Rockets' red glare, dollars bursting in air

December 31, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Lawmakers and taxpayers screamed bloody murder when they heard about bailed-out execs flying around in corporate jets.

So the reaction tonight, when a company affiliated with American International Group simply tosses $200,000 into the Inner Harbor air?

Ooh! Ahh!

Ports America, a cargo-terminal operator run by a company that is partially owned by AIG, is footing the bill for Baltimore's New Year's Eve fireworks display.

AIG has received more federal bailout money than any other company, about $150 billion so far. The $200,000 fireworks display means that 0.00013 percent of that cash is being set aflame, right?

Wrong, said Christopher Lee, managing partner of Highstar Capital, which runs Ports America.

AIG partnered with Highstar to acquire Ports America in March 2007. The company was even called AIG Highstar at the time. But AIG's role has since shrunk, Lee said.

"They're still an investor, but only for 8 percent," Lee said. "AIG has a very small piece."

There was applause all around last year, when Ports America first picked up the city's pyrotechnics tab. Eager to promote its red-white-and-blue image after buying out Dubai Ports World, the company shelled out for three barges full of fireworks - up from the two Baltimoreans were usually treated to.

The show will be even better this year, with the three barges loaded with more pyrotechnics, said Mark Montgomery, chief of Ports America's Baltimore operations.

And not so much as a sparkler comes courtesy of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Montgomery and Lee stressed.

"This is Ports America money, which has been hard earned," Lee said. "There's no government money in this at all."

In the stars, in the cards

The Prince of Darkness has dropped another tidbit, this time about the wife of the boss.

On his blog, Darkness Rising, former Bob Ehrlich aide Joe Steffen claims that Kendel Ehrlich dabbles in tarot cards and astrology.

"Maryland's own former first lady, Kendel Ehrlich took delight in both card readings and astrological predictions," Steffen writes. "I know this firsthand as, along with a few others, I'd attended card readings with Mrs. Ehrlich. Additionally, shortly before her youngest was born, she asked me to write-up a basic rundown of how the siblings (and family unit as a whole) would relate to one another based upon their respective astrological signs. This, I did - and I hope I was fairly accurate!"

Tried to reach someone at Bob Ehrlich's office. No reply.

Still a Colts' hangout

Not to worry, Club 4100 is keeping its menu and shirts in place.

The Brooklyn Park basement bar and restaurant where Johnny Unitas and other Colts were regulars looked as if it was in danger of closing about a year ago.

The owners tried to auction it off in September 2007 but the bids were deemed too low. The Baltimore Sun reported that at the time, but there hadn't been any word since.

At the suggestion of a curious reader, I checked in on the place. Turns out the restaurant did change hands that December. And just about a month ago, the new owners, Meena and Raj Harkie of Kingsville, brought in someone else to help them manage the place.

"The charm of the place is the same," said manager Nancy Shade. "It's still the Colts' hangout." She said the old home-style favorites are still on the menu, but there are some new items.

Anything trendy?

"Like what?" she asked.

I don't know, say, tapas or something?

Shade thought I'd said "topless." She assured me they kept their clothes on.

Once we cleared that up, she identified one new item on the menu: homemade potato chips. "That's something we offer to everyone who sits down."

Connect the dots

OK, I'm six months late with this, but even so, I'm not the last to know: Congressman Elijah Cummings married Maya Rockeymoore in June. The not-so-newlyweds are still working on sending out a formal wedding announcement, but Cummings spokesman Jennifer Kohl confirmed the news after word belatedly reached me yesterday. Rockeymoore is an American University lecturer who teaches courses on "The Politics and Policy of Race and Gender" and "Women, Politics, and Public Policy," according to her Web site. She is also the founder of Global Policy Solutions, "a comprehensive policy consulting company." She previously served as vice president for research and programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. ... Bourbon Street, a downtown Baltimore club, advertised a special event Sunday that caused a colleague to do a double-take: "White Teen Night." Not the throwback it sounded like. The theme was "Winter Wonderland," and kids 14 to 19 got $2 off admission if they wore all white.

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