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I see Utah, I see France ...

The Baltimore Sun

The American electorate has matured in the years since Bill Clinton got that boxers-or-briefs query. These days voters only want to know if Mitt Romney wears Mormon underwear.

Romney has declined to answer questions about it, and his big speech on Mormonism steered clear of holy skivvies. Anybody out there who thinks presidential unmentionables should remain unmentioned, read no more. Because I know somebody who has seen Romney's underwear. One pair of it, anyway.

On the eve of the 2002 Olympics, The Sun's Candus Thomson was one of a handful of reporters invited to dinner at Mitt and Ann Romney's Park City, Utah, home, a $5 million "cabin" on Rising Star Lane.

The Olympics CEO and future Massachusetts governor talked about his role in the Games as a waiter served a luscious spread that included sea bass, wine and mixed drinks. When it was time to go, Romney suggested that everyone visit the bathroom on the way out, since the outside temperature was well below zero and Salt Lake City 50 minutes away.

Rather than make the reporters line up to use the facilities off the kitchen, Romney sprinted down the hallways of his home, pointing out other bathrooms. Thomson ended up in the one off the Romneys' master bedroom.

With its Pendleton wool shower curtain and lodge-style furnishings, the bathroom was the best Thomson had ever seen - a final, luxurious touch to an evening that should have softened up even the most hard-bitten reporter. But Thomson, ever on duty, noticed a pair of underwear hanging on the back of the door as she reached for the knob to leave.

Not that she'd really care about her host's undies. (Assuming, of course, they were his and not somebody else's.) That is, unless five years later, he was running for president, and TV talking heads were wondering aloud if he wore regular underwear or the Mormon kind - a garment similar to an old-fashioned union suit that's sacred to Mormons and, well, a little odd to the rest of us.

"I never thought I might have peeked at the underwear of the next president," Thomson told me. "It was just going to be the answer to a bar trivia question someday, you know, good for a free drink."

The answer, which should be good for a free drink anywhere but the Romney White House: regular, off-the-rack Fruit of the Loom briefs, size 34.

I ran all that by Romney spokeswoman Sarah Pompei. She was not amused and not commenting.

Ravens shut out bears

It's not crazy enough to jump into the Chesapeake Bay in January. Retired Raven and 10-time Polar Bear Plunger Mike McCrary took a dip where the real polar bears do: in frigid Hudson Bay in Churchill, Manitoba.

Traveling on the dime of Steve Bisciotti's Aerotek, McCrary and six others made the trip in October. The idea was to make some funny YouTube-y videos, which would be used to promote the annual Special Olympics fundraiser.

The bitter cold - air temp, 25 degrees; water, 32 - was the least of their worries.

"On the rocks, getting ready to plunge, you're on the polar bear buffet table," said Special Olympics Vice President Tom Schniedwind. "We had to hire a helicopter that just provided spotters."

Royal Canadian Mounted Police and armed conservation officers also provided cover.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you no plungers were lost. See for yourself tomorrow night, when the videos are presented at a gala at Merritt's Downtown Athletic Club.

They love a parade, apparently

As part of Sheila Dixon's inaugural hoopla, city employees marched in a parade down Fayette Street near City Hall. About 500 city workers, representing every agency, participated.

The $1,500 cost of the parade was covered by the inauguration committee, not taxpayers. But what about lost productivity? Employees were on the clock as they marched.

Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford told The Sun's John Fritze that the workers only missed about 45 minutes of work time - and that whatever productivity was lost would be gained back via boosted morale.


R&B; artist Chris Brown was at Baltimore's ESPN Zone on Sunday with about 30 friends and family to mark the birthday of backup dancer Lil Scooter. In a private room with two bodyguards posted outside, they celebrated over football and two birthday cakes, one made to look like a scooter. So says the PR firm for ESPN Zone, which was excited enough about Brown's visit to issue a news release. ... Funny how those AirTran billboards with Steve McNair still work, even though the quarterback and his team are in the tank. "No. 9, you are cleared for takeoff" has a don't-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-keiste r-on-your-way-out quality. And consider "Taking care of business. Mostly in the Air." On the field and on the bench, not so much. ... It's going to be a green Christmas in Maryland, since the state has decked its halls and trees with energy-efficient lights. All of the Christmas lights in the State House and governor's mansion have been replaced with light-emitting diodes, which use 10 percent of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs. There are 10,000 lights on the 21-foot Douglas fir in the State House Rotunda. Estimated energy savings over the course of the holiday season on that tree alone: $1,400. Cost to buy lights for that tree, about $225.

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