Show and tell, museum style: Baltimore artifacts are sought


June 01, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

If you had to contribute one thing -- one thing -- to a museum and that one thing had to have personal meaning but relate in a larger way to some aspect of life in Baltimore, what would it be? The plume from an a-rabber pony? An autographed picture of Brooks or Frank, or Blaze? The City Life Museums are looking for items that symbolize the local culture and character for a grand show-and-tell, all 'bout Bawlmer.

You don't have to give your goods for keeps, either. You can just lend them, if you want. I have three possibles: my collection of studio photographs of strippers from the old Gayety, a classic Natty Boh beer glass and the pen with which the late Divine signed his name in concrete at the premiere of "Hairspray." (I was doing my Walter Winchell imitation at the Senator that night and, during the signing ceremony, Divine couldn't find the proper tool for the inscription, so I lent him my Bic.

There's still a little dab of concrete on the tip. I keep it in my socks drawer.) If you want to take part in "Collecting Days," call 396-3523. This project coincides with "Collecting Baltimore," a new exhibit at the Peale Museum opening June 11 and featuring items such as a bottle melted in the great fire of 1904, a painted screen in the "Afro-deco style" by Tom Miller, a tea service by Samuel Kirk and one of the laminated "Hon" signs.

A stunning letter

When Carolyn Tillman went to her mailbox on April 28, she found a form letter from the Baltimore City Police Department. The letter was addressed to "the estate of Albert Reeves," Carolyn Tillman's 23-year-old son, who, at the time, had been missing for five days.

The letter announced that the Police Department was holding property -- gloves, a wallet, some cash, personal papers, a knife, a birth certificate -- that was "available for return" to the survivors of Albert Reeves. The letter advised Carolyn Tillman to obtain approval for recovery of the property through the Baltimore Register of Wills.

She was stunned. Was her son dead? Is that what the letter meant? That, she learned later, was exactly what it meant.

Tillman's son had died on April 24, his body found in a booth of a Block peep show, and his family had not been notified. Albert Reeves' wallet contained his driver's license, listing his home address as his mother's house in Edgewood, and yet no one had contacted his relatives. Carolyn Tillman found out by form letter.

The detective who came to her house six hours later was apologetic; so was the police captain who had the unenviable duty of telling Carolyn Tillman the strange details of her only son's death. Albert Reeves had died, apparently of heart failure, after inhaling an aerosol substance while in a peep show booth at the Sweden Book Store, 401 E. Baltimore St. Carolyn Tillman said she was told her son's death had been ruled accidental. She buried him May 2. She's still perplexed about the circumstances of Albert's death, still furious about the way police mishandled the notification.

"I was told it was miscommunication," she says. "My phone number was in my son's wallet. They could have contacted me. Contacting the family -- that's where they should have begun."

Capt. Mike Bass said there was no denying an error in the notification procedure had compounded Carolyn Tillman's pain. "One [police] unit thought another unit was handling the notification," Bass said, "and, instead, she found out through a letter."

Bass was profusely apologetic and candid about the episode, and noted that such mistakes in notification are rare. His explanation as to how such a mix-up could happen in one of the busiest police departments in the nation made sense, even, after a while, to Carolyn Tillman. But, as you might imagine, it hasn't made her feel any better. It probably never will.

Music for nostalgia

Andrea Marcovicci, the cabaret singer who recorded an album of love songs from World War II a few years ago, returns to Center Stage this month, perfectly timed for the massive nostalgia trip associated with the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Marcovicci, a sellout singer in New York who is highly regarded for her command of Jerome Kern songs -- "When she's onstage && and singing to you alone, she's the one true love of your life, and your wife is just your roommate," gooey-gushed Daniel Okrent in Esquire -- will be back in Baltimore over the Father's Day weekend.

Signs of times

A friend spotted a sign on Dorsey Road, near the airport, that advertised, "Silver Cream Corn." Sounds like it would be a little messy to eat on the cob. . . . Vanity plates spotted on a Maryland highway: a Winnebago with "ME GO" towing Honda Civic with "ME GO 2."


Our Remington correspondent, Ingmar Burger reports:

"I took a girl on a moonlight walk through the Johns Hopkins University campus the other night. 'What building is that?' she asked. 'That's the Eisenhower Library,' I replied. 'Really?' she answered. 'Which Eisenhower, Franklin or Teddy?' Probability of second date: Poor."

This Just In appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday right here at the bottom of the local news page. Letters should be addressed to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. If you have an item for the column, call (410) 332-6166.

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