Fame is as strange as a service station with a clean bathroom


Linda Segal of Baltimore Rent-a-Tour has been guiding bus rides through the city for 15 years. The other day, she provided play-by-play for a class of fifth-graders. The tour stopped at Camden Yards. Everyone scrambled out of the bus. Linda led the kids to a spot near the Eutaw Street entrance, where those large stainless steel numbers of Orioles Hall of Famers are anchored.

"Number 22," Linda said. "This was Jim Palmer's number."

"Oh, my God!" said one of the boys, his eyes big as pies. "Jim Palmer from the Money Store?!"

When a nice guy growls

I know a mild-mannered fellow -- so mild, in fact, he makes Forrest Gump seem like Rush Limbaugh -- and he never says a mean word about anyone. One of those. You never hear him gossip. He always cuts a loser an even break. He's a positive and magnanimous thinker, so considerate of others that he never renders a harsh judgment, certainly never a cynical one. This guy doesn't have an opinion of the clothes he's wearing. He's a Republican who won't say a bad word about Bill Clinton. But what finally made him growl? I said the name, Bob Saget, host of "America's Funniest Home Videos." My pal had a fit, holding back no disgust for the most hated-for-just-being-himself celebrity in America. You think I indulge in vicious hyperbole? Try this at home. Say, "Bob Saget." Then duck.

No rest for the finicky

Gas station restrooms. Say those words, and you get the same reaction you get from "Bob Saget." It's not a pleasant subject, and the question of the cleanliness of gas stations is an incredibly complicated arena of public interest. Operators complain about vandalism and the futility of trying to keep restrooms clean. Some service station operators are just slobs who could care less. They don't have restrooms; they have Superfund sites. It's my observation that the quality of gas station restrooms has generally improved over the years. The problem is, the bad ones are really bad, and you step into one and, man, it's hard to forget. A guy told me recently about a restroom that had a certain je ne sais pas quoi, an other-worldliness, if you follow my drift. It was on U.S. 50, about 5/8 5/8 TC half-mile east of the turnoff for Md. 213. (I'll skip the details, as some readers probably haven't eaten yet.) "Can't we do something?" the guy asks me. "Can't we start a Central Committee for Service Station Restrooms? You know, sort of an early-warning list to steer people clear of places like that?" The guy has a good idea. Somebody out there could travel the state to make on-site inspections, then put together a roster of chronically gut-wrenching roadside bathrooms, publish it as a map and sell it. I know lots of local politicians who will be looking for jobs soon, so there's a nice little project for one of them.

Tongue slappers

Overheard during preparations for recent Locust Point Community Festival: "Here's where we'll set up the table for the balloons and the propane tanks to fill them with."

Overheard during drive through Washington, near a park where reggae band was performing: "Look, Dot, a Ragu band!"

From talk radio Monday night, after news of Johnny Oates's dismissal: "Just what this team needed: A new sweep with a clean broom."

What a reporter heard a candidate for state office say: "Why should voters send me to Annapolis? Because I have the talent, the new ideas, the inertia . . ."

Overheard at Ellen Sauerbrey's rally Monday: "That [New Jersey Gov.] Christie Whitman, she made many prolific points."

Fall ahead

The first blatantly commercial hint of Christmas in metropolitan Baltimore was recorded and reported to This Just In the afternoon of Sept. 20. The Pier One in the Festival at Bel Air was on that day offering ornaments, decorations and holiday cards. And that was, by my calendar, three days before autumn officially began. All right!

A blurb stranded in time

I'm sure it was not the magazine's intention to be darkly ironic -- articles for slick magazines such as Style usually must be written several weeks in advance of the magazine's publication -- but the brightly written blurb about Susan Harrison's lamp-shade artistry in the current issue jumps off the page. Susan Hurley Harrison has been missing from her home in Ruxton since Aug. 5. The brief article touting her business, The Shady Lady, appears in "The Savvy Shopper" section of Style's September-October issue. Page 12. Weird. Sad.

The deacon's departure

I'm bummed out. Marlin Deacon, of Gazze, one of Baltimore's best party bands, is putting down his sax after 23 years. That's a long roll. The Deacon, Dwight Weems, Don Bogert and Bob Matarozza are the remaining original members of a band that has played all over the Patapsco Drainage Basin and made a legion of dancin'-like-a-fool fans in the process. (The crab feasts at La Fountaine Rouge were fabulous, with Weems doing his Mr. Microphone thing in a jumpin' crowd that smelled like beer, Old Bay and perfume.) The Deacon has taken a teaching job on the Eastern Shore, and he and his wife -- her name is Melody! -- plan on moving down there and setting up a business in Ocean City. So it's bye-bye to the band. The farewell is at Bohager's Friday night. The Deacon's replacement is Nancy Kushner.

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