In the video for their breakthrough hit, "What Makes You Beautiful," the five Brit heartthrobs of One Direction cavort on the beach, looking wind-swept, clean-cut and ink-free.
Yet, there they were — well, three of them, anyway — on a recent Tuesday evening at Tattooed Heart Studios in Glen Burnie, just off Ritchie Highway and around the corner from JP's Liquor Fair. Liam Payne was along for the ride as Zayn Malik was adorned with an image reminiscent of his girlfriend and Louis Tomlinson got tatted up with a spider web, a bomb and a rope. As they waited, they scarfed down buckets of chicken and sandwiches from the KFC next door.
"They were like, 'Man, the food in America is so much sweeter than we're used to. Even the bread is sweeter,' " Tattooed Heart Studios owner John Garancheski said, employing a decent British accent to imitate them.
Baltimore is hardly New York City or L.A., but when you least expect it, here are members of a boy band getting inked in Glen Burnie. Or Richard Gere showing up to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles game against the Red Sox. Or Kevin Spacey dropping by Center Stage.
Could there be something to this "Charm City" moniker? Well, let's not get too crazy. But we do try to be accommodating.
Gere — star of "American Gigolo," "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Pretty Woman" — had contacted Jim Duquette, the Orioles' former VP of baseball operations (and cousin of general manager Dan Duquette), to express interest in attending a game, according to O's public relations director Monica Barlow. The O's did him one better: He ended up throwing out the first pitch on Father's Day, flanked by his son, Homer, and his son's friend. Decked out in an O's cap and jersey, Gere and his contingent played catch before the game and took some pictures in the locker room with players such as outfielder Adam Jones.
Though Gere is "not my sort of actor," Jones later told radio host Jim Rome, he was impressed by the reception his social-media posts about the visit got: "You put [up] something with Richard Gere — you get the cougars coming out."
Spacey, in town to shoot the Netflix series "House of Cards," has popped up all over: Navy football games, Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge in Annapolis, the Starbucks at Charles and Preston streets (and with former President Bill Clinton, at that). The artistic director of London's storied Old Vic Theatre got a warm reception a few weeks ago when he attended a performance of "Beneatha's Place" at Center Stage, accompanied by a couple of other "Cards" folks.
Spacey stayed afterward for nearly 40 minutes, chatting up actors and others with the show, which was written by Center Stage artistic director (and London native) Kwame Kwei-Armah. Kwei-Armah, regrettably, missed the performance.
Spacey was, according to managing director Stephen Richard, "completely normal."
"He's very much a man of the theater. This is his milieu," Richard said. "The first thing he said to me was, 'It's ironic. Here I am, an American, running a British theater. And you have a Brit running an American theater.'"
Audience members clearly recognized the "Usual Suspects" and "American Beauty" actor, Richard noted.
"It was interesting how considerate they were. Not anyone that I recall came up to him and asked for an autograph," Richard said. "There was a lot of recognition — takes and double takes."
Such a level of consideration was not in evidence in Harbor East a couple of weeks ago, as tweens and teens converged on the Four Seasons, where the lads of One Direction were apparently staying. A Sun reporter encountered a group of girls who had shown up and chatted with the fellows as they were leaving to go to a Philadelphia show. A video posted online showed a group talking with a One Direction member outside the hotel, telling him (repeatedly) how much they loved him.
Harbor East has been one of the city's more celeb-friendly areas in the past year. "Veep" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus was photographed at Cinghiale. Charleston chef Cindy Wolf was delighted by a visit from Daniel Craig, the actor who has (almost single-handedly) resurrected the James Bond franchise. Singer Leann Rimes shopped at the J. Crew in Harbor East (in addition to eating at the B&O Brasserie downtown and Aldo in Little Italy).
At boutique Handbags in the City, owner George Sakellaris has catered to celebrity whims. Singer-songwriter and reality star Tamar Braxton snapped up a pair of Tom Ford sunglasses and an MCM belt one day last year. O's third baseman Manny Machado pulled his hat low and sat on a couch while his girlfriend shopped, eventually purchasing a Tory Burch bag.
"I just treat them like everyone else," Sakellaris says of high-profile shoppers. "One time, Julianne Moore was standing outside the store. She was just coming back from Whole Foods and said, 'Oh, this looks good.' I said, 'Come in!' and she bought a Diane Von Furstenberg dress. She was very quiet, very simple and sweet."
Moore was in Baltimore to shoot her Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning turn as Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin in the HBO film "Game Change." Co-star Woody Harrelson, incidentally, stayed at the Inn at the Black Olive, on the Fells Point-Harbor East border.
It's the concierges at such hotels who point guests (including those of the boldface-name variety) to local restaurants and attractions, ranging from Kali's Court to Ruth's Chris to the National Aquarium to the B&O Museum.
Ahmed Ibrahim, a concierge at the Inn at the Black Olive, notes that the hotel has accommodated Ravens players and the likes of actors such as Harrelson.
Still, he's been working there since January and has yet to spot a celebrity while on the job.
"It's funny," he said. "I always seem to miss them when they stay here."
Baltimore Sun reporters Aviva J. Woolf, Wesley Case and Anne Tallent contributed to this article.