Slap the cuffs on the punk in the red suit

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December 21, 2005|By LAURA VOZZELLA

If Santa doesn't make his rounds this year, it could mean he's still handcuffed in Baltimore.Two of Charm City's biggest claims to fame - drugs and over-the-top Christmas decorations - have made an un-merry convergence in a Hampden rowhouse. There, a 3-foot-tall St. Nick mannequin stands Flex-Cuffed by the family tree.

City police slapped the nylon restraints on Santa as a joke during a drug raid at the home Friday night, according to Frank Clowers Sr.

Clowers, 47, was the one police were really after. He was charged with possession of 6 ounces of marijuana with intent to distribute. The asphalt foreman makes no excuses for himself, but he says that police went too far when they cuffed Santa in front of his 15- and 10-year-old sons and 4-year-old grandson.

"No matter what I may have done, they had no business doing what they did to those kids' minds," says Clowers. "Now I can't get my grandson to believe in Santa. `Santa Claus was locked up. He's a bad Santa Claus. I don't want no Christmas toys.' Santa Claus was not bad at all. It was just a bad police officer."

A police spokeswoman was skeptical, raising the possibility that Clowers cuffed Santa himself, and dismissing claims of holiday pain and suffering in any case.

"Why were we there? He's selling marijuana in front of his kids?" Officer Nicole Monroe asked. "Six ounces of marijuana - I'd be trying to take the focus off myself, too."

It would take a lot to douse the Christmas spirit at the Roland Avenue house, in the heart of Baltimore's famously over-decorated neighborhood. In addition to Santa (who dances and sings five songs, "Jailhouse Rock" not among them), Clowers has decked his rowhouse with reindeer, balloons, candy canes and Winnie the Pooh.

Clowers could snip the cuffs off Santa himself, but so far he has left them in place - proof, he says, in case he sues. His lawyer in the criminal matter, Arthur Frank, who is running for a Baltimore County Circuit Court judgeship, has urged his client to let Santa go.

"Better take the cuffs off before Saturday," he says, "so Santa can do his work."

All power to the headquarters town

Good thing that Constellation-FPL deal worked out the way it did, with dual headquarters in Baltimore and Juno Beach. Otherwise that big ad Constellation bought on the back cover of the Business Journal's Book of Lists would have looked kinda goofy.

Arriving in mailboxes just this week, the ad reads, "Who says Baltimore isn't a headquarters town?"

A translucent shade of pale

Before she finished shooting The Visiting in Baltimore last week, Nicole Kidman did a little shopping at the Federal Hill boutique Zelda Zen.

My spies at the store say she looked incredibly pale, but in a good way. ("Just translucent.") She picked out an equally pale hat - a winter white mohair cap with a pretty flower in the same delicate hue.

Kidman's companion - he looked like Keith Urban, but the spies aren't all that hip to Australian country stars - treated. The hat set him back $22.

Cellos, woodwinds, can you hear me now?

You'd think concertgoers would know better than to let their cell phones ring at the symphony. You'd think, at the very least, the maestro would switch his off.

But there was Jose-Luis Novo the other night, taking a call in the middle of his appearance with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. Novo even asked someone from the audience to conduct a holiday song while he took the call.

Who stepped in? Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

Yes, it was all a joke, one that required the governor to rehearse "Jingle Bells" with the orchestra for about 15 minutes a few days prior to Friday night's performance.

Ehrlich doesn't have any formal musical training, according to his spokeswoman. But he must have some interest in it. First lady Kendel Ehrlich gave him a drum set for Christmas last year.

Maybe he can jam with O'Malley's March.

Getting a little tired of the antiques

Getting out of the antiques biz: former Republican Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley.

Bentley's Antiques Show Mart, which Bentley's husband opened in Baltimore in 1968 and relocated to Cockeysville in 1971, will shut in the spring, as first reported yesterday by the Business Journal.

"I'm a little tired of being there every weekend," said Bentley, whose husband died more than two years ago. "It's time to go. It's time to change."

But don't expect Bentley, 82, to start taking it really easy. She's still president and CEO of Helen Bentley & Associates Inc., a Lutherville maritime and trade-consulting firm.

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