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Our newest feature is designed to bring...


Our newest feature is designed to bring you even more o what this section is about -- provocative and entertaining people. We'll offer glimpses of Marylanders on the move with interesting programs, ideas and lives.

Debbie Smith

You'll never find them on her resume, but these are among the job skills of Debbie Smith:

* Shopping for Shirley MacLaine.

* Dismantling motorcycles for Whoopi Goldberg.

* Hiding Tom Selleck.

To the 33-year-old owner of the Tremont Suite Hotels, it's all in a day's work.

Or, make that seven years of work, during which the Tremont has played host to 400 celebrities and been the headquarters for 13 major motion pictures filmed in the state.

It all started in 1986 when she converted entire floors of suites into production offices and screening rooms for the cast and crew of "Bedroom Window."

While Ms. Smith -- who happens to be the daughter of football great Artie Donovan -- insists that celebrities are just like you and me, they do have their particular needs. During the filming of "Her Alibi," she had to usher Mr. Selleck through the hotel kitchen to avoid zealous fans. And when "Clara's Heart" star Whoopi Goldberg wanted two new Harley-Davidsons delivered to her room, Ms. Smith had to have the engines removed to get them into the elevator.

But having grown up around the Valley Country Club in Lutherville, which her parents own, she's accustomed to meeting unusual requests.

"This is in my blood," explains the Lutherville wife and mother of a 4 1/2 -year-old son. "I'd die if I had to go do something like sell IBM computers."

Growing up in the Murphy Homes housing project, William A. Benjamin knew something was missing from his life. It wasn't toys or clothes or a sprawling home in suburbia. It was, he says, his heritage.

Decades later, he has found that sense of culture and is bringing it to hundreds of others as well. As the producer and host of "Profiles on Africa," one of the WEAA-FM's most popular talk shows, airing Mondays at 6 p.m., he uses the radio to introduce listeners to the history, politics and social mores of African countries. He also uses that hour to wrangle with guests and callers over issues including apartheid, interracial marriage and AIDS in Africa.

"It gives me a sense of satisfaction when I'm able to enhance th knowledge of Africa among persons of African and non-African descent," says the 36-year-old who lives in Northeast Baltimore.

His interest grew after graduating cum laude from Morgan State University and being awarded a Fulbright fellowship to study in Cameroon, Africa. While there, he visited 10 countries and fell in love with the beauty of the areas. Today, he divides his time between touring with a slide presentation of his travels, working as a Blue Cross and Blue Shield supervisor and doing his radio program.

It's not unusual for listeners to call and ask his advice on prospective travel or students to use him as a reference for research papers. And community groups book him for lectures.

"I guess," he says with a laugh, "it's making me into a cultura celebrity."

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