That's one small dip for a man

2b

July 14, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Whatever you think of William Donald Schaefer's act these days, there's no denying he was a show-stopper 25 years ago tomorrow, when he took his famous dip in the National Aquarium seal pool. With the benefit of a quarter-century's hindsight, it seems like the perfect way to turn a delayed public project into a public relations coup: Have the mayor of Baltimore, who'd vowed to "jump in the tank" if the aquarium did not open on time, not only make good on his promise, but make good in a Gay Nineties swimsuit and a Buster Keaton deadpan. But back on July 15, 1981, Schaefer and his inner circle never dreamed that the stunt would produce an iconic image of the future governor and state comptroller. In fact, they feared it would go down in Maryland political history as a big, fat belly flop.

So says Lainy Lebow-Sachs, a former aide to Schaefer, who recalls the awful hours in City Hall before the boss took the plunge. (Schaefer himself was keeping mum about his swim's silver anniversary.)

"It was tense, very tense," Lewbow-Sachs said. "He's walking around in the office, and he says, `I look so ridiculous.' And he did. I'm trying not to laugh my head off. ... If I even moved a finger, he was yelling at me."

The mood only darkened on the way over to the aquarium, when Schaefer and his crew were overcome by a feeling that Lebow-Sachs described this way: "If you decided to play a joke on somebody, and as you started to do it, you thought, `Jeez, this might not be funny.'"

The showman-mayor pulled it off. But he has had less success keeping a vow he disclosed right after climbing out of the saltwater. Reporters gathered for the spectacle asked Schaefer if he'd made any similar promises about other city projects, The Sun's Sandy Banisky reported at the time.

"No," Schaefer said. "I've been very careful about what I've said recently."

Just tell us what you really think

Maryland Historical Magazine might send the average reader running for a dictionary - or No-Doze. Take the latest issue. You'll find a history of printing in 17th-century Maryland and another article, "Manumission and Apprenticeship in Maryland, 1770-1870." And then there's this:

"Politicians defend the region in public and sell out their constituents in private. Scientists point out the dangers to water quality in the Chesapeake and then go back to their laboratories funded by the state and corporations and demand more money for more research. Eschewing controversy, principle and political argument, many of our bay scientists are the best-kept intellectual whores in the state of Maryland."

Thank John Wennersten for that eye-popping paragraph in the book review section, where he was sizing up William Cronin's Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake. How'd that graf go over?

"The editor was quite surprised," said Wennersten, author of The Chesapeake: An Environmental Biography. "I said, `Well, if you think it's going to embarrass you, pull it out.'" But it stayed. "They're good people," he said.

Connect the dots

Attman's Deli began dishing out pastrami and corned beef yesterday from its new booth at Camden Yards. "Maybe a local winner will change the mazel for our Birds," says Marc Attman. ... By appearing at a fundraiser for Bob Ehrlich this week, Rudolph Giuliani was trying to help The Guv keep a very personal campaign promise - to Kendel Ehrlich. "Mr.Mayor," Governor Ehrlich said, "I made this woman a promise - eight years of a mortgage-free existence. And you are helping us." .... Some famous political surnames are resurfacing.Raymond Glendening is a candidate for Democratic Central Committee in Prince George's County. He is the son of the former governor, Parris Glendening. .... The heavens opened up just as the Fourth of July parade in Annapolis was about to step off, and everybody ran for cover. State Sen. Paula Hollinger made it to her car, spotted a guy huddled under a tree and gave him a ride to his car. No matter that the guy was Oz Bengur, one of her rivals in the 3rd District congressional race.

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