Hackmans give home to stray dog from city

This Just In...

October 06, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

Gene Hackman, the Academy Award-winning actor -- and one of our faves, darling -- has been in Baltimore since late summer for the filming of "The Replacements," marking the third time in five years he's made a movie in Maryland. Scenes for "Absolute Power" and the heavy-grossing "Enemy of the State" were filmed in and around the city. Hackman has been very positive about Baltimore. "I should have bought a house here three years ago," he said in August.

He hasn't bought a house, as far as we know.

But he's adopted a dog.

One of our strays.

A few weeks ago, two male German shepherds strutted into TSWTRP (The Stadium Where The Ravens Play) during location shooting for "The Replacements." This caught the attention of Hackman; he and his wife, Betsy, have two German shepherd dogs at their home in New Mexico. The strays were fed well by Warner Bros., then taken -- by chauffeured limousine -- to Animal Rescue Inc., a no-kill shelter for abandoned and abused animals in New Freedom, Pa.

"We gave them names," says Phil Staelens, whose wife, Grace Froelich, operates the facility. "We named one Gene and the other Keanu." (Keanu Reeves stars with Hackman in "The Replacements.")

Hackman called the next day from Baltimore.

"He was very nice," says Staelens. "He said he and his wife had an interest in the dogs."

But as any dog owner knows, it's important to see if your Present Pet gets along with Future Pet before adoption. The Hackmans had their shepherds flown to Baltimore from New Mexico. They took them to New Freedom for a visit with the sheltered dogs.

The one named Gene seemed to get along best with the Hackmans' dogs. That's the one they adopted. "[Hackman] and his wife were very good to us," says Staelens. "They went through the steps for adoption just like everyone else. [Gene Hackman] kept thanking us and apologizing for taking up our time. [Betsy Hackman] came back to visit and to bathe the dog, then took him back to New Mexico."

Keanu, meanwhile, is still available ... for adoption.

Bumper stickers and Bothe

Cereal Mom, on a recent soccer run, pulled behind two cars, both with bumper stickers: "Grace Happens," and "Fog Happens." Nice variations on the nasty original. My favorite variation remains the one for bowlers: "Split Happens." ... With all those syndicated judge shows on television, a Baltimore station ought to produce its own, using home-grown talent. Tell me retired Judge Elsbeth Bothe wouldn't be perfect for the part. ... Henry Pertman, the friendly Henry of the original Henry and Jeff's deli on North Charles Street, is back in his old neighborhood, serving as food and beverage manager at Jay's Deli & Catering. He and his old partner, Jeff Pressman, left their original location in 1996 and opened the J. P. Henry's deli-pub locations (Bel Air, Towson and Charles Village). They went out of business in January of last year. After a stint at the Tavern at Centre Park in Columbia, Pertman took the job with Jay's. Pressman has gone into computers. Speaking of which ...

`Nutty' computer tax credits?

Remember Newt Gingrich? Remember when the former speaker of the House and self-described "conservative futurist" suggested a tax credit to help poor people buy laptop computers? Even ol' Newt acknowledged the idea as "nutty," but as he stood at the center of power 4 1/2 years ago, he told Congress: "Any signal we can send to the poorest Americans that says, `We're going into a 21st century and so are you' begins to change the game."

Gingrich was onto something there, of course. Now, leading candidates for president talk of making efforts to bring America's financially disadvantaged across the digital divide before they fall even further behind. Microsoft gawdzillionaire Bill Gates pledged a billion bucks for minority scholarships that could help close the computer gap between rich and poor. A tax credit for the purchase of computers doesn't sound so half-baked, does it?

We have, in Baltimore, a great resource: Public school students who could one day serve the thousands of American high-tech companies forced to go foreign to hire workers.

By several measures, the Baltimore-Washington region is developing into a base for information technology companies. The city, with lots of old industrial and office space easily convertible to use by computer-based companies, could benefit from the expansion -- but not unless there's a skilled labor force to meet the demand.

The Information Technology Association of America estimates that about 346,000 information technology-related jobs were vacant last year, according to a report in Friday's Daily Record. Last year, Congress increased the number of temporary work visas -- from 65,000 to 115,000 -- to allow American high-tech companies to hire foreign workers. Obviously, the long-term answer to the job demand is skilled workers educated in American schools.

Kids in Baltimore need to get on the computer track, but because so many of them come from poor families and attend public schools, they can't get access. It's not welfare to invest tax dollars in getting those kids across the digital divide. It's smart government.

Already, federal funds have gone into computer-wiring public housing. There's a computer lab for residents of the Poe Homes in West Baltimore. The 303-unit Townes at the Terraces, the handsome rowhouse complex that replaced the Lexington Terrace high-rise, is Internet-ready and plugged into the local school. All city schools should be wired, and it would be nice to see Maryland's U.S. senators, Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, bring home more federal dollars to pull it off. Maybe Bill Gates -- net worth, $85 billion -- could throw a few million this way, too.

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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