Judge Ito, newest goblin in London

This Just In. . .

November 01, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

Remember the werewolves of London? Looks like there's something new (but not as hairy) haunting the banks of the Thames. Angela Oriente, who runs A&M Costume Gallery in Parkville, got a call the other day from an American in London. His name was Matthew Anderson and he was desperate for -- get this -- a Judge Ito mask for Halloween.

Angela thought it was a joke -- until Anderson called back, and called a third and fourth time. "He said he couldn't find a Judge Ito mask in London," Angela reports. "He said he was familiar with Baltimore and asked the long-distance operator to look up costume shops in the directory and give him the first one listed. We're the first one listed." Anderson paid $25 for "a nice, French-made Judge Ito mask," plus $60 for the Federal Express charge.

Now, there's a guy committed to spreading American culture abroad. Leaves you all warm and fuzzy inside.

Billie born in Philly

A new biography of Billie Holiday delivers what its author had promised two years ago -- proof that the late jazz singer was born in Philadelphia, not Baltimore.

Holiday, of course, has long been a point of hometown pride. She said in her 1956 autobiography that she was born here; at least one baptismal certificate records her birthplace as Baltimore. She certainly lived in this city and biographers believe her conception of jazz was formed here. There's a statue of Billie Holiday on Pennsylvania Avenue and an annual vocal competition in her name.

But British author Stuart Nicholson says Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan on April 7, 1915, up the road in Philadelphia. While researching "Billie Holiday," just published by Northeastern University Press, Nicholson found Holiday's birth certificate in the archives of the city of Philadelphia. In addition, a footnote in his book says: "It is interesting that while Baltimore has always been given as Billie Holiday's birthplace, as early as 1938, in a Melody Maker interview, both [Holiday and her mother] give Billie's place of birth as Philadelphia. Also U.S. Passport No. 1047225; Eleanora Gough McKay aka Billie Holiday shows place of birth Philadelphia. So Billie was well aware she was a Philadelphian."

Holiday's mother was Sarah Harris, also known as Sadie. She was born in 1895 in Baltimore, for blacks "a grim place to live," writes Nicholson, and a city that "could claim the dubious distinction of being the largest unsewered city in the United States." At 18, Sadie took a job as a domestic in Philadelphia. A couple of years later her Eleanora was born -- at Philadelphia General, 34th and Pine.

That creepy feeling

Cereal Mom, 30-something working-mother-of-two and TJI regular, reports a case of the genuine Halloween creeps. In the dubious spirit of the season, a panhandler stationed at Sunday's farmers' market under the JFX sported a "Jason-style" hockey mask. His creepy, faceless presence sent shivers up the spines of merchants and customers alike. Cereal Mom was too put off to even consider a donation.

"Court Docket" lives on

He would have frowned at the compliment, but George Hanst was a superb courthouse reporter and even finer human being. He was respected and admired -- by friends, colleagues, cops, lawyers, judges, even some of the defendants whose crimes he described with precision and panache as "Court Docket" reporter for The Evening Sun. (I learned the words "paramour" and "espantoon" from George, who sometimes used them in the same sentence.)

His "Court Docket" set a standard for knowledge of the law and clear English. Students could learn from it. It is hoped that they will. Barbara Hanst, George's widow, has donated his vast collection of "Court Docket" and other news clippings to the McKeldin Library, the University of Maryland's main campus reference and research center at College Park.

When the material becomes available, embryonic journalists are advised to have a look. (It wouldn't hurt to look up "espantoon," either.)

Find him a Republican

The other day in Eastern District Court, Judge Theodore B. Oshrine examined a case file and asked a defendant why he had failed to report regularly to pretrial services.

"I have been," the man insisted. "But they gave me a piece of paper and said not to come back until I had a letter from my employer signed by a noted Republican."

And, in Baltimore, they're hard to find.

Ghastly day at MVA

That wasn't your worst nightmare at Mondawmin yesterday. Those were just Motor Vehicle Administration employees dressed as witches, clowns and devils -- just trying to have a little fun on Halloween.

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Observations about life in the Greater Patapsco Drainage Basin may be sent to This Just In, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. The telephone number is 332-6166.

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