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It's a free press when you own it

The Baltimore Sun

From the pecan cabinetry to the flagstone patio, no detail about the Roland Park charmer featured in The Examiner's real estate section goes unnoticed, but for this: The guy trying to sell the place, Examiner Publisher Michael Phelps.

Phelps has been trying to unload his home at 620 W. University Parkway since Dec. 6, when it was listed for $606,000.

It was back in December that Phelps, who'd been publisher of the Baltimore paper since its launch last April, was named chief executive officer of the Baltimore-Washington Examiner Group, meaning he would oversee the Examiner in both towns.

New job, new house. Up went the for-sale sign in a down real estate market.

After three months without a taker, what could be better than a full-page feature, complete with four color photos - not counting the one with the pull-out section-front teaser? ("Find paradise in Roland Park," it says. "A home once considered an eyesore has now become a prime property.")

Of course, lots of home sellers would kill for that kind of free publicity, especially since the glowing descriptions - "elegant" and "magnificent" in the lede alone - appear in what looks like an objective news article. Luckily in this case, the seller had an in with the publisher - himself.

Not that anyone can tell that from the story. It makes no mention of Phelps, instead calling on the guy who owned the house before him to describe all of its charms.

Phelps did not return a call seeking comment. Nor did his superiors at Denver-based Clarity Media Group, owner of the Examiner chain.

I did reach Frank Keegan, editor of the Baltimore paper. I asked him if the home that got all the ink in Friday's paper belonged to his boss.

His response, before quickly hanging up: "Beats me."

A steal at $595,000

Phelps might not have needed to go to such journalistically challenged lengths to sell his home. The house - reduced to $595,000 - has been under contract since March 10, six days before the article ran.

I'm guessing - guessing because Examiner honchos weren't talking - that the section is printed relatively far in advance.

Or maybe Phelps figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to create a little buzz about the place - 2,392 square feet of red-brick, 1920s grandeur - just in case the deal falls through.

The Coldwell Banker office listing the property says the buyer has until March 24 to back out.

Thanks to all my friends, and sorry about the haircut

Dorothy Hamill is inviting hundreds of people to the Senator Theatre on Thursday night for a sneak peek at Blades of Glory, which is a good thing, because it's her chance to do a favor for all the people she owes.

No, not all those women and girls who, 30 years ago, got the wedge haircut that looked cute as a button on America's Sweetheart, but on the rest of us, not so much.

The Olympic gold medalist and Guilford resident wants to thank people at the Alzheimer's Association and other charities she's worked with. She's also inviting skating friends and people from her daughter's school, Roland Park Country. She started scrambling to extend invitations to them all last week, when the production company offered the advance screening.

Hamill has a small part in the movie, which stars Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as figure skaters who find a way to compete as an all-male pairs team after their bad behavior gets them banned from singles competition. The movie has its official premiere in L.A. next week.

Though Hamill's hair victims are not invited to the screening, she told me she does feel bad when she gets letters and e-mails from them. (She also expressed regret for all the Barbie dolls I ruined trying to bob their hair like hers.)

" 'Oh, my mother made me get my hair cut like yours.' People with naturally curly hair trying to get this geometric, straight, angular cut," she said. "Hair is a traumatic a thing."

Psst! Beer for breakfast!

Gov. Martin O'Malley joined dozens of his best Irish and Irish-for-a-day pals Friday for a St. Patrick's Day breakfast with eggs, Guinness - and a bizarro level of secrecy.

Those gathered at Annapolis' Galway Bay were told to keep the whole thing hush-hush. Luckily, they did not. (Although to tell you the truth, I would have greeted the event with a yawn had The Gov's office pitched it. Only the cone of silence made it interesting.)

When I called O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese and asked about the festivities, he said: "The governor did not have a St. Patrick's Day breakfast today. What he did was bring greetings to the Senate."

Wasn't he at Galway Bay?

"He stopped in briefly. He did not sit down to drink."

Which, of course, doesn't rule out standing up to drink. Even if it was 8:30 in the morning.

Hours later, Abbruzzese was willing to admit this much: "It was a gathering of good friends, for some good food and some good laughs."

Perhaps hinting at why a little St. Paddy's fun might be so touchy, he added: "It was a very diverse crowd."

Witness party-goer Maggie McIntosh, she of the female persuasion and exotic Scotch Irish ancestry. The Baltimore delegate had something to say about the other reason the event might have been treated like a state secret: breakfast Guinness.

"I can report to you," she said, "that the governor did not partake, nor did I."

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