Calvin W. Schumann, 68, collector, bon vivant


Calvin W. Schumann, a well-known puppeteer, bar owner, antiques dealer, art collector and bon vivant, died in his sleep yesterday at Maryland General Hospital after a short illness. He was 68 and a longtime resident of Sutton Place Apartments in Baltimore.

For more than 40 years, Cal Schumann was one of the city's most colorful and flamboyant characters.

His range -- known as the Cal Belt -- extended from Bolton Hill to the bars and restaurants in the Mount Vernon area.

Always stylishly dressed, he was a perennial first-nighter at the Mechanic Theatre and Center Stage, usually sitting in the first row. During the cold months, he wore a mink coat to openings.

The Pittsburgh native, who earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Bradley University in 1952, came to Baltimore in 1956 as a film editor for WBAL-TV, after serving in the Army in Japan.

At WBAL, he met and later collaborated with Rhea Feiken, who was host of "Miss Rhea and Sunshine," a live daily children's program. For the children's show, he created and was the voice for puppets Sunshine J. Dogg, Gertie Birdie, Oogy Worm and Grandma Scarlett O'Hara Worm.

After leaving WBAL-TV in 1975, Mr. Schumann opened Mary's, a popular bar on Cathedral Street. After he closed the bar in 1980, he operated Cal Schumann Antiques on Howard Street until 1996.

He collected art nouveau posters, especially the work of Alphonse Mucha, who painted in Paris from 1895 to 1904. His extensive collection of Mucha posters was displayed at the Walters Art Gallery in 1984.

Mr. Schumann was a friend to actress Tallulah Bankhead during the last seven years of her life. He first saw the actress perform in 1942 in Philip Barry's play "Foolish Notion."

Friends of Mr. Schumann and Miss Bankhead described his impersonation of her as eerily accurate.

In a 1972 Sun Magazine interview, he explained his lifelong infatuation with the bass-voiced, wise-cracking, unconventional Miss Bankhead, who was the daughter of William Brockman Bankhead, speaker of the House of Representatives from 1936 to 1940.

"Well, when you live in Pittsburgh and have an insurance agent for a father and a puritanical matriarch for a mother, somebody like Tallulah seems fantastically exciting. The way she talked. Her outrageous language. Her uninhibited references to sex. Hers was an entirely new world to me," he said in the interview.

Possessed with a talent for mimicry, as a teen-ager he began doing an impression of Miss Bankhead and would perform it as an adult dressed as the actress.

"It was so good that one night when he was with Tallulah Bankhead, she called me and I thought it was Cal," said Miss Feiken.

When Miss Bankhead died in 1968, Mr. Schumann was a pallbearer at her funeral in Chestertown.

In a life filled with outrageous capers, one of his more celebrated was the purchase of a tan and black used Rolls Royce with crystal vase flower holders.

"The trouble was he didn't have a license and didn't know how to drive and I had to drive the Rolls home," said Miss Feiken, laughing. "And when he did learn to drive, if you can call it that, he was an awful driver."

"He made a grand entrance and a quiet exit," said Robert Helsley, a Maryland Institute, College of Art design instructor and friend.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

He is survived by two sisters, Margaret Downey and Kathryn Larson, both of Lakeland, Fla.; his companion, Charles Shawler; and two godchildren.

Pub Date: 2/06/98

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