The final test of a gentleman

The Baltimore Sun

Before Friends School students leave their leafy campus for the real world, they'll need some life skills. Which is why upper school Principal Peter Gilmore led a tutorial the other day in tying a bow tie.

"They're not exactly in fashion for everybody," said Gilmore. "You've either got to be an educator, a lawyer or a very liberal businessman. Those are the three acceptable professions for bow ties."

On the off chance that the North Baltimore school might spawn a few bow-tie types, and because the prom was Friday night, Gilmore spent that morning with about a dozen juniors and seniors eager for clip-on-free futures.

"Left is long," he began. "Cross it." So far so good. But Gilmore had lost most of the boys by the time he got to "zig zagging" one side and pulling part through the "secret hole" in the back.

"What does the zig have to do with the secret hole?" asked senior Malik Knox.

Junior Thomas Starr was among those who threw in the cravat.

"I've got to go to double chemistry," he said. "Guess I've got to buy a clip-on."

For those who hung in there - senior Doug Miller mastered the art, having already practiced at home with instructions picked up at Cohen's Clothiers - Gilmore had one more tip.

"If you make it too perfect, it will look like a clip-on," he warned. "You have to put some type of flaw in it."

Who's in? who's out? Ms. Mayor will know

If the race for the Democratic nomination comes down to a credentials fight, Sheila Dixon will be right in the middle of it.

The Baltimore mayor is one of 186 people on the Dems' credentials committee - and one of just 25 appointed to her post by party Chairman Howard Dean.

The Web site Politico calls them "The Dean 25" in an article that contends that those members are "all but certain" to decide whether the Florida and Michigan delegations should be seated at the Democratic National Convention.

Since the other 161 members were chosen by state primaries and caucuses, they are expected to be closely split on the question, Politico reported. So it could be up to the 25 to settle the question.

DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton played down the idea that the 25 will have any special sway. "There's 186 members on the credentials committee, and all will play a role in the process," she told me. Besides, she said, the party hopes to avoid a credentials battle.

"Governor Dean has said for some time now that he's encouraging pledged delegates to make their intentions known by July 1 so this doesn't go to the convention," she said.

But if there is a fight, it's kinda fun to think of Mayor Dixon in the fray, throwing a black-belt kick or even wielding her shoe for Barack Obama.

But Dixon's endorsement of the Illinois senator is no guarantee that she'd vote to bar the Michigan and Florida upstarts. She was asked about her stance at a news conference the other day, The Sun's John Fritze reports.

"I think that we don't want to miscount anybody's opportunity to be a part of the process and have a voice," she said. "I think it sends a bad message sometimes to voters that their vote doesn't count."

In any case, Dixon never expected there would be so much interest when Dean called early this year, asking her to serve on some obscure committee.

"I don't think a few months ago anyone could have predicted the sudden weight of the credentials committee," Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford said. "Sort of shows you the value of saying 'yes' when people ask you to do things."

His record is clean - at least so far

Keiffer Mitchell got fingerprinted the other day, and no, he wasn't booked on charges related to the "defective" paint on his Bolton Hill townhouse. The former city councilman and candidate for mayor has heeded schools chief Andres Alonso's call for volunteers to help make schools safer.

"I told them to put me wherever they could use a 6-foot-5, 240-pound person," said Mitchell, who had his prints made at the school system's North Avenue HQ on Wednesday for the standard criminal background check.

Mitchell won't pass if he doesn't get his house repainted. (The Housing Department has threatened him with a criminal misdemeanor charge and $500-a-day fine.) What's the status on that?

"I'm talking to a contractor," Mitchell said. "I called one today to get an estimate in anticipation of George Bush's tax rebate. When it's all done, I'll make sure I invite the mayor and housing officials to the ribbon-cutting ceremony."

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