$500 doesn't get you what it once did, Hon Contest: It'll be a new day when the traditional winner lets that big hair down on the Avenue in Hampden.


In the old Hampden, a "Dream Day" would take a week. In the new Hampden, five hours easy.

Try spending $500 at Murphy's 5 & 10, where artificial flower bunches are on sale for $1 apiece, or at New View Video, which boasts of Hampden's best snowballs (75 cents to $1.10), or Bobbi's Unisex Hair Salon or Readings by Sister Patricia.

But wander into Mud and Metal, S'getti Gourmet or Fat Elvis and $500 can disappear faster than you can say "on the Avenue."

This is not an abstract brain twister for Baltimore's best metaphysicists. When the city's latest and best Hon is crowned today (watch the beehive, Hon!) at Hampden's Cafe Hon, she will receive gift certificates worth $500 from Hampden businesses. Not old Hampden businesses, for the most part. But new Hampden businesses, where a box of fancy olive oils can set you back $40, and a dresser knob can cost $25.

Which begs the question, are we talking old best Hons or new best Hons? And are we talking real Hons or pHon-y Hons?

Authenticity is just one concern; so is faith. The "Hon," of course, is a beloved Baltimore image, saucy, sage and imposing in her glorious up-to-the-sky hairdo. Are Hons native to Baltimore? Are there not Hons in Peoria or Cleveland? This is not a question we like to dwell on, because Baltimoreans need something to believe in, even if it's just big hair.

And what of those gift certificates? Do they speak to old Hons or strictly to New Age Hons? An old Hon might be perfectly content with $500 worth of artificial flower bunches. Think of what you could do in the yard with those! Throw in a couple of pink flamingos ($8.99 at Murphy's) and a disposable BBQ Grill ($3.99), and you're in Hon heaven.

But a new Hon might turn her nose up at a gift certificate from the Shop of Deals, Hampden's Bargain Center or the Salvation Army. A new Hon might pooh-pooh the corny lamps in Kobernick's, but purr over the schlocky kittens in Gustafson's vintage knicknack store.

An old Hon might not care about that overlooked piece of Roseville pottery in the thrift store. The new Hon might hold her breath but buy it for a small fortune in a vintage store. In retail, as in Hon-dom, context is everything.

A Hon, old or new, may not be exactly sure where she stands in this material morass. She may slip out of one realm and into another, "Looking Glass" style. One minute she's in Gallo, where everything costs $10 or less, and the next minute she's in Galvanize, getting her ear pierced for the 10th time ($30 plus jewelry).

It's OK. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little Hons.

One thing any wanna-be Hon must understand -- you can't try too hard. And you can't be mean in your tall hair wig, chiffon neckerchief and your studied Baltimorese. The Hon goddess frowns on that. It spoils the fun and the spell.

And remember, some Hon things just can't be bought. The plastic Nipper dog in the window of the Amateur Radio Center on 36th Street in Hampden is not for sale. Like the true Hon, Nipper is a priceless -- if purloined -- piece of Baltimore iconography.

Starting at 11 a.m., Hampden celebrates its Hons today with a Big Hair Contest that includes children's entertainment and a Baltimorese contest at Cafe Hon, 1002 W. 36th St.

Next door at Hometown Girl, artist Greg Otto will sign three new limited editions of his Baltimore cityscape posters from noon until 2 p.m.

Call 410-243-1230 for more details, Hon.

Pub Date: 6/06/98

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad