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From Towson to Tinseltown

It may not have the glam of New York, or be a fishbowl like Los Angeles, but Towson has made some ripples in the entertainment world. Glimmers of the town have popped up on television and in film in the last decade.

1. Did you know Elaine is from Towson?
It was the 1992 episode called "The Letter" that probably started the rumors that Julia Louis-Dreyfus -- Elaine Benes of "Seinfeld" -- was from Towson. In it, Elaine bypasses her boss's son's circumcision to attend a Yankees-Orioles game with George and Kramer. The three get thrown out of the owner's box when the cantankerous Elaine refuses to remove her Oriole's hat. When asked if she is from Baltimore, she replies -- proudly we might add -- "Towson."

Get out! The character of Elaine Benes from "Seinfeld," played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, claimed she was from Towson.

So many of the show's one-liners and improbable scenes fuel our own conversations, it's not surprising that we would assume Elaine's hometown to be that of her portrayer. But, unless she visited Towson to buy cigars at Fader's Tobacconist, there is no evidence that Louis-Dreyfus ever set foot in our fair burg. She was born in New York City, spent much of her childhood in Washington, D.C., attended the exclusive Holton-Arms school in Bethesda, and went on to study drama at Northwestern University in Chicago.

2. The Curve at the Crossroads
If you've never heard of the movie "The Curve," you're not alone. A favorite at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998, the movie depreciated into a direct-to-video release. But the smattering of people who rented it saw Towson University, which served as the set during much of the 1997 filming.

There is an explanation for Towson's starring role in this little-seen film. Dan Rosen, the movie's writer and director, is a graduate of Towson University and a native of neighboring Pikesville. His plot follows a popular urban myth on college campuses: if a student's roommate commits suicide, the surviving roommate gets a 4.0 that semester. Rosen billed "The Curve" as a "dark, dark film," and it was not his first venture into that genre. He also wrote "The Last Supper," a 1996 political satire starring Cameron Diaz. Rosen's comedic roots stretch back even further than that: while a sophomore at Towson he started the Charm City Comedy Club downtown and continued to work as a stand-up comedian for many years.

Reformed: Charles "Roc" Dutton attended Towson State University for two years after spending time in prison.

3. Towson has a piece of the Roc
People are proud to say Charles "Roc" Dutton had something to do with Towson, although his childhood was far removed from these bucolic suburbs. He grew up in the Latrobe Housing Project on Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore where he dropped out of school, rotated in and out of reform school, and adopted a life of crime. In 1967, Roc -- as his street friends called him -- was imprisoned for stabbing a man to death in a street fight.

But during his 7 1/2 years in jail, Roc changed. During a stint in solitary confinement, Roc read an anthology of plays by black writers. He immediately turned his energy from delinquency to drama, started a prison theater club and, upon his release in 1976, enrolled at (then) Towson State University. Two years later, he was accepted to the Yale School of Drama.

Roc's theatrical resum´e is long and diverse. He enjoyed early success on Broadway, where he starred in "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" and earned a Tony nomination for his role in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." He has appeared in feature films such as "No Mercy," "Crocodile Dundee II," "Rudy," "Aliens 3" and "Nick of Time." In the early 1990s, he starred in the successful television series "Roc," about a hard-working Baltimore garbage man. He also earned an Emmy nomination for the 1995 television movie "The Piano Lesson." In 1991, Towson University venerated its great rags-to-riches story by granting Roc an honorary doctorate degree.

Love!Valour!Towson! Towson State University alumnus John Glover won the Tony Award for his role in "Love!Valour!Compassion!" in 1995. (AP photo by Richard Drew)

4. You'd know him if you saw him
Speaking of Towson State University, actor John Glover attended and graduated from the school's teacher's college and recently received an honorary master's degree. Born in Salisbury, Md., Glover is best known for his roles as villians. He appeared in "Annie Hall," "52 Pick-Up," "Scrooged" and the TV movie "An Early Frost." In 1995, Glover won a Tony award for his performance in the play "Love! Valor! Compassion!" He reprised his role in the 1997 film version of the play.

5. From swimming pool to Sydney
In the autumn of 2000, lawns throughout Towson sported U.S. flags and girls at Towson High School got giddy at the sight of Michael Phelps. The 15-year-old sophomore is more than just the good-looking athlete every girl wants to accompany to the prom. He is more than an Olympic swimmer. He is the youngest male swimmer to represent the United States in the Olympics in 68 years -- he is a floating phenomenon.

Swimming star: Towson High School's Michael Phelps represented the United States at the Olympics in Sydney. (Sun photo by Jerry Jackson)

It doesn't matter that Phelps finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly stroke in Sydney, that he didn't take home a medal. Michael Phelps of Towson became an international celebrity in Sydney. He became the "it" boy of the sporting world, sharing the spotlight with another precocious teen, Australian swimming sensation Ian Thorpe. He was even the subject of a trivia question on ESPN's game show "Two-Minute Drill."

Sydney is behind him now and he is looking forward. He is thinking about bringing home a gold medal and then some from Athens in 2004.