To say that "A Night at The Wire" was cool would be an understatement. The fundraiser for The Ella Thompson Fund was cool on so many levels.
First, the party was held at the Columbia soundstage where the HBO series The Wire is filmed -- an address you could only get after you purchased tickets.
Second, the 500-ticket event was sold out.
Third, no outside party planner was needed. The show's production crew took care of decorations, lighting and tours through The Wire sets.
"This was off-the-clock, on their own time. They all pitched in," noted Joe Incaprera, The Wire's assistant production manager.
Then, cast members turned out for the party and mingled with the evening's guests.
"I was so excited to come and meet [the show's] junkie, Bubbles. I needed to know how [Andre Royo] really talks," guest Rose Carpenter said.
For a show honored for its realism, even the night's food followed suit.
"I'm so excited about the coddies," said guest Steve Schwartzman.
Then there were the incredibly cool auction items: a speaking role on the series, a spa date with the "ladies of The Wire" Sonja Sohn and Deirdre Lovejoy, a drink with "detectives" Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters.
The reason for all the effort was perhaps the coolest thing of all: The Ella Thompson Fund. Started by The Wire's creator, David Simon, and writer Edward Burns, the fund supports recreation and education programs for West Baltimore youth, and is run by the Parks & People Foundation.
"This is so far beyond the call of duty for a show's production company to do this," said Maryland Film Festival founder Jed Dietz. "It's really great."
A DRINK WITH MARC STEINER
An independent thinker
Marc Steiner, 59, recently celebrated his 13th anniversary as host of The Marc Steiner Show, his popular daily public affairs talk program on WYPR radio.
Tonic water and lime?
Well, I'll tell you. On June 15th  in Vietnam, I woke up and said, I'm gonna give it a rest for a while. I'm gonna stop drinking for a while. I need total clarity.
What were you doing in Vietnam?
I'm doing a documentary called Shared Weight. It's about Vietnam and America 30 years later. ... We finished the first hour, which we're going to air at the station in the next month. It'll be five to six hours when we're done. ... and we'll start getting it around to Public Radio stations this fall.
That's pretty heady stuff.
Yeah. Good stuff, though.
So, what do you do to lighten up?
One way is [to spend time with] my 9-year-old daughter, and my 13-, 10-, 9- and 8-year-old grandkids.
That lightens you up?
Sometimes. Sometimes home is a haven. [Other ways include] meditation, hanging out with friends, walking in the woods. I was just with my buddy Bob Wisdom. He's on The Wire. He introduced me to a new form of meditation, a free form of dance. I also go to the gym. I punch bags. I'm too old to punch people anymore.
With all the important issues you address on your show, how has that shaped your view of the world? Do you get depressed?
Not depressed. But, it can make you very jaundiced about politics and politicians. And you do see what desperate shape some parts of the world are in now. ... But, sometimes, I get very inspired by a lot of the people that I interview -- whether it's artists, community activists -- people who are passionate about what they do. ... People call me a liberal. But, I've never described myself as a liberal ever in my life.
How would you describe yourself?
I don't anymore. I'm a very independent thinker. Maybe I'm a radical pragmatist.
Sounds like you've really got it all together.
No, no. I don't keep anything straight. The inside of my car is a wreck. I get someone to help me pay bills on time. ... You can dress me up, but invariably something goes wrong. I drip something on myself; ink, food. I can't ever stay neat.
My girlfriend Valerie was asked, how do you stump Marc? She said, "Ask him where his keys are."
14TH ANNUAL CULINARY CABARET
Benefits Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland
Open bar, food stations from 30 local chefs, tango lessons
Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel
Call 410-558-0932, ext. 3027
25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Benefits Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
Open bar, dinner buffet, tour Animal Planet Australia exhibit
National Aquarium in Baltimore
Call 410-539-6800, ext. 206