A mayor walks into a bar. It's full of reporters who've been on her case. And the joke is on them.
Sheila Dixon knew a couple of dozen reporters from local newspapers and TV, who call themselves Media Mavens and gather monthly for happy hour, would-be. Last Thursday night it was at Ixia on Charles Street.
Instead of steering clear of someplace crawling with chroniclers of her love life and shopping sprees, the mayor crashed the party.
The Sun's Nicole Fuller broke the story, filing to me via BlackBerry before Her Honor downed her last drop of Riesling. Fuller's real-time dispatch:
"She is standing here right now and she is here! I think she's drinking white wine! She is wearing a white pantsuit and mixing it up with all the journos! I said 'mayor, I have to ask, what brings you here.' She said, 'well, all the media is here.' "
Spokesman Sterling Clifford told Fuller, "You guys are her constituents, too."
The Examiner's Luke Broadwater tried to buy Dixon a drink, "which she very theatrically refused with a big smile and a $20 bill," WBAL-TV's Kate Amara reported via e-mail. "I proposed a toast: 'To the most awkward moment in Baltimore media history,' and SD, Luke Broadwater and I clinked glasses."
Awkward, yes, but seemingly only for the reporters. I'm told Dixon was all breezy and upbeat, as if having prosecutors comb through her closet was akin to a visit from Merry Maids.
Dixon didn't talk about the investigation and none of the reporters asked, at least as far as Clifford knew. The mayoral charm offensive worked some magic, as some reporters shamelessly posed for pictures with Dixon, I'm told. None of the posers actually covers the mayor, but still!
How'd Dixon even know about the gathering? "We kinda heard about it," was all Clifford would say. I guess the Dixon camp is entitled to a leak in its direction.
Before the furs, there was the leather jacket
Sheila Dixon isn't the only Baltimore mayor with a weakness for free animal pelts.
For Dixon, it's fur. For Martin O'Malley, leather.
In 2002, then-Mayor O'Malley received a $150 leather jacket from Harley-Davidson, a supplier to the city Police Department.
Dixon's Partner in Progress knew better than to just take it. But O'Malley reeeally, reeeally wanted it. So he asked the city's ethics board if he could keep the jacket, The Sun's Doug Donovan reported at the time.
"As you may know, the mayor is in an Irish Rock Band, O'Malley's March," then-City Solicitor Thurman Zollicoffer wrote the board. "It is my belief that the gift was given to be worn as advertisement during one of his many public appearances as lead singer."
Zollicoffer asked the board to offer an exemption to the city's gift policy, writing that the jacket would not influence O'Malley and that it was "purely personal and 'private' in nature."
The board didn't buy it, ordering O'Malley to return the gift. (He donated it to the police union.)
Time will tell if the personal/private defense flies better with Dixon's prosecutors.
It's on the record: Biceps need work
Former commish Ed Norris, never a big fan of Mayor Dixon, has finally found common cause with her.
The mayor did Norris' radio show on WHFS one day last week and it was more love fest than grilling. Lots of talk about the down murder rate. Nary a word about the favors-for-furs allegations that have turned the Board of Estimates into the Sordid Estimates.
Norris: "I'm a little sympathetic. ... I don't think people understand what it's like to be tried in the newspapers. It's a lot of fun."
Dixon: "Mmm hmm."
Maynard, Norris' one-named co-host: "Can we quote you on that, Mayor? 'Mmm hmm'?"
Dixon: "Yeah, you can quote me."
On the show, Dixon did express regret for one thing: letting her biceps go.
"My arms have gone down," she said. "I kind of built them too much and then reduced it, and I've got to build my arms modestly back up." Gotta be ready to wrestle with prosecutors.
They say it's crab; she says it's filler
On the Howard Stern Show for a couple of days last week, Baltimore-born sidekick Robin Quivers bashed G&M; crab cakes, which had been brought into the studio as part of lunchmeat taste test.
G&M;'s cakes were voted Baltimore's best by Baltimore magazine in 2004. But Quivers said they looked awful and were full of "filler," The Sun's Justin Fenton reports.
Next day, a bunch of Baltimoreans e-mailed the show, saying she didn't know what she was talking about. But Quivers held her ground. She said she's from Baltimore and knows a good crab cake.
G&M; manager John Zoulis said he'd heard about the flap but wasn't worried. "Our customers are the judge."
Connect the dots
In Baltimore magazine's "40 Under 40" list of young "rising stars," gubernatorial mouthpiece Rick Abbruzzese ranks No. 4 - two ahead of Howard County Exec Ken Ulman. The real injustice: Dixon spokesman Clifford is waaay down the list at No. 39, just ahead of some advertising VP you've never heard of. Camden Yards groundskeeper Nicole Sherry is No. 8, for crying out loud! Does Clifford think he'll move up next year, after all the exposure he's getting in the midst of Minkgate? "Uh, no," he said. ... OK, I know Minkgate is lame. We need a better name for this scandal. How about Got-Choo? City Mall? Somebody out there has a better name. Send it on.