National television cameras catch Peter Marudas, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' chief of staff, and Allan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, head to head in deep confab at a Senate banking committee hearing about a year ago.
Marudas immediately starts getting calls: What did he tell you? A hiccup from Greenspan can jump-start the stock market, up or down.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Today section Saturday incorrectly identified the hometown of Maryland Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. The senator was born in Salisbury. The same article and a photo caption also gave the incorrect middle initial of former Baltimore Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III.
The Sun regrets the errors.
Marudas laughs. He likes telling this story.
He and Greenspan were talking about jazz.
As a young man, Greenspan played clarinet, flute and a little sax in New York jazz bands, including one led by Leonard Garment, who became President Nixon's White House counsel. Marudas is a lifelong and knowledgeable jazz fan.
A couple of months earlier, Marudas had asked him, "Who do you think is the best saxophone player?"
Greenspan replies, Ben Webster, a mainstay of the Duke Ellington band.
"That's really an aficionado," Marudas exclaims. "You got to know jazz to say that."
So the next time Greenspan comes before the banking committee, Marudas gives him a Ben Webster tape. And the two are recorded for TV posterity talking about jazz, not G-8 economics.
Bringing Greenspan the Webster tape exemplifies Pete Marudas' style: kind, thoughtful, generous and politically astute. For nearly 35 years, Marudas has brought his particular, perhaps unique, political acumen to Baltimore, Maryland and national politics. Now, he's bowing out.
The farewells began Wednesday as he celebrated his name day at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. It was the Feast of the Dormition, the Assumption in most Western churches. Marudas' name in the church is Panagia, which is roughly Greek for "Our Lady," the Virgin Mary. He's a devout Orthodox Christian and of course active in church politics.
Thursday he celebrated his 64th birthday, basically working in his Washington office, although well-wishers flooded the Sarbanes switchboard with birthday wishes and goodbyes.
Friday was his last day at work and the end of his own remarkable chapter in Maryland politics.
"It's an existential decision," he says of his retirement. "We got the senator re-elected in the fall and he's now a chairman, which is what we were working for all the years. The Banking Committee, you can really do a lot there, the predatory lending business, you know, and just the integrity of the capital markets."
He still had a portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on his office wall yesterday as he got ready to leave. "I got Truman, Roosevelt and Jefferson. And I have a labor union organizing picture from the C.I.O., `March with CIO to Victory.' Well, we owned this bar where all these U.A.W. workers came in, when I grew up in Detroit," he says.
As a kid, he spent his summers in Baltimore where his uncle ran a dry-cleaning shop on Light Street in what is now Federal Hill, and he had relatives who lived in Brooklyn. Another uncle ran a restaurant in Curtis Bay.
"The first political event I ever attended was in the 1952 campaign," Marudas says. "The Democratic candidates always kicked off their campaign in Detroit on Labor Day."
Adlai Stevenson was the presidential candidate.
"My cousin and I got up real early, 5:30. Our mothers packed our lunches. We took the bus down. We were right down in front. Walter Reuther [the leader of the United Auto Workers union] introduced Adlai Stevenson," Marudas recalls.
"I was 15, my cousin was 12 or 13. It really made an impression for me. Stevenson was a man of such dignity."
As a college student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Marudas attended a lecture by Reuther, who spoke on labor economics.
"He was a real force. He put the U.A.W. on the progressive side of the political spectrum," Marudas is remembering. "You had people who came up from the South, white and black, where down there they had nothing to do with each other. They worked together as shop stewards. We saw all that going on. It really was something.
"You look at society: Wherever you have free trade unions, they're one of the essentials of a free society."
New Deal Democrat
He says it twice during a couple of long conversations. He remains an unreconstructed Roosevelt New Deal Democrat, with perhaps overtones of Adlai Stevenson.
"He's very strong democrat with a small `d'," Senator Sarbanes says. "He's a good Democrat with a big `D'. But more importantly he's a democrat with a small `d'.
"He doesn't have an ounce of meanness in him, at all," Sarbanes says, with obvious fondness in his voice. They've been personal friends longer than they've been political colleagues. "He's really very generous and respectful with people. He really accords people their dignity."
The two met when Marudas was covering City Hall for The Evening Sun. Marudas had studied journalism and earned a master's degree at Ann Arbor. He came to Baltimore to work on The Evening Sun in 1963.