Why did What's-his-name decide to come to our city?

August 05, 2008|By JEAN MARBELLA

Looks like the Fauxfeller picked the wrong town to disappear in.

The saga of Clark Rockefeller, or whoever this orange-haired guy with the black Woody Allen glasses is, took a strange turn through Baltimore, where it began to unravel.

I don't even know what to call this guy at this point - Charles Smith? Chip Smith? Clark Rock? He's used all three, and more, and maybe would have gotten to Chris Rock eventually. Even he might not know what his real name is, so I'm proposing, the way we used to have to refer to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, or TAFKAP, to call him TACFKAR, The (Alleged) Conman Formerly Known As Rockefeller.

In any event, TACFKAR is the man who was arrested this weekend in Baltimore and charged with kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter in Boston and bringing her here to live in a renovated carriage house. With the child's blond adorableness and her poor-little-rich-girl plight, the kidnapping made for a perfect tabloid-and-cable-TV-news storm and had triggered a massive international manhunt - one that ended Saturday afternoon when a swarm of law enforcement officials nabbed TACFKAR and rescued his daughter.

As the story has unfolded, less rather than more has become clear: Authorities say Rockefeller might not be his real name - and the actual, famous Rockefeller family says he most assuredly is not one of them. They also can't find any relatives, any places of employment or any accounting of him beyond the past 13 or so years. And yet somehow, he managed to marry quite the pedigreed woman - Sandra Boss, Harvard Business School grad and McKinsey & Co. senior partner - and buy a boat and a house in Baltimore with cash.

"Surreal" is how Julie Gochar describes it, and she's right, even down to her own slice of the story.

Gochar called a news conference yesterday in a conference room of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, a firm that might be familiar to you as the place where former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is spending his exile. He wasn't spotted yesterday - except in a photo on the wall of the conference room, although a couple of his former aides, Henry Fawell and Paul Schurick, were handling the media just like in the old days. (They said the firm was asked by a friend to help with the high-profile case.)

Gochar, the managing partner of Obsidian Realty, said TACFKAR contacted the company late last year, saying he was relocating from Chile - Chile? - with his daughter and wanted to buy a two- or three-bedroom house here. Associates found him the Mount Vernon carriage house, and were surprised on Friday to see on the news that their client - whom they knew as Chip Smith - was wanted in connection with his daughter's disappearance.

The realty company helped police nab TACFKAR, and took the opportunity to clarify that, despite what he might have said, he does not own Obsidian.

Still unclear is how our fair city came to host TACFKAR, however briefly. I had to laugh when I saw the speculation of a Boston police official, who said: "It looks like he was going to start all over again. The way he operates, I'm sure he would have started a new life in high-society circles, and probably become an upstanding Baltimore citizen."

Oh, really?

Unless he could manufacture a diploma from Gilman, or a grandmama on all the right boards, I'm not sure someone can just waltz into our "high-society circles."

Baltimore is legendarily clubby, a place where people tend to want to know where you went to school - and they generally mean which private high school, not college - what neighborhood you grew up in, who your people are.

I called a couple of inside-society types, and was promptly corrected; times have changed, they said, and money can make up for lack of lineage. Apparently, it would take some time, and a lot of money, but TACFKAR might have been able to buy his way into this or that charity event - an extra man is always welcome at a party - and eventually ingratiate himself into social circles.

But the old-line Baltimoreans, one of my insiders told me, would be too smart to fall for a fake Rockefeller. Particularly since we have an actual one in our midst, Parker Rockefeller, senior vice president of the Living Classrooms Foundation. Whether it's good breeding or just good manners, he didn't hang up on me when I called about the man who would be his relative.

"It's certainly unfortunate," Rockefeller said of his family name's being taken in vain, "but what are you going to do?"



Find Jean Marbella's column archive at baltimoresun.com/marbella

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