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Lania D'Agostino spends her days with dummies...


Lania D'Agostino spends her days with dummies (profitable 0) ones)

The toughest part of the job, Lania D'Agostino mentions matter of factly, is forming a face.

"Replacing an ear is pretty hard," she notes.

But when you're the owner of the Mannequin Service Company in Charles Village, molding ears comes with the turf.

A Maryland Institute grad, Ms. D'Agostino got in the business when the previous owners hired her as an apprentice. Several years ago, they retired and she bought the company.

Today the 34-year-old Lauraville woman spends her days with life-size "dummies" (and one assistant), preparing the plastic models to be sold or rented by stores.

Along the way, she has cultivated a varied clientele -- from art collectors to practical jokers. One regular customer, a friend of Tyne Daly's, stops by to buy a leg (priced between $20 and $50) every time the actress opens on Broadway.

She has also come across a few weirdos in her line of work. Recently a man tried to order an, um, anatomically enhanced mannequin.

"We sent him down to the Block," she says.

For Lenny Clay, being poor had its advantages.

By age 10 he received the family scissors and got to play barber for his 10 siblings. "A couple of my brothers used to beat me up over it," he says with a laugh.

The black eyes paid off, however, and today Lenny's House of Naturals in Southwest Baltimore is frequented by everyone from TV anchors to ministers to kids.

"I get a lot of drug addicts and alcoholics, too," says Mr. Clay, 55, who lives with his wife in Edmondson Village.

While he says low prices (haircuts range from $3 to $12) are his drawing card, patrons say they come to chat with Mr. Clay.

"I hear all their problems, from finance to domestic problems to lawsuits," he says.

And they, in turn, have helped him. With their encouragement, he returned to school and learned to read at age 32. The father of two now volunteers with an all-boys class at George Washington Elementary School.

"I always believed what everybody else could do, I could do, too," he says.

Have someone to suggest for Sunday Snapshots? Write Mary Corey, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or call (301) 332-6156.

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