City's 'elite' 3 shrug off salute by Newsweek

July 29, 1995|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Staff Writer Sun reporter Arthur Hirsch contributed to this article.

What do a mayor, a priest and an investment firm CEO have in common?

Status, says Newsweek magazine. Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Auxiliary Bishop John H. Ricard and Alex. Brown & Sons CEO Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard are in the vanguard of America's new cultural elite.

They have money. They have influence. They have very high SAT scores and Ivy League diplomas. They have Republican wallets and Democratic consciences. They regard lacrosse as the king of sports. And they have mounds of arugula in their refrigerators.

They are, according to Newsweek, among the Top 100 members of the overclass, America's newest demographic supergroup, a new klatch of cappuccino-swilling high-achievers who spend their spare time surfing the Internet, debating public policy and being quoted in Vanity Fair.

The overclass are America's sparkplugs, what yuppies have become, the next step on the evolutionary scale.

And, according to Newsweek, which brags in its July 31 issue that it can spot a member of the overclass just like it could spot a yuppie 11 years ago, three of the Top 100 overclassmen hail from right here in Charm City.

Surely, these three Baltimore men (obviously, the women around these parts need to do some serious networking) are honored to be among such a high-powered elite. No doubt, they toasted their honor with an arugula salad washed down by a tall cappuccino.

"I don't think much about it at all," says Mr. Krongard, 58. "I guess I would use words like absurd, ridiculous. I have no idea how they got my name."

But Mr. Krongard fits the bill. He's a Princeton grad, a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. And he's the big kahuna in a high-powered investment firm who, in Newsweek's words, spends his business hours "barkin' orders at investors."

"That's absurd," Mr. Krongard explains patiently. "You don't bark orders at your clients. You're delighted if they want to do business with you."

Plus, "I don't eat arugula, I generally live on Milky Ways. And I don't drink coffee of any kind."

OK, maybe Newsweek dropped the ball here. Besides, Mr. Krongard answers his own phone, surely not a trait of the overclass.

Let's move on to Bishop Ricard, labeled by Newsweek as "Catholicism's most prominent African-American. A handsome, self-confident comer."

Bishop Ricard, 55, laughs at the characterization. It's ironic, he notes, that as pastor of St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in East Baltimore, he spends his time ministering to people who have absolutely nothing in common with those described in the magazine.

Bishop Ricard was educated at Tulane and Catholic universities. He doesn't make a big salary (few priests do). He doesn't drive a Jeep Cherokee or eat arugula or drink cappuccino. "As you can see, I don't fit the mold," he explains. "What's interesting is that they mention that most of the people in this group would spend their Sundays going over their portfolios. I certainly see my role on Sunday as proclaiming the gospel."

At least Bishop Ricard, who heads the American Catholic bishops' domestic policy committee, is flattered by the attention.

"I'm appreciative of the fact that Newsweek has given me an opportunity to highlight our church's advocacy for the poor and the marginalized in our society," he says.

Hmmm, that doesn't sound very much like a member of the overclass -- a group that has trouble understanding why anyone would be without a job.

Mayor Schmoke, who's running for re-election, must really appreciate this kind of notice. He's the perfect overclassman. He's a graduate of both Yale and Harvard, as well as a Rhodes Scholar. He drives a Jeep Cherokee. He may have played football himself, but he's mayor of lacrosse-crazed Baltimore. And he's one of the nattiest dressers in town (not a criterion mentioned in the magazine, but surely something the overclass would appreciate). But sadly, not even Mr. Schmoke, 45, is a big believer in the overclass.

"I don't understand it," he says. "I never heard that term until I read it in Newsweek. . . . Let me just say it's not going to go on my campaign literature. Nobody's going to vote for me -- I hope nobody will be against me -- because I made it on that list."

Well, you can't blame the mayor for not wanting to brag about this particular distinction. After all, the Top 100 includes people like Jerry Reinsdorf, the Chicago White Sox owner probably more responsible for the baseball strike than anyone; Susan Estrich, who ran Michael Dukakis' legendarily inept 1988 presidential campaign; Charles Murray, the social scientist who wrote a much-maligned book linking I.Q. and race, and Robert McNamara, former secretary of defense, who recently admitted that the Vietnam War he directed was a grievous mistake.

Some elite.

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