Dreamer Dypsky leaves legacy of laughs

This Just In. . .

April 11, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

THE PRIEST at Phil Dypsky's funeral yesterday morning began with these words: "The souls of the just are in the hands of God." But, with so many echoes in the sanctuary of St. Casimir's Church -- and truck noise from O'Donnell Street outside -- I heard what the priest said as, "The souls of the jester in the hands of God."

Either way, it fit.

Phil Dypsky, who died at 83 this week (see obituary, Page 5B) made a lot of people laugh, mostly with gags about himself, and starting with his toupee.

You should have seen Phil's. It was the most remarkable shag in the Western Hemisphere, and I think Phil knew he startled people and pets with it. Same with his clothes -- half cowboy, half East Baltimore polyester. His ensembles -- in contrasting colors, patterns and material -- could actually hurt your eyes.

I hurt my eyes a few times in Phil's Turn of the Century Museum Saloon. I hurt my ears, too. I hurt my whole head.

Phil would do an over-the-top imitation of Jolson while the jukebox played "Sonny Boy." He'd draw the toy six-shooter from his leather holster, feign anger at an unsuspecting customer and scream a Polish curse.

When he wasn't tending bar -- which was frequently -- Phil was a collector of damaged-freight merchandise and dead men's clothing. Boxes of vests, neckties and pants filled the rooms in his corner rowhouse at 2900 O'Donnell St. (now, appropriately, Looney's Pub). I started my collection of vintage late-1940s silk neckties from Phil's stash. I got my off-white Bogie-in-Casablanca dinner jacket there. I still have the set of Chinese restaurant soup bowls Phil sold me. You should have seen all the mattresses he'd stockpile in the saloon; one night a gang of us had to move them to reach the bar for a drink. The man could have opened a plumbing supply house, he had so many toilets on the second floor. He had fabulous lamps made from Elvis busts.

Phil bewildered us with all this stuff. And he told endless stories about the good old days in Canton. He made us laugh. He drove us bonkers. He could be as stubborn as stone, as volatile as a Molotov cocktail.

But mostly, Phil Dypsky was a dreamer -- though an undercapitalized one. He was smart enough to conceive of a motel in Ocean City -- the Ebb Tide -- in the 1950s, but it took years to build and years more to get it rolling. Its success was brief. (The biggest night at the Ebb Tide was when, in Phil's version of the story, Jimmy Durante and Rocky Marciano made an appearance, Durante played the piano, then retired to Phil's master bedroom, along with Marciano. "It was a king-size bed," Phil explained.)

In the late 1970s, when Phil decided to buy a bar in Baltimore, he picked one in Canton; it was his old neighborhood, and he saw the area being redeveloped and filling with yuppies. He was right about that. But he never kept the place open long enough -- you practically had to phone ahead to order a beer -- to get it established.

For $3, Phil bought an old sign from a Block nightclub called The Talk Of The Town. He had a sign maker create a large "It's" in matching style. He wanted to arrange the signage on the exterior to say, "Phil Dypsky's Turn of the Century Museum Saloon It's The Talk Of The Town."

He never got the sign up. He sold the bar. He sold the Ebb Tide.

But the last time I saw him, he was still making plans. He wanted to get a car so he could start selling real estate again. He wanted to open a flea market.

He never got to do those things. But look, Phil Dypsky's legacy is not failure. No man who makes people laugh is a failure. Today we find the soul of the jester in the hands of God. God should

have a few good laughs before the day is out. Just wait till he sees that toupee.

Chow down, freshen up

From our official food taster and cultural correspondent, Joey Amalfitano: "Maxine and I grabbed a nice meal at Paolo's in Towson. A light rain fell as I stopped on Pennsylvania Avenue for a parking space and -- pop -- a guy hits my car from behind. Nobody hurt, no damage, other driver contrite. I parked and we went into the eatery. Maxine was a little shaken so we ordered our meals and each got a glass of wine. Maxine got grilled beef and salad; me, pasta with tossed salmon, fresh leeks, peas and sun-dried tomatoes. Before we left, we both elected to use the restrooms and were surprised to see dispensers of mouthwash -- love that garlic -- with tiny cups. A great idea. We both used. We walked to the car, got in and gave each other a fresh kiss as twilight gathered around Towson." Beautiful story, Joey.

Life after MPT

Remember Raymond K. K. Ho? He was the head of Maryland Public Television until 1995, when he was given the old heave. Ho made a noisy exit, too. He claimed he was fired, in large part, because of his status as a born-again Christian. He implied that there was a "Jewish connection" behind the effort to dump him from MPT. He called his firing a "crucifixion." Well, turns out Ho has finally found a home in broadcasting. He's working for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, Va.

Contact Dan Rodricks by voice mail at 332-6166, by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, by e-mail at

TJIDAol.com, or through the World Wide Web at http: //www.sunspot.net.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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