'Home'-coming at the Senator Baltimoreans shine: Locals feel a little glittery at the premiere of Jodie Foster's film.

November 04, 1995|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Talk about star-power and Oscars and glamour all you want, but the real star of Baltimore's gala premiere of "Home for the Holidays" was a 76-year-old retired carpenter and the simple two-story house he's lived in for more than 40 years.

Bayard Russell doesn't have much in the way of charisma, and he's certainly not used to being the center of attention. But at the Senator Theatre Thursday night, no one was a bigger draw than the man whose home played the movie's title character.

Even director Jodie Foster, the two-time Oscar winner whose presence was designed to put the gala into the big-premiere category, brightened when she happened upon Mr. Russell.

"You're here!" Ms. Foster practically shouted, her wide blue eyes revealing how genuinely happy she was to see the man whose home in Lauraville got a celebrity make-over for its role in the film. "I'm so happy you're here. Have you seen the movie yet?"

Mr. Russell, nattily attired in a gray flannel jacket he'd bought for a relative's funeral and hadn't worn since, smiled. No, he hadn't seen the movie yet. But a couple of cousins saw a sneak preview and liked it.

Ms. Foster beamed, said hello to Mr. Russell's son, Rick, and daughter-in-law, Sue, then moved on into the crowd of some 900 movie lovers, each of whom had paid $60 to be there.

For their money, the assembled mass got to breathe the same air as Jodie Foster and be among the first in Baltimore to see her 103-minute ode to Thanksgiving, and to families forced to tolerate each other in its name.

What Mr. Russell left unsaid was his opinion of those cousins' critical faculties: "I don't reckon they'd say if they didn't like it."

Jodie Foster is more than a movie star to Teresa Brusio. She's the young girl Ms. Brusio got to talking to on a cold February day earlier this year, the West Coast native unprepared for the chill of a winter morning in Baltimore.

Ms. Brusio cooked her friend a pizza that day. Ever since, she's been dying to find out how she liked it. She wanted to talk to Jodie, maybe give her a hug, maybe even get an autographed picture to display in her living room.

Ms. Brusio doesn't get out much anymore -- her knees bother her, and much of the time she has to stay home and care for her 94-year-old mother. But Ms. Foster's coming back to town -- now that's a cause for celebration.

So Ms. Brusio bought a new black dress, got her hair done up nice, had someone drive her to the Senator and showed up feeling like she, not Ms. Foster, was the one being honored.

"With this car and all, I feel like Cinderella," she said on her way to the theater.

Once there, unfortunately, it became clear she'd have little chance to greet her friend.

She worked her way to the front of a crowd that was waiting for Ms. Foster, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and other dignitaries to unveil a sidewalk block commemorating the occasion. But the crush of people forced organizers to postpone the unveiling, and Ms. Brusio couldn't stand there forever. She ended up standing in back of the theater, waiting to be shown to her seat.

Then Ms. Foster stood on the stage, thanked everyone for coming and made her way back toward the lobby -- right past Ms. Brusio.

"Jodie! Hi Jodie!" Ms. Brusio shouted as the actress walked by, reaching out to tap her arm.

Ms. Foster was too rushed to stop. She shot Ms. Brusio a wan smile and kept moving.

Oh, well. The night was still young, and there was still a movie to be seen -- one filmed in her very own neighborhood. That would be the highlight of the evening.

"I can't believe how beautiful they've made the neighborhood look," she says a few minutes into the film. "Do you think I'll be able to get a videotape of the movie?"

Extra excitement

You'd think no one in Baltimore would be more anxious to see "Home for the Holidays" than Stephie Trageser.

After all, she'd actually paid to be in it -- $580, pledged at an auction benefiting Center Stage for a walk-on role.

According to Ms. Trageser, however, you'd be wrong. Yes, she was excited to see the movie. But her on-screen debut? That really didn't matter. She had prepared herself, noting it could very well have ended-up on the cutting-room floor. The real excitement was being on the set. She'd already gotten her money's worth.

Still, there was no way Ms. Trageser would miss the big premiere. She and her husband, Roger, looked the picture of chic -- she dressed in black, he in a black tuxedo that hadn't been worn since their wedding two years ago.

"We've had a lot of movies done here in Baltimore, but this one is different," Mr. Trageser said as they headed for the theater. "This one was filmed right in our backyards."

As the movie unwound, the Tragesers laughed along with much of the crowd. They watched as the streets of Lauraville and Arcadia shone on the big screen. They waited along with everyone else to hear the word "Baltimore" (it was never said, although "Salisbury" was heard once).

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