Make way for Leo McGarry's funeral

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March 03, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Hot tip for motorists: Avoid the 5200 block of N. Charles St. this morning.

Hot tip for West Wing fans: Head for the 5200 block of N. Charles St. this morning.

I have it on good authority - a Catholic church secretary - that the TV series is shooting at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

From about 8 a.m. till noon, cars in that area won't move half as fast as walking-and-talking actors stride through the show's faux White House corridors.

The city's Department of Transportation sent out a news release yesterday urging motorists to skip Charles and take Roland Avenue or York Road instead because of unspecified "filming" at the church. DOT officials wouldn't say who'd be shooting what. Ditto for state film office folks.

But the nice lady who answers the phone at the cathedral confirmed the rumor I'd heard: that West Wing was coming to shoot Leo McGarry's funeral. (John Spencer, the actor who played the presidential chief of staff-turned-vice presidential candidate, died in December.)

Not clear why the show chose that church for the funeral, but if it was good enough for Johnny U and Chuck Thompson, why not Leo?

The secretary - I didn't get her name because, after briefly chatting with me, she said she'd patch me through to the deacon - thought the shooting would just be outside the church. Don't know any more than that because the deacon never called back. Maybe he was getting ready for his close-up.

And maybe some lollipops for the senators

Barbara Mikulski was at the American Visionary Art Museum gift shop the other day, stocking up on - what else would a U.S. senator need? - propeller beanies.

Mikulski was shopping for grandnieces and nephews. "She was going to buy some for their parents so when they're on the playground they could see where they are," said store manager Nina Ghorbani.

While she's at it, maybe Mikulski should buy beanies for her colleagues in Congress so they can see where they are. Wouldn't cost that much. The hats are just 4 bucks a pop.

It was just a little fixer-upper

It's not every day that a big developer cheerfully admits that one of his projects got way out of hand. But Fred Struever confesses that he went into an 1893 Highlandtown firehouse thinking he was just going to give it a new roof and a minor facelift, and ended up redoing the place.

Luckily for Engine Company 41 and local taxpayers, the $1 million-plus job was on Struever, Obrecht Commercial Real Estate and many other companies that donated building supplies and services. The cost was estimated at $250,000 a year ago, when the city trumpeted it as the first project in its Adopt-A-Firehouse program.

"I thought I was going to do a little rehab," Struever told me. "But I let this project manager in there, and they ended up gutting the place and moving every damn wall, and it got out of hand. ... We didn't manage that very well."

Not that Struever really regrets fixing up a place that, when he signed on, was in such awful shape that firefighters had rigged up metal tracking - the kind that wall studs usually screw into - as an indoor gutter system, running from leaky ceilings to trash cans. And that was before the roof gave way, forcing firefighters to evacuate.

"I said, these guys are running into the fires while we're running out, and they've got to live like that?" Struever said.

How will the firefighters live once the job wraps up and they can move back inside in a month or two? Like a Canton yuppie, says Fire Chief William Goodwin, who toured the project the other day.

"We didn't expect a downtown condo," said Goodwin, marveling at the station where his father had been a firefighter for 30 years and waxing a little nostalgic about the familiar smells of vintage firehouses: rubber tires, the scent of smoke from the last-fought fire.

But the aromas of new carpeting and fresh paint were a welcome change for most. Said Battalion Commander Raymond Devilbiss Jr.: "This was a dump."

Gee, Kimmie, we hope you're better

KimmieWatch: Day 47. The Sun's Justin Fenton rose before dawn to witness Kimmie Meissner walk into Fallston High School at 7:30 a.m. yesterday, her first day of classes since placing sixth in Olympic women's figure skating. WBAL radio reported on its Web site that she had a cold.

Today, Day 48: The town of Bel Air holds a parade for Meissner. TV news promises live coverage.

What would TV - not to mention The Sun, which put out a special Kimmie Meissner section in Harford County - have done if she'd medaled?

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