Or it could be some bootleg hooch

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November 02, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Walters Art Museum bigwigs know perfectly well how things turned out for Geraldo Rivera and Al Capone's vault, thank you very much. But they're plowing ahead anyway with a plan to let the public in tonight as they break open two recently discovered wooden crates belonging to museum founder Henry Walters.

The Baltimore industrialist died in 1931, leaving his city 22,000 pieces of art - plus two wooden crates that somehow escaped notice until now. Secured with heavy padlocks and bearing the initials "H.W.," they turned up deep in museum storage. They're both about the size of microwave ovens, and the only thing known for sure is that they do not contain microwave ovens.

The public is invited to watch (for free) as the crates are opened tonight at 7:30. Before the locksmith gets to work, the museum will have a clairvoyant on hand to ask Walters what's inside.

(Where'd they find a clairvoyant? Yellow Pages? When she's not channeling dead museum founders, the seer works in the gift shop. Truth be told, she's really more of an actress than a psychic, but what do you want on short notice?)

Unlike Geraldo, the museum is trying to have its hoopla without eating humble pie. So spokeswoman Amy Mannarino walked the wide line between hyping an event and lowering expectations.

"This is a fun event, but we're not expecting some multimillion-dollar piece of art to be in the crate," she said. "There's not going to be a Monet in there."

You may approach the throne, Mr. Schaefer

Has mayoral power gone to Her Majesty's head?

Sheila Dixon went about the business of being mayor Wednesday dressed as a queen, complete with long embroidered gown and tiara. The Halloween costume was equal parts trick and treat.

The treat: After years of using the holiday as a chance to wear her daughter's Catholic school uniform around City Hall, Dixon went regal, something her subjects surely appreciated.

The trick: Dixon invited Mike Schaefer, who ran against her for mayor, to Wednesday's Board of Estimates meeting. Schaefer wasn't told why he'd been summoned. He thought the board might be throwing a birthday party for William Donald Schaefer, who turns 86 today.

Mike Schaefer is no relation to Willie Don, though he tried to capitalize on the famous last name in his bids for mayor this year and U.S. Senate last year, not to mention other races in other parts of the country where the last name has political heft. The strategy hasn't worked with voters, but he has managed to strike up a friendship with the former mayor, governor and comptroller. Which is why Mike Schaefer figured he'd rate an invite to a birthday gathering at City Hall.

So Mike Schaefer walked into the Board of Estimates hearing room expecting cake, candles and his political namesake. He found the queened-up current mayor instead. Dixon was playing off a barb that Mike Schaefer had tossed out in a mayoral debate; he'd called her "queen for a day."

This time, Dixon was laughing and even gave Mike Schaefer a hug, The Sun's Sumathi Reddy reports.

Mike Schaefer had only the highest praise for the stunt. "Showmanship, a la WDS," he wrote me in an e-mail.

Next year, maybe Dixon should sport Willie Don's old striped swimsuit.

Ooooo, boys and girls, really, really scary

If Martin O'Malley had to have a special session, at least he had the good sense to call it at a time ripe for schlocky plays on words. Political slogans this week have been all Halloween, all the time, regardless of political bent.

From the state GOP, which thinks the governor is taxing and spending too much:

"Just in time for Halloween, O'Malley administration officials today spooked Marylanders with a proposal to raise the gasoline tax every year for the rest of their lives," a party news release began. The release went on to quote party chairman Jim Pelura: "He [O'Malley] is pushing tax tricks for Maryland families and sweet treats to pay back his special interests."

And from several environmental groups contending that O'Malley isn't spending enough to clean up the Chesapeake Bay:

"Think this is scary?" began a newspaper ad with a photo of a freaky looking trick-or-treater on one side. "What about this?" it read over a picture of dead fish floating in murky water.

The environmentalists also aired a radio spot that, while not overtly Halloweeny, still conveyed the holiday creeps. It raised the specter of tubular, nitrite-spiked mystery meat replacing a classic Maryland treat.

If the bay isn't cleaned up, the ad said, Maryland crab houses will have to start serving hot dogs. Yikes!

His kind of town

Stalker aside, Garrison Keillor had a grand time in Baltimore last month, according to his Web site, which made no mention of the lovesick fan who came here all the way from Georgia for a little Scary Home Companion.

"I loved Baltimore ... and spent Sunday walking around downtown and dropped in at a fine old brownstone church, Grace and St. Peters Episcopal Church, on Park and Monument Streets, and was deeply moved by a magnificent choir and high mass, then sat by the water and ate a platter of Chincoteague oysters and a fine corn chowder and striped bass on a sunny day, and then got to visit the Enoch Pratt Free Library, which is my idea of what a library should be, and then saw the H.L. Mencken house on Hollins Street, which some fellow Mencken-lovers are planning to restore and furnish with the great man's stuff," he wrote.

"I spent most of a day at WYPR, a sweetheart of a radio station. I suppose Baltimore has its problems but it's an easy city for an out-of-towner to love."

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