Giving Rosie something to yodel about

Celebrity: O'Donnell won't be able to tell half the fabulous, funny story of Ida Mae Selenkow of Pikesville.

April 05, 1999|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

An Open Letter to Rosie O' Donnell

Dear Rosie,

We understand you have a guest today, Ida Mae Selenkow from Pikesville, the "yodeling Grandma from Baltimore." Far be it for a puny medium such as a newspaper to tell you how to run your national TV talk show, but we pre-interviewed Miss Ida, and there are a few things you should know:

Miss Ida is a pistol. She's 67 going on 27. Just try and keep up with her life story. "I think people are interested in my multiple careers," Selenkow says, laughing at herself, laughing with us. She laughs a lot, suggesting a life full of laughs.

Rosie, naturally you'll focus on her yodeling, which Miss Ida has been doing for 50 years. She'll even be wearing her gold cowboy suit with gold boots for her national TV debut. "I'm just a plain ol' country gal," Ida says. (From Baltimore by way of Connecticut?!)

Granted, yodeling is fun and quirky in its throaty, falsetto way. ("People say they can't see my lips move when I yodel.") For background, Miss Ida models her yodeling after the great yodeler Patsy Montana. Roy Rogers was also an influence. But Rosie, you must ask Miss Ida about her professional wrestling career.

"People want to fight with me. They want to try me," she says, "But I'm a fun-loving person."

In the 1950s, Miss Ida wrestled out of Asbury Park, N.J. TV's Dennis James announced the matches. She wrestled in Mexico under the name Ida Mae Martinez. Held the Mexican wrestling championship for two years. "I also wrestled in Baltimore at the old Coliseum on Monroe Street."

Back then, wrestling was real enough. "Those girls were vicious," she recalls. When she wasn't getting her ribs cracked, Miss Ida's specialty was dropkicking. "Excuse me, I don't want to sound egotistical," she says, "but they say I was very good."

Miss Ida, a single mother of two grown daughters, is a nurse by trade. She remembers caring for some of the first AIDS patients in Baltimore when she worked in home care.

Miss Ida also has been a nurse at Baltimore's city jail, and to this day, she nurses inmates at the state prison in Jessup.

And Rosie, ask about the Cauliflower Alley Club. We'd never heard of it, either. It's some sort of national club of actors, wrestlers and boxers. An active member, Miss Ida joins in the club's yearly pilgrimage to Hollywood "to meet movie stars." She's met Stella Stevens, Denver Pyle -- even Elliot Gould!

Try and top that, Rosie.

The Rosie O'Donnell Show airs in Baltimore at 3 p.m. on WMAR-TV, Channel 2.

Pub Date: 4/05/99

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