No, not stripping -- 'layering'

The Baltimore Sun

Maybe the Red Cross should change its name to the Red Hot! Hot! Hot! Cross.

The Greater Chesapeake and Potomac chapter is about to come into some money - lots of single bills, I'm guessing - from a pole-dancing contest.

Xpose Fitness, an exercise studio that teaches exotic dance moves, is staging the competition Sunday night at Mosaic Lounge in Baltimore's Power Plant Live.

"Xpose for Blood," reads the press release, which carries the Red Cross logo as well as the shaded image of a woman in a provocative pose.

A much tamer-sounding bachelor auction recently plunged the Red Cross chapter in Frederick into turmoil - the executive director objected to the event and was fired; the director of emergency services resigned - in part because the fundraiser took place in a bar, according to The Frederick News-Post. At that chapter, volunteers and staff had been warned against representing the Red Cross in bars, or even wearing Red Cross attire while in one, the newspaper reported.

So an organization that in Frederick frowns on grabbing a beer in a Red Cross T-shirt is OK with grabbing a pole and taking it all off in Baltimore?

Three things, I was told, to keep in mind: The chapters are independent and the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac one doesn't have a no-bar rule. The Red Cross says it isn't officially sponsoring the pole-dancing event. And the dancers are only taking some of it off.

I'm having the most trouble grasping No. 2. The press release says, "Xpose Fitness is partnering with the American Red Cross in hosting Miss Xpose 2008."

The Red Cross was aware of the pole-dancing contest, but it didn't expect to be described as a partner in the press release, which was issued by Xpose, said Jonathan Balog, director of marketing and communications for the Red Cross chapter.

"It did raise our eyebrows a little bit," he said. "We didn't want to be perceived as being part of that event."

Which doesn't mean the Red Cross wants nothing to do with Xpose. The 3-year-old fitness firm, which has locations in Anne Arundel, Harford and Baltimore counties, is one of several businesses sponsoring a 5K race that the Red Cross is putting on in June. Xpose organized the pole-dancing contest to raise the money it will donate toward the race, Balog said.

The Red Cross would not have even accepted the race sponsorship if Xpose were a strip club, Balog said. (He said he used to work for Goodwill and while there turned down a strip joint's $10,000 offer to sponsor a golf fundraiser.) Xpose doesn't bill itself as a stepping stone to The Block, but as a fitness center for ordinary women looking for a new way to work out. (Even Oprah featured a bit on pole-dancing for fitness, the studio notes in its release.)

"It is a good organization," Balog said.

The women in the contest - a pediatrician, an engineer and homemaker among them - are studio customers, said Xpose CEO Anita Ammon. Professional strippers weren't allowed to enter.

Ammon also noted that contestants might take off some pieces of clothing, but they won't get down to bare skin. Her word for that was "layering."

Maybe the audience will be inspired to show a little skin, too - just enough to give blood.

Better behind the plow than behind the bar

Yes, if you're wondering, the Red Cross' Balog is the son of George Balog, Baltimore's former public works director, who left City Hall shortly after Martin O'Malley took office in 1999.

What's George Balog been up to? He bought the Perry Inn & Pub in Perry Hall, but bailed out after a couple years, his son said, content to retire for real and play grandpa. Seems keeping city streets clear of snow and trash was nothing compared to the demands of the restaurant biz.

"I think it was a tougher job," Jonathan Balog said.

That lesson seems to have been lost on another son, Gerry. He owns the Pickled Parrot in Canton.

And then she said to herself, 'Self ... '

Headline on a city press release: "Mayor Dixon to Attend 'An Evening with Mayor Dixon.'"

Which presents one of those tree-falls-in-the-forest riddles: If Sheila Dixon didn't attend the event - a speech at the University of Baltimore School of Law - would it still be an evening with Mayor Dixon?

"I'm going to keep it in my file for when I speak to PR groups, college classes, etc.," WBAL radio's Mark Miller e-mailed me. "How NOT to title your press release."

Connect the dots

Governor O'Malley testifies in Washington tomorrow before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee about a housing stimulus bill. The last sitting governor to appear before the committee - one of its subcommittees, to be precise - was Eliot Spitzer, who was preoccupied with another sort of stimulus. ... A new, cartoony tourist map of Mount Vernon has a little quiz in one corner about movies made in the area. In it, it says Richard Dreyfuss was in Diner. Oops. They really meant Tin Men. ... Let's hear it for open and transparent government. Today, Mayor Dixon will announce "Clean Your Files Day," a recycling event for city agencies. Didn't they used to do that under cover of darkness - and call it shredding?

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