IT WORKED for Mario Cuomo and Ann...


IT WORKED for Mario Cuomo and Ann Richards, why not Helen Bentley?

What the three have in common is defeat in last year's elections. All of them were established political fixtures. Now all three are scrambling to make a buck in the private sector.

But in a free-market system, there's always an opportunity around the corner.

For the ex-New York governor (Mr. Cuomo) and the ex-Texas governor (Ms. Richards), it came in the form of a fat check to promote Doritos chips in a well-publicized TV commercial during the Superbowl (rumored to have paid each a seven-figure sum).

For Mrs. Bentley, opportunity arrived in the form of a radio ad for Towson Town Center. It's hilarious. She's a born comedian.

By making light of her own predicament at the polls last year and by using her dry sense of humor to maximum advantage, Mrs. Bentley catches the listener's ear -- a sine qua non for effective radio advertising.

What next for the determined and resourceful Mrs. Bentley?

Perhaps she will take another tip from Mr. Cuomo and start churning out literary works.

Six weeks ago, the New Yorker signed a lucrative book contract. On the local political scene, Baltimore Rep. Kweisi Mfume has a $200,000 deal for a book he's writing on his unusual life story and Sen. Barbara Mikulski is shopping around a mystery novel she wants published.

Given Mrs. Bentley's colorful past -- and the country's yen for conservative reading -- she figures to be a natural as a published author. Heck, her years at The Sun as the best maritime reporter and editor in the country give her the perfect professional background for a return to the written word.

Besides, what grand tales she could tell about life on the docks, life in the newsroom, life in the federal regulatory agencies, life in Congress, life as a conservative Republican (before the Gingrich revolution) and life as a woman making breakthrough after breakthrough in a male-dominated world.

* * *

ABOUT FIVE in the afternoon last Tuesday, a fire alarm was called into Carroll County's emergency operations center about a shed fire on Prospect Street in Mount Airy.

Smoke was pouring out the building, and it looked as though it was ready to burst into flames.

The center notified the Mount Airy volunteer fire department, which sounded its alarm.

As the volunteers started to pull into the station and slip into their firefighting gear, a call came in canceling the alarm.

It turned out that although the Prospect Street shed was smoking, it was not on fire. The owner had started up his smokehouse and was curing a bunch of hams and sausages.

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