Lawrence Bell , in town, on the air


March 05, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Lawrence Bell III has kept a low profile in Baltimore since 1999, when the mayoral front-runner saw his campaign collapse in a swirl of overdue condo fees, a campaign-sponsored Saks spending spree, and fake white supremacist literature. So low, in fact, that he took "Best Disappearing Act" in City Paper's Best of Baltimore 2000 issue. The paper tried to run down rumors that he was in Atlanta, College Park and elsewhere, but only ran into dead ends.

Well, the search is over. Bell is back in Baltimore (assuming he ever left). And he's having a say again in local politics - on WOLB-1010 AM.

The former City Council president popped up a couple weeks ago as a guest on The Final Analysis, a talk show focusing on city and state issues. He is expected to be a regular, though station manager Howard Mazer says Bell is not on the WOLB payroll.

The show is a type known as "customized block programming" - the radio equivalent of vanity publishing. Somebody pays the station to air it, Wednesdays, noon to 1 p.m. Real estate agents and mortgage companies do that kind of thing all the time, footing the bill for what amounts to radio infomercials.

Who's underwriting The Final Analysis? And is there a Bell political comeback scheme at work? Should we add Bell's name to the long list of local pols licking their chops for the mayor's job as Martin O'Malley runs for governor? (After all, expelled state Sen. Larry Young has been working as a talk show host at the same station as he mulls a return to politics.)I can tell you this much: The show's other host is Ed "Slim" Butler, who killed a West Baltimore grocer as a teenager in 1955 and lost his catering company, the Palladium, in a foreclosure sale in 1991. Reached by phone, Butler would only confirm that he was that Ed Butler and that the show was paid for with donations from a group called The Black Think Tank. He referred other questions to Bell.

As for Bell, he's elusive as ever. I reached his father, a local dentist, who was very friendly and promised to pass on my messages to his son. But I never heard from him. Despite Bell's foray into radio, his dad said he might be a little skittish of the media because of that ill-fated mayor's race.

Said Dr. Bell: "Some of the articles that were written weren't so good."

Better not get snotty about the comptroller

Just as Lawrence Bell surfaced on The Final Analysis, Daren Mohammed was yanked off the show for "a few months at least" for speculating on the air about the personal life of William Donald Schaefer.

Not that the personal life of an 84-year-old state comptroller doesn't make for great radio.

But station manager Mazer said he wouldn't stand for it - particularly after Schaefer spokesman Mike Golden called to complain. To complain, mind you. Not to threaten an audit.

"There's a line of propriety you shouldn't pass, and they certainly went way beyond it," Golden says.

After Oglegate - the Board of Public Works derriere-watching incident, which prompted Mohammed's on-air remarks - the comptroller's office has a finely tuned sense of propriety.

(Mohammed, a regular on the show for more than a year and a member of the Nation of Islam, did not return a message seeking comment.)

Nobody cares about the numbers

My call for "Statgate" substitutes was a big, fat flop. Not one reader sent me a gate-suffixed nickname for the flap over Baltimore's allegedly cooked crime books.

But one reader offered this term to describe how Mayor O'Malley washes his woes away: Martinizing.

Doug Duncan Heimliched first

While everybody's patting Sen. John Giannetti on the back for saving his political rival from choking the other day, let's not forget who started the Heimlich-in-politics craze back in October: Doug Duncan.

The gubernatorial hopeful saved a supporter, so that only got him local headlines, not CNN. For that kind of coverage, Duncan would have to save Gov. Robert Ehrlich or Martin O'Malley.

Remember the Philippines?

Obscure bill du jour: House Bill 519, brought to you by Del. Clarence Davis of Baltimore. Here's the synopsis:

"Requiring a county board of education to establish a program to teach students about the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902; requiring the program to teach specified historical facts; and providing that the Act may not be construed to require or authorize the indoctrination of students in a political belief."

No indoctrination? What fun is that?

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