Pay no attention to the customer behind the partition

2b

September 23, 2005|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Northern Baltimore County foodies have pressed their noses against the windows of their almost-open Wegmans so many times that they need a bigger hit. Many, sadly, have turned to drugs.

Otherwise law-abiding gourmands have been filling their prescriptions at the Wegmans pharmacy since it opened last week, then slipping past a wall of gray partitions for an illicit sneak-peek at the rest of the supermarket, which doesn't open until Oct. 2.

"Everybody wants in," says store manager Wendy Webster. "We find people walking the store all the time."

Who can blame them? What self-respecting epicure could resist such obscene bounty, a cornucopia the size of one-and-a-half Wal-Marts that makes the nearby "Gucci Giant" look like Payless Shoes?

"This is like a bit of a tease," said Elaine Brophy, 57, who peered past the partitions last weekend under the guise of filling an Rx but who hadn't made a break for the store itself - yet.

Even with the shelves mostly empty, trespassing foodies get their fix. Place cards promise coconut-crusted tilapia and wasabi tuna in the seafood case, apple cider raisin bread in the bakery, 650 (650!) kinds of cheese in the fromagerie.

Tiptoeing through the aisles, they are like kids at Disney, happy to hoof it without a monorail, swept up in the kingdom's fairy tales - like the one about the cow who led a carefree, antibiotic-free life before giving it all up to become prime rib.

Eventually they're nabbed and booted (nicely) out the door, where they see a big sign heralding the store's grand opening - and stating an obvious but tormenting truth.

"Store not open to the public," it says, "until grand opening."

Duck! It's Omarosa! Again!

She lied. She schemed. She got fired.

And now, some of America's top black leaders hope, she inspires.

Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, whose chief claim to fame is getting canned by Donald Trump, will give career advice to 200 to 300 young black professionals tomorrow at a Washington forum put on by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who trumpted her participation in a news release, will serve as moderator for a panel discussion among The Apprentice villain, a marketing consultant and an executive coach.

The idea behind the forum is to "empower participants to better market themselves by creating their own personal brand," according to the news release.

What qualifies Manigault-Stallworth, whose image is awful, to give advice about image-making?

Troy Clair, program coordinator for the foundation, says she has achieved the rare rank of single-name celebrity "just like, you know, Oprah or Madonna."

"She has been able to create a brand people recognize," he said.

What's that brand? Maybe the answer lies in the forum's title: "Me, Inc."

Honey, you wouldn't believe the day I put in

This is what the last gasp of Charm City car-making looks like: more than 100 laid-off auto workers parked in a conference room, some sprawled out on lounge chairs hauled in from home, for 40 mind-numbing hours a week.

At least that's what the workers say it looks like.

General Motors wouldn't let me have a peek inside the so-called job bank across the street from its shuttered Broening Highway factory, where employees show up Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., to watch Jerry Springer, smoke, read, sleep, play cards and gab.

The hardy souls who can endure this post-industrial detention hall will collect their full paychecks and benefits for two more years, maybe longer, under terms of the contract between GM and the United Auto Workers.

Those who can't have other options. They can do volunteer work or enroll in school.

Some workers who chose the job bank are upbeat about it. Take Thomas Cottrell, 64, who spent 39 years on the assembly line until the plant closed in May.

"Twenty-seven dollars an hour just sitting around playing cards and watching DVDs," he said. "Can't get any better than that."

Bet at least one ordered sausage

Nathan A. Chapman Jr. is a free man while he appeals his federal fraud conviction and 7M-=-year prison sentence.

So no one should have been startled to see him eating breakfast out at Cross Keys this week.

More surprising, perhaps, was his dining companion: Raymond V. Haysbert, the former Parks Sausage chief, who was a witness for the prosecution in Chapman's trial a year ago.

Haysbert testified that he resigned from the board of Chapman's investment bank after being asked to sign off on financial documents he wasn't shown.

But followers of the trial might recall that Haysbert also testified that he and Chapman went back a long way and that he still considered Chapman's integrity to be "unimpeachable."

His table manners aren't bad, either.

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