He's found a hook for uniform tendency


Candid Closet: As a pirate, retired podiatrist Dr. John Charlton really knows how to dress the part.


June 15, 2000|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

From operating on Dwight D. Eisenhower's in-grown toenail to pirating in the Inner Harbor, Dr. John Charlton, 69, has led a uniformed, if not uniform, life.

He was a young podiatrist in the Army when called upon to examine President Eisenhower, and eventually Charlton and his wife Gloria became good buddies with Mamie, Ike's wife. After the Army, Charlton donned clown's togs as a potentate in the Shriners. And now, he is Captain Hook, tour guide aboard the Peter Pan Pirate Ship Baltimore, an amphibious vehicle that takes tourists on Baltimore streets and in the harbor as part of a historic tour program run by the Living Classrooms Foundation. (For more information, call the National Historic Seaport of Baltimore at 877-642-7678.)

Charlton, a resident of Baltimore's waterfront whose grandfather was a sea captain, can explain the tour's pirate motif: During the War of 1812, "the British considered us a nest of pirates," he says, shortly before boarding the enormous pirate ship with a merry band of colleagues. "We have a captain and we're his mates."

When he's not in uniform, Charlton is usually in a coat and tie, an indelible part of his Baltimore Polytechnic Institute training.

Describe your Captain Hook attire.

I wear a black pirate costume, a pirate hat and I even have a little hook that I hold in my hand. I also have a stuffed parrot. The only thing that I'm looking for now is a telescope. The kids love it. I let the kids pet the parrot.

Do you feel self-conscious dressed like that?

No. I'm used to uniforms and I like fun. I've been a fun person.

What fun did you have with the Shriners?

We wore the little red fezzes. And when I was the leader, I had a camel that I bought for $1,500 from the Philadelphia Zoo. And I was an honorary clown. I dressed up as Popeye.

Did your grandfather, the sea captain, wear a uniform?

I have a picture of him in a business suit standing on the deck of his ship. He didn't wear specific captain clothes.

What did real pirates really wear?

They wore raggedy clothes. They almost looked like the kids today in their baggy pants. And tattoos originated with pirates and with sailors.

Are you going to get a tattoo?

Indeed not. My grandson, who is 4, was interested in the tattoo thing. I sure directed him the other way. God gave him a beautiful body; I told him he wants to make it more beautiful, not more ugly.

What did you wear when you were treating President Eisenhower?

I wore my regular Army uniform, and when I went to the White House, they had a white coat that I wore.

Do you shop for yourself?

My wife buys all my clothes. She just got me some nice, new suits from Brian Lefko's Men's Clothier on Reisterstown Road.

Do you wear hats?

Only in the cold weather, and I do have a homburg that I wear when I'm helping my older son at his funeral home in Fells Point.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore

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