A toast to heroes, rascals and the king now hiding in East Baltimore


March 04, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

I like Jim Speros' sue-the-bums attitude on this Colts business. It's absolute hooey that the name "Baltimore Colts" of the Canadian Football League could be confused with the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, and any federal judge who rules otherwise should have his frock cleaned. So far, I like what I'm hearing about this Speros. In his and the CFL's honor -- and because it's such a fine tune, and everyone in Baltimore should know the words by July -- we begin today's column with the Canadian national anthem.

O Canada! Our home and native land/ True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise/ The True North strong and free!

From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free/ O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Now, en francais (with apologies for the missing accent marks):

O Canada! Terre de nos aieux/ Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l'epee,il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une epopee des plus brillants exploits.

Et ta valeur, de foi trempee/ Protegera nos foyers et nos droits.

Thanks to the Canadian Embassy and Baltimore anthem singer Chick Szczybor for the words, and here's hoping Chick gets to sing both anthems -- ours and theirs -- this summer at Memorial Stadium. (He'd like to sing at Camden Yards, too, Mr. Angelos, Sir.)

Fraud with a twist

The problems of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Darryl Strawberry reportedly stem from his fees for signing autographs -- some $300,000 in income he did not report to the Internal Revenue Service. As everyone knows, not reporting income -- understating your earnings -- is the classic form of tax cheating. But can a person cheat by inflating income? Apparently, it happens. One such case just came to court. We're not talking major fraud here; the state and the federal governments each are owed about $15,000. But it's certainly fraud with a twist.

According to the state attorney general's office, a 55-year-old man by the name of Gary Ward filed several fraudulent tax returns, each of them overstating income, tax deductions and expenses. This way, he was able to evade taxes and collect refunds he didn't deserve.

According to the state, the fraud commenced in 1986. Until at least January 1992, Ward, who worked as an independent contractor for a now-defunct health services company, claimed to have earned more money than he actually was paid, thereby enabling him to claim larger deductions. He took individual retirement account deductions when he didn't have an IRA. He claimed federal and state taxes were withheld when the company he worked for withheld nothing. He deducted thousands in medical expenses when his bills actually were paid by insurance. "He turned the tax system into a source of income," says Norman Smith, assistant attorney general.

Sounds like a lot of trouble for the payoff. Except that Ward's crimes didn't exactly inspire harsh punishment. He'll have to pay the taxes he owes, plus penalties, but he won't be mailing checks from a jail cell -- if that's what you were expecting. Judge Thomas Bollinger, of Baltimore County Circuit Court, suspended all but 90 days of a three-year sentence and ordered Ward to serve the time on home detention.

Under the paint, it's Elvis

"Pentimento pen.ti.men.to (from Latin paenitere) a reappearance in a painting of a design which has been painted over."

-- from Webster's Third New International Dictionary

Here's a slap in the face of local culture. That gorgeous 15-by-12-foot mural of Elvis Presley on the Port Street side of Miss Bonnie's Elvis Shrine in East Baltimore has been painted over, ruined by vandals. If you never saw the mural, it's your loss. It was a superb work of art, from the hands of Raphael Pantalone, an art teacher at Canton Middle School, as a gift to Miss Bonnie, the late proprietress of the Fleet Street bar. Miss Bonnie adorned her place with tributes to the King. The bar is dark and for sale now -- "Without Bonnie, it's just dead plaster," a longtime habitue said of the place -- and, within the last month, vandals destroyed the mural. "First, they painted a red goatee on [Presley's] face," says Frank Lanham, the O'Conor, Piper & Flynn agent handling the sale. "Then one of Bonnie's sons called me to say someone threw a bucket of white paint on the mural." To spare us all further sacrilege, it was decided to coat the entire mural with fresh paint. What a waste. All we can do is pray for pentimento.

Duty calls to Florida

Nancy Kerrigan isn't the only person headed for fun in Orlando. March 14 through 16, an engineering supervisor in Baltimore's signal engineering section will be in that warm Florida city to attend a seminar titled, "Traffic Signal Timing in the '90s." Sounds like a party, eh? Cost to city taxpayers: $1,307. The Board of Estimates unanimously approved the expenditure this week. This transit super is a lucky fellow. He ought to bring back Mickey Mouse hats for the entire board.

Then shush about the slush

The following was the most oft-heard expression in metropolitan Baltimore yesterday. See if you can say it three times fast: "I'm so sick of shoveling slush."

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