A surprise bash for a Baltimore legend


November 28, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

A Baltimore County purveyor of turkeys was misidentified in Friday's TJI column. R&L Hay and Straw is the correct name of the company. It is located in Reisterstown.

A happy gang of men and women - old friends, employees, drinking buddies, kindred spirits and loyal customers - turned out for a little surprise party honoring the legendary Baltimore restaurateur and genuine bohemian, Morris Martick, on the approach of his 75th birthday. Morris did all the cooking; he made mass quantities of bouillabaisse. His friends had to trick him into it, though. They had to have someone call and insist he cater a party of 60.

"When the lady told me 60 people, and they all wanted bouillabaisse, I thought, I like a challenge, and accepted the challenge because I've got one Bunsen burner in the kitchen," he said. "I don't know whose idea this was."


He didn't know he was being feted until old friends started showing up. Nearly 80 of them did. Morris' sister, Jeanette, was there with her husband, Nate, as was Morris' brother, Alex, an attorney. The atmosphere was warm, friendly and, of course, nostalgic. Everyone spoke of the old times at Martick's. Tommy DiVenti, poet and raconteur, came from New York. Billy Moriarity, painter, and David Spero, once-renowned Baltimore pig fancier and now liberal political activist in California, came from Berkeley and San Francisco, respectively. Joe Kerns, a Martick's waiter who went on to teach at Northern High, was there.

"Nice to see the place packed," Morris said over the clatter and chatter. "Hasn't been packed since 1920."

The bouillabaisse was rich and wonderful. The chef wore his standard T-shirt, wrinkled work pants and watch cap. He's lean as a slat, smoothly bald and looks extremely fit and youthful for his age. His restaurant, once a speakeasy, is on Mulberry Street, has been for years. You have to ring a doorbell to get in. Those who were at the party know the routine. They used to work for Morris.

"The charm of my employees was that they were dedicated," he said, ironically. "You never knew when they were going to come to work. And you never knew when they were going home."

John Alexander, a lawyer, played the piano, and Tylden Streett, sculptor and teacher at Maryland Institute, played the drums standing up. They played as if it were 1958 when they were the house band during the bohemian-beatnik era of Martick's bar. Habitues during that time included journalists Russell Baker, J. Anthony Lukas, David Culhane, Lou Rukeyser, Paul Banker, Janetta Somerset Ridgely and the artist Joe Sheppard. "In the old days," Nate Miller said, "Leonard Bernstein would come by when he was in town and play the piano."

It might have been the first bar in Baltimore to show art. Morris employed generations of students from the Maryland Institute - and still does - and occasionally from the Peabody. He had a string quartet playing only last week.

Morris closed the bar in the late 1960s, went to France for culinary training, and came back to open the place as a French-style restaurant in 1970 with exactly the same decor it has now. He did it all himself and the dining room remains one of the most interesting in Baltimore.

His food remains terrific, too.

"You know what I tell people who come here to eat?" he said at the party.

"Go to Louie's?" somebody yelled.

"No, I tell 'em we're close to three hospitals."

That got big laughs, a familiar sound from way back when.

Tape measures

A middle-aged couple checking out a videotape at the Timonium Blockbuster were dismayed to find their teen-agers had racked up nearly $12 in late fines. The disgruntled dad paid up, adding, "We could go to a first-run showing for what we're paying for one tape."

The clerk, in an effort to console, said others had fared worse that very day. "I had a father in here earlier who owed $101," he said. "He paid and turned in his card."

Eating on the fly

A TJI reader, Kia Roach, reports on a curious experience with one of the colonel's minions. "This is a true story," she insists.

Last weekend, Kia drove into the KFC on Liberty Road, near Essex Road in Lochearn. She pulled up to the drive-through panel and waited to place an order. The voice of a young, eager order-taker crackled through the intercom.

"Welcome to KFC, how may I help you?" she asked.

"I'd like to have three wings, please," Kia said.

"Do you mean chicken wings?"


Cereal Mom says her husband went to pick up the Thanksgiving turkey at S&L Hay and Straw in Reisterstown Wednesday morning. He'd ordered a 20-pounder. He got a 24-pounder. Explanation: "We don't have any 20-pound turkeys. They all grew heavier than expected."

Speaking bluntly

A woman watched as her teen-age granddaughter tried on some serious black, blunt, round-toed boots, Doc Marten types, in a shoe store in White Marsh last week. The woman kept staring and staring. Apparently, she missed the point - literally. "You ain't never gonna kill nothin' in the corner with them, hon," she told her grandchild. Translation: Without a point on your shoes, you can't get into tight places to squash household bugs. So, there it is, friends, the final word on Doc Martens and such knockoffs - they're just not practical. (Thanks to TJI reader Sherry Trabert for the story.)


Best gossip we've heard of late: Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar and tennis star Mary Pierce are an item. She's wearing his uniform number on a chain around her neck. That's love-12!

Contact Dan Rodricks at TJIDAN aol.com; by post at 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278; or by voice mail at 410-332-6166.

Pub Date: 11/28/97

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