Where there's smoke, there's ire

April 05, 2009|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Scott Peterson, spokesman for health-and-fitness queen Sheila Dixon, smokes. Not exactly a scandal. But news to the mayor of Baltimore when, by chance last week, she spotted a cigarette dangling from her mouthpiece.

Peterson had kept his half-pack-a-day habit secret for the two months he'd been on the job. A woman who doesn't let red meat or junk food pass her lips would surely frown on the Camel Lights between his.

So he sneaked puffs behind trees in an alcove outside City Hall. Gum, mints and little sample bottles of cologne hid the smell, as did his natural aversion to "close talking."

Then last Monday night, after an appearance in Annapolis, Dixon went her way, Peterson went his, and he thought it was safe to light up.

"I was walking on my way back to the car and I didn't realize that her car was going to be driving down that same street," he said. "And next thing I know, I look to my left and there's the mayor's Suburban, and it just stops right there in the street. And down comes the window. And all I get was, 'What?!! You're a smoker?!!'

"Thank God there were cars behind her," he added. "They had to move the car."

So Peterson, a smoker since college, went right home, tossed all his cigarettes and dedicated himself to clean living, right? Not quite. Not yet, anyway.

Peterson, 33, claims the encounter has him wanting to kick the habit, a desire that friends, family and the surgeon general of the United States had long failed to spark in him.

"I sent her an e-mail and told her, listen, you know, I've had many people - girlfriends, my mother, family members - who've been after me for my smoking," he said. "And you know what? It's completely different when it's the mayor of a city who's after you for your smoking."

That's because the mayor's disapproval conveys concern not just for his well-being, but for the city's fiscal health.

"Now as a city employee ... the health care cost of it isn't just on me," he said. "It's on the city."

Not that the mayor has been laying a municipal guilt trip on her outed smokesman.

Though she's not known for holding her tongue, Dixon hasn't said a word about smoking since that night, Peterson said. But he still feels the pressure and is researching ways to quit.

"I've got to get rid of this habit," he said. "The last thing in the world I need is the mayor stopping traffic again."

Bride tones it down

Society types can expect The New York Times to note their weddings. But it's the bride and groom with the quirky courtship story who get the big play.

The tattooed free spirit who, after many twists and turns, and in an organza dress and sparkly sneakers, tied the knot with the once-spoken-for officemate? She gets a full story.

The granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy? She has to settle for a few paragraphs.

That is, unless the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy and the tattooed-and-sneakered free spirit happen to be one in the same.

Maeve Kennedy Townsend and David McKean were the stars of last Sunday's "Vows" feature in The Times.

If the offbeat bride, and not her famous forebears, rescued the couple from wedding-notice obscurity, surely the forebears are why The Times put White House correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg on the story.

"She is someone I hear interviewed on NPR," said Townsend, 29, sounding surprisingly star-struck for a gal with Uncles Ted and Arnold.

The bride said her mother, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was on board with the wedding-day sneakers.

Unconventional bridal footwear is nothing compared to the platinum dreadlocks and extreme vacations in her past.

"I'd gone backpacking by myself through Uganda for four weeks and neglected to call my parents for a few weeks," she said.

"My mom was a little concerned that I would do something really outrageous during the wedding. I've sort of calmed down."

View's not all that much

The real estate fliers for Gov. William Donald Schaefer's just-listed townhouse play up the "waterfront" views.

But Schaefer himself played down that feature back in 2001, when the state's chief tax collector was appealing his property tax assessment.

Schaefer complained that he'd gotten zinged on the assessment - it had gone up 6.5 percent to $141,290 - because the state classifies the property as "waterfront." The house is near the Patapsco River and Nabbs Creek in Pasadena's Chestnut Hill Cove community.

"He says he can see the water - from his roof, or in the winter when the trees are bare," The Sun's Amanda J. Crawford reported at the time.

Schaefer told her: "I can see the water coming out of the spigot."

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