For the fashionable at the Preakness, beating the heat and being in style are a matter of staying on top.

COOLER HEAD PREVAIL

123rd Preakness

May 17, 1998|By SYLVIA BADGER AND MARY COREY | SYLVIA BADGER AND MARY COREY,SUN STAFF

At the Preakness yesterday, this was how the other half lived: They mingled in white tents with picket fences. They dined on strawberries dipped in Belgian chocolate. They chatted about summer homes in the Hamptons.

And they sweated.

A power outage wreaked havoc, cutting off air conditioning and lights to the elite Maryland Jockey Club and other places. By late afternoon, the sun beat through the wall of windows in the dining room, making it feel like a sauna. High rollers were left as hot and sticky as fans in the infield.

The wealthy perspired through their Armani jackets. Their Oscar de la Renta hats drooped in the heat. Even Chanel sunglasses couldn't hide an ugly truth: Their eye makeup was dripping.

'No one's a happy camper about this,'said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who spent the afternoon with phones in both ears as he tried to get new generators to the racetrack.

His wife, Patricia Schmoke, who tried to stay cool in a turquoise hat and print dress, wondered about the karma in the area lately. So many horses scratching from the race, a power outage keeping some Baltimoreans from seeing 'Seinfeld,'Frank Sinatra dying.

'It has been an odd week. That's for sure,'she said. 'And this is a different Preakness.

'Odd indeed. Socialites were seen doing something that once would have been unthinkable: holding in their fists balled-up pantyhose they had taken off.

Out-of-towners were gracious about things going awry. 'It's still a lovely day - start to finish,'said Bob Lewis, an owner of Silver Charm, who won the Preakness and Kentucky Derby last year. 'The heat is part of the game. You make the best of it.

'He and his wife, Beverly, who live in California, cooed over a photo album that Harriet Finkelstein, a Baltimore horse owner, showed them.

'That's when he was 7 days old, 'she said, flipping the pages proudly. 'Here he's about 12 days old.

'Finkelstein was talking about her new colt.

Jim Hindman, who founded Jiffy Lube and Youth Services International Inc., was one of the uncomfortable guests having lunch in the Maryland Jockey Club. Now that he's retired, his first love is raising horses, and he has three promising 2-year-olds. He said he plans to have at least one horse running in the Triple Crown next year.

In the corporate tents, it was easy to pass the afternoon without ever spotting a horse. Even those who wanted to watch a race had a hard time: The power outage downed TV monitors.

There was plenty else to do, though. David Berndt, marketing manager of the International Trade Center in Washington, and some friends had their photo taken next to a fiberglass horse named Clyde.

'I knew it was a day we were going to want to remember,' he said. 'I feel like part of high society.

'The scene was akin to a modern-day lawn party, complete with sunshine, straw hats and free shrimp.

Feeding the crowd was a mammoth undertaking. For the village alone, executive chef Greg Nalley prepared 8,000 crab cakes and 1,200 pounds of pesto-grilled tenderloin.

Such luxury wasn't cheap. Tents went for $25,000 (not including catering), and nearly 20 companies rented at least one. Many guests stayed in the shade, making small talk or brokering big deals.

UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski chatted with friends about his new book, 'Beating the Odds,' and mentioned that he'll be appearing on a show with Barbara Walters in June.

Local politicians were in abundance, but national celebrities were nowhere to be found. The one hoped-for star - Fred Savage of 'The Wonder Years' and 'Working' - canceled.

That didn't matter to Rosetta Stith, director of the Paquin School. The day brought together two of her passions: hats and horses. 'Maryland is sparkling today,' she said. 'The world has its eyes on us. And El Nino is not here."

Pub date: 5/17/98

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