Making off with the goods

Sale: Wind-whipped fans sacrificed a lot -- even a day at work -- to buy the flotsam of `Homicide.'

March 03, 2000|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

She arrived at 7 a.m., braved a two-hour wait in blustery winds, resisted the seductive aroma of bread emanating from the H&S bakery, accepted the dank harbor odors. It was worth it. Amie Pfeifer, a Baltimorean with gamin hair and demeanor, got what she came for at yesterday's sale of "Homicide" props and costumes that took place on the Thames Street Recreation Pier, site of the canceled show's set.

From a shopping bag, Pfeifer lovingly pulled her prize acquisition: a fine black porkpie hat, worn by Detective Meldrick Lewis, purchased for $150. (Luckily, Pfeifer had already received her tax refund.) Lewis, played by Clark Johnson, "is one of my favorite characters," she said, while keeping company with friends still in line. "He's cocky and sure of himself." Those surrounding Pfeifer nodded in agreement: Lewis' credentials as a Baltimore cop rang truest of all the cast members.

Pfeifer also scored a couple of ties, worn by Frank Pembleton and Tim Bayliss, and Dr. Scheiner's medical book, shrouded in a Baggie. Scheiner, played by the hangdog Ralph Tabakin, apparently kept autopsy notes that also doubled as cues. For example, written in red ink were these timeless lines: "There was a vaginal laceration" and "We sent swabs to the lab."

In the latter quote, the word swab is crossed out and its phonetic equivalent -- "swob" -- is written in its place.

Pfeifer was one among more than a thousand "Homicide" fans who waited cheerfully in a line stretching two blocks along Thames Street to take their turn picking through the memorabilia. The sale continues today until 8 p.m.

Self-described "Homicidal maniacs," such as Loyola College student David O'Brien, traded trivia and fan tales and demanded that departing customers brandish their finds. Some debated flipping their souvenirs on eBay. By late afternoon, the online auction site already had postings for a handful of items from the "Homicide" sale.

Megan Hamilton worked the queue hawking posters from the last "Homicide Live!" benefit for the Fells Point Creative Alliance. A couple sold coffee from the back of a truck. Many in line had called in sick and turned their head from inquiring photographers.

Like a game of telephone, stories made their way up and down the shivering line: the woman who pined for Bayliss' undies (boxers for $1) and the jet-lagged zealot who flew in overnight from Peoria, Ill., her pockets full of cash from friends who also wanted a piece of the show.

Brad Kelly-Jones, a nurse's aide in Union Memorial Hospital's emergency room, made his way across the cobbled street with two garment bags. One held Afro-centric preacher's garments. The other held a blood-stained shirt marked "Adena look-alike." As he walked to his car, the crowd shouted its admiration for the dried crimson stream spilling down the shirt's shoulder.

"All I want is a Yaphet Kotto shirt," said Bill Yerby of Cedarcroft. Why? Lt. Al Giardello was the only character whose clothing ought to fit him, he said, patting his considerable belly.

Lawrence Thomas' intentions were more pragmatic than those of the fans around him. He had intended to buy a rolling desk chair at a used furniture store but figured one from the "Homicide" set would serve just as well. "I may have to pay a few bob more, but that's OK," he said.

Nearby, Karl D. Millhauser, an occasional "Homicide" extra, hoped to reclaim the beer can he held in one episode. Millhauser has also played a corpse dredged from the Inner Harbor.

Thomas wanted to know if he really was submerged in the water. "If you got in, you'd dissolve," he noted. A bit of "Homicide" humor.

Carol and Marc, two other pragmatists who called in sick and wouldn't give their last names for fear of getting nailed by their bosses, left the sale with a Christian Dior overcoat (for $10) and a wool jacket from Britches. Marc threw it on, eased his hands into the pockets and found a pack of cigarettes, a pair of gloves and a business card from the Axis Theater.

Carol was happy with her antique ladle, snared for a dollar for her collection. "They didn't know what they had," she said.

The couple, who live in Fells Point, had no trouble turning down some of the sale's more outrageous items: a burned, headless body ($100) and a stuffed dead baby complete with umbilical cord and blood. "They wanted $150 for that," Carol said with a hint of incredulous disgust.

No doubt, some fan out there in that long line, did seize upon the corpse, or the baby, took it home and marveled at their good fortune. Such is the mettle of a true "Homicide" fan.

Tag sale

What: Items from "Homicide"

When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., today

Where: 1701 Thames St.

Terms: Cash and carry only; all sales final

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