Towson U. president living on Easy Street

This Just In...

March 20, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

SO, BIG HOUSE with hundreds of thousands in renovations, an expensive home-entertainment center, outlandish chain jewelry, big parties - what's that sound like? Sounds like Steve Martin in The Jerk, doesn't it? Or maybe it's your brother-in-law, who just hit it big in the synthetic gaskets market, doing that nouveau riche thing. You know it when you see it - upscale wannabes consuming conspicuously, stylin' higher than their status warrants. It's amusing. It's gross. It's as American as a Lincoln Navigator.

But I'm not describing some instant millionaire on a 38-foot Fountain at the Inner Harbor marina, gold around neck, trophy wife on arm, cell phone on hip.

Rather, I'm presenting my Matisse on the nouveau Towson University and its nouveau president, Mark Perkins. Maybe there's embarrassment over what's happened, but I don't see Perkins or anyone else with any office decrying the conspicuous spending - an $850,000 house in Guilford, with $595,000 in renovations, including a $25,000 home-entertainment system, a $25,000 gold medallion and a weeklong celebration of his coronation that cost $56,500.

Apparently the university thinks all these trappings will elevate the status of the university and attract dollars for its endowment. In other words, it'll impress people.

But, so far, it just grosses a lot of us out.

The dog days

Here's another beaut: The state just spent $5,000 in taxpayers' money to install a new, historically correct fence at the governor's mansion to keep the new first lady's dogs - a brown Yorkie named Maddie and a white Maltese named Leo - from running away. The fence surrounds a patio and extends along the side of Government House closest to Church Circle, according to the Capital in Annapolis. It will keep Jennifer Crawford's adopted pets from slipping through the existing wrought-iron fence. Five thousand bucks for this. Haven't these people ever heard of chicken wire?

Did you foresee this?

News item: A birth certificate shows that Miss Cleo, the cable TV psychic with the Jamaican accent and colorful island clothing, was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of American parents.

Man, that's rough. Is nothing sacred?

Lights out

Memo to O'Mayor:

Could we get someone to tend to the streetlights at the end of South Monroe Street, where it hooks up with 295? Got a reader here, John Fries, who says it's so dark down there he has trouble driving, even with high beams, even during daytime! (OK, I made up the part about daytime.) Fries noticed the problem a year ago and has been calling the city and BGE off and on, to no avail. How many phone calls does it take to fix a light bulb?

Having a ball

Joey Amalfitano, slave to nostalgia and big nights out, reports from Saturday's Buddy Deane record hop at the Timonium Holiday Inn:

"The hop was held in the ballroom next to a dinner - I kid you not - of the Society of American Bayonet Collectors. They had framed photos of bayonets all along one wall.

"We had a great time doing the Stroll, the Locomotion, watching others do the Madison. There was a guy in an electric tie, champion dancers in matching outfits, and a woman in an outrageously sexy, sequined glitter minidress.

"Buddy, now 77, sat on a stool and told the story - with about 13,000 flashbulbs going off all at once - about when he helped introduce the Beatles at the Civic Center in 1964. There were lots of great songs - Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Chuck Berry, Johnny Mathis, Fats Domino, The Diamonds. A real record hop!"

Raining on a parade

Memo to Bank of America:

How about a little break for the families watching Sunday's St. Patrick's Day parade? About 20 minutes into the marching, two of your security guards began clearing the steps of your South Charles Street building of the 50 men, women and children who had gathered there, under umbrellas and seated on blankets, to watch the parade. When some protested, the officers cited "bank rules."

Please get the rules committee to take another look at this one.

A life well lived

Deborah Ann Alt had no star quality in the way we usually think of it. Made no mark in politics, business or entertainment. Never made a lot of money. Never strayed far from Arbutus. All she did for 21 years was serve meals efficiently, and with a smile, at Jennings Cafe in Catonsville. Before cancer took her this month at 42, Alt posted a note of thanks to all of her friends beside Jennings' door. There was neither an empty seat nor a dry eye Saturday at Alt's funeral Mass at Our Lady of Victory Church on Wilkens Avenue, and afterward several hundred friends repaired to the Arbutus town hall for a lively reception featuring an open bar and a DJ. That's testament to a life well lived. That's star quality.

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