Forget crime - Jablow's got better stories

November 30, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Murder and mayhem were Matt Jablow's bread and butter as a WBAL newsman, Baltimore police spokesman and America's Most Wanted producer. Now he's offering more life-affirming fare as a "Webumentarian."

Jablow left America's Most Wanted in July to start a video production company, Frodo Productions, named for a Hobbit. Baltimore's Ronald McDonald House has hired him to make a documentary for its Web site - a "Webumentary," as Jablow put it - on a family it serves.

It tells the story of Kevin and Melissa Buckles of Northern Virginia. He's a Marine, she's a stay-at-home mom, and they're the parents of Erin and Jade, born as conjoined twins in February 2004. The twins were separated, but the surgery left Erin paralyzed. The couple has another little girl, Taylor, who has a spinal tumor that threatens to paralyze her.

FOR THE RECORD - The name of a former Sun reporter was misspelled in Laura Vozzella's column Sunday. He is Rafael Alvarez.

They stay at the Ronald McDonald House when they come to Baltimore for treatment.

The story is not exactly upbeat, except in the sense that it shows "normal people doing incredible things," Jablow said. "It's touching. It's sad. It's nerve-racking. We've been following them since July, and we will probably follow them late into this spring."

Rather than creating a single video, Jablow will post short monthly installments at The first went up last week. The hope is that viewers will get hooked, keep checking in, and get inspired to donate money or time to the charity.

"All of us in the nonprofit realm have moved to Web sites to tell our stories but lacked a reason to come back," said Marianne Rowan-Braun, president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore.

Jablow persuaded her to "take these incredible stories and post them in a place where the community could consistently come back and follow the story of an individual, the story of the house, the story of our needs," she said.

Rowan-Braun said she was open to Jablow's pitch in part because her last collaboration with him went so well.

In 2003, someone swiped $1,000 worth of video games used by kids at the house. Then the city's police spokesman, Jablow persuaded Rowan-Braun to go public with the theft.

"We were on the news for three days," she said. "Our home was flooded with donations. ... It was such a joy to be able to tell the little people here, 'This is what we're about in this community.'"

Take a seat on The Stoop

The Stoop Storytelling Series gives Baltimoreans of all walks of life - "writers, dog-walkers, scientists, poets, moms, manicurists, museum directors, waitresses, TV hosts, taxi drivers ... and you!" as the show's Web site puts it - the chance to climb on stage and tell all.

Add one more job description to that list: mayor.

Sheila Dixon is getting into the act, performing Dec. 15, when the theme is "Favorite Holiday Stories."

"Previously we've done 'Holidays from Hell,' " said producer Laura Wexler. "We've decided non-hellacious stories are welcome this year as well."

Like any good performance art, The Stoop can be revealing. These are stories, as the Web site puts it, "of love, death, revenge, forgiveness. Failures small and large. Double-crossing and two-timing. Shame and success. Epiphanies that happen just in time ... and others that don't."

Baltimore's mayor usually prefers to keep her private life private. Will Dixon open up on The Stoop?

If so, she's saving it for the show.

"At the Stoop Stories event, the mayor will share a story about a Dixon family Christmas Eve tradition," was all spokesman Ian Brennan would say.

Wexler was in the dark about the mayor's tale. She's just excited to have Baltimore's top pol take the stage. "I think it's a cool," she said. "It's a chance for her to speak personally about non-political things."

Whatever Dixon shares, it'll be with an unusually big crowd. Stoop Stories are usually told to an audience of 540 at Center Stage. Shows have been selling out recently, so this one is set for Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, which seats 2,300.

Billed as "A Charm City Seasonal Spectacular," it will have more of a variety-show format, with the Westsiders Marching Band and other musicians performing in between stories. Other storytellers that night will be editorial cartoonist Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher, Charm City Cakes manager Mary Alice Yeskey, writer Raphael Alvarez, City Paper film critic Violet Glaze, actress Maria Broom of The Wire, and writer Arthur Magida. (Disclosure: Both KAL and Alvarez used to work here.)

No doubt they're in compliance

City contractors have finally started demolishing Uplands for a housing redevelopment project that has hit one snag after another since the city acquired the former Uplands Apartments from the feds in 2004. (And yes, I've noticed because I live nearby.)

The project was nearly delayed again in October because demolition firm P&J Contracting Co. did not meet the city's requirements for using women- and minority-owned subcontractors. At the time, P&J promised that it would get into compliance.

Just in case anyone has any doubts, a banner on the chain-link fence around the rubble proclaims this to passing traffic on Edmondson Avenue: "Subcontractors: Phipps, MBE [Minority-owned Business Enterprise]. Hammerhead, MBE. Cleo Enterprises, WBE [Woman-owned Business Enterprise]. Hopkins Fuel, WBE. 'Minorities on the move.'"

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