Are Baltimoreans not note-Worth-y?

Poor treatment: Slick magazine passes up chance to show off well-heeled people from this town.

March 06, 2002|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Worth magazine's survey of the wealthiest person in each of America's 100 largest cities is a treat for any voyeur: Look at the social doyenne presiding over her palatial home in Atlanta, the corporate executive getting his company logo tattooed on his ankle in Portland, Ore., the self-made mobile-home king showing off his toys in Knoxville, Tenn.

The rich are all over, romping in New York, L.A., Chicago, spending big in Lancaster, Pa., and Kalamazoo, Mich. City after city the wealthy appear, with one exception: In Baltimore, it seems, nobody's got a dime.

Where is Peter Angelos, the lawyer and Baltimore Orioles owner? What about Baltimore's John Paterakis Sr., who built his fortune baking McDonald's hamburger buns? Is there a mention of Edwin F. Hale Sr., the head of First Mariner Bank and owner of the Baltimore Blast, an indoor soccer franchise? Or Stephen J. Bisciotti, a part-owner of the Baltimore Ravens who founded a corporate staffing service and is worth a reported $600 million?

No, the magazine decided to exclude the city altogether. Executive editor Jane Berentson said the New York-based financial monthly chose instead to lump Baltimore with Washington because the U.S. Census Bureau classifies the two cities as one metropolitan region. So Worth profiled the Washington heirs to the Mars candy fortune and left it at that.

But this case isn't closed - not in Baltimore anyway.

"The folks at Worth need to get a map or subscribe to a publication that has one," snipped Steve Kearney, communications director for Mayor Martin O'Malley. "There's a lot going on in Baltimore these days."

Even the rich are smarting over the snub: "How could they do that?" asked Hale. "I guess I'm not surprised. It's a Rodney Dangerfield thing."

To some, the explanation for the slight is worse than the slight itself. It's fine to ignore us, some Baltimoreans say, but don't put us in the same sentence as Washington, a city too drunk on its own power to see straight.

"They want to leave us out of some hoity-toity list, I don't have a problem with that," said Nestor "Nasty" Aparicio, the Baltimore sports radio host on WNST. "But to combine us with Washington is disgusting."

If these cities are sisters, then the family's a tad dysfunctional. There are the old rivalries between the Colts and Redskins - and now the Ravens and Redskins - and the angst among some Baltimoreans over the possibility of a new baseball franchise for Washington. But the divide reaches deeper than sports, some say, and goes straight to the cities' sensibilities.

Hale, the bank CEO who once chaired the now-defunct Savings Bank of Baltimore, said despite all the ways Baltimore and Washington profit from their connection - business leaders tout their combined strength to potential corporate neighbors - the coupling has never felt too cozy.

Washingtonians, he said, even avoided the Bank of Baltimore's district area branches because they didn't like "Baltimore" in the name.

"It would be like asking people in Baltimore to make deposits to a `Bank of DC' - people down in DC didn't want to do business with the Bank of Baltimore," he said of the company that was sold in the mid-1990s. "Before we sold it, we actually were looking at changing the name."

Even the Washington-Baltimore bid to hold the 2012 Summer Olympics is fraught with perceived slights: Last spring the cities dropped the word "Baltimore" from their official bid, since the U.S. Olympic Committee wants each applicant to go by only one name. In this case, Washington won out.

Aparicio doesn't like that development, but then he remains so incensed by the renaming of "Friendship" airport to "Baltimore-Washington International" in the 1970s he still won't call it "BWI."

On the Washington side, few see a problem with inter-city pairings. So sure of their own place in the world are these capital inhabitants, they argue there is no rivalry because, quite frankly, they see no contest.

"Washington overshadows other cities because it's the capital of the most powerful nation in the world," said Mary Rudolph, a lobbyist at the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "Washington is used to getting a lot of attention. But I don't think you'd call that a superiority complex."

And Washington's attempts at flattery sometimes fall flat. In an interview for this story, Richard Monteilh, head of the district's Chamber of Commerce, tried to praise Baltimore's attractions but seemed to forget the phrase "Inner Harbor." Finally, he settled on calling it "that water port."

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