $3 shipping from MBC Media Group, P.O. Box 692, Reisterstown, Md. 21136-0692.

Jean Marbella

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