'Hairspray' opening fabulous, says Rhea Feikin


Around Town

August 25, 2002|By Sloane Brown | By Sloane Brown,Special to the Sun

Among the Marylanders in the opening-night audience for Hairspray on Broadway last week was our own television icon Rhea Feikin. Rhea covered the big night for her MPT show Artworks This Week. But the experience went way beyond the professional for her.

You see, Miss Rhea had a small role in the 1987 John Waters movie on which the new musical is based. And she says seeing its latest incarnation was absolutely fabulous. Rhea also says she, along with John and several others in his group of friends -- including Pat Moran, Ricki Lake and Patty Hearst -- kept using the same word to describe their feeling that night. Surreal.

When Harvey Fierstein made his first appearance as Edna Turnblad, Rhea says, the physical similarity to the late Divine, who originated the role in the film, "just made you gasp."

"We had a lot of tears, we were so touched by all the performances," Rhea says, "they were sweet and happy tears."

At the party afterward, Rhea had a lot of fun people-watching.

She thought Sarah Jessica Parker looked prettier pregnant -- "soft and beautiful." Rhea describes Katie Couric as looking like the girl next door in her denim jacket. And she reports that Rosie O'Donnell has a new buzz haircut.

"The most glamorous person, I thought," Rhea concludes, "was Diane Sawyer. She had on a great slinky black dress and high strappy sandals and looked quite gorgeous. I'd give her 'Best In Show.' "

More star-spotting (of the sports variety) could be had here in B-more last week at the Orioles Hall of Fame luncheon, put on each year by the Oriole Advocates. Advocate and sharp-eyed celeb spotter Ann Peters says Frank Cashen, Hank Peters, Don Buford, Billy Hunter and Chuck Thompson joined Oriole Advocates president Wayne Heckrotte, Hall of Fame committee chairman Allen Blumberg and Hall of Fame luncheon chairman Chuck Lippy to honor this year's inductees, Dennis Martinez, Hoyt Wilhelm and the late Rex Barney.

And then there was the surprise appearance by famed Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell. This is the 85-year-old's last year with the Tigers, so his visit was a real treat for the 320 folks who were there. Ann says Ernie talked about announcing games at Memorial Stadium in its first and last days.

Ann says Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson introduced one of this year's inductees, Martinez. Brooks got a big laugh when he told the story of one year at spring training early in Dennis' career, but toward the end of his own, and his words of advice -- "Hey, kid, you're in the big leagues now. There's no higher up to go. Because if there was, I'd be there now."

Ann says that was followed by a major lump-in-the-throat moment when Dennis spoke about remembering where he came from and his foundation that helps the needy in his homeland of Nicaragua.

Ann says the luncheon helped raise at least $5,000 for the Advocates foundation, which helps fund youth and handicapped baseball leagues in the Baltimore area.

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Chesapeake Arts Center / Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation

You could almost smell the salty air as you entered the Chesapeake Arts Center for the opening-night reception of the Ebony Eyes and Voices on the Bay exhibit, presented by Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation. A boardwalk framed by wooden stanchions and rope wound across the main gallery. Along either side of the walkway, you found groupings of artifacts, photos and writings that depicted the lives of African-American watermen who worked on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1950s.

Some 125 guests roamed the gallery examining the memorabilia, which included a makeshift waterman's shanty. For many guests, the exhibit offered an introduction to this part of the bay's history. And if they had questions, the man who put it all together, the center's visual arts director, Phillip E. Harrison, was only too happy to provide answers.

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