Away from the camera, into the crisis

The Baltimore Sun

R ichard Sher, who announced his departure from WJZ this week after 33 years of reporting and anchoring, says he isn't completely done with the news biz.

I'm not sure he was ever completely in it.

Among the "many accomplishments" listed on his new Web site, "talking a suicidal man off a ledge at the University of Maryland Medical Center; negotiating for more than 10 hours with a hostage taker, eventually arranging for the safe release of the man's hostage; and receiving the first civilian lifesaving award ever presented by the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, for helping a man suffering from a heart attack find his way to an emergency room, all the while giving the man nitro glycerin and driving the man's car."

Was Sher Clark Kent or Superman?

In an interview, Sher elaborated on these adventures, which I'll take in reverse order.

The heart-attack rescue: "I was at GBMC doing a story on obstetrics, and this guy pulled up to obstetrics with a heart attack. Couldn't catch his breath. Like Superman, I leaped into the car, pushed him over to the passenger seat. He kept pointing to his shirt pocket. Nitroglycerin was in there. I gave him one and whisked him to the ER and started carrying him in."

The hostage situation: A guy called the newsroom saying he was holding a Harford County farmer at gunpoint. "I happened to get the call. With the police monitoring and giving some advice, I just dealt with the guy."

Ten hours later, Sher went on the air to make the announcement the gunman sought: "The hostage-taker feels if they would listen to him, he has insight to bring an end to the crisis in the Middle East. ... He believed Senator [Barbara] Mikulski and him and Yasser Arafat could settle the Mideast crisis."

Local crisis averted. "They walked out, hands raised, no guns."

The next day, Sher got an exclusive interview with the hostage-taker. Better yet, "The hostage that weekend took [Sher's wife] Annabelle and me out to dinner."

And the guy on the hospital ledge: "On a Saturday night, a call to the newsroom, guy's mentally distraught. He needed me to come down with a camera. He had a story to tell, and if I didn't give him an opportunity to tell it, he was gonna jump. I cleared it with management - CBS policy is not to get involved. We spent a couple hours together. I personally escorted him to the psych ward."

All in a day's work for Sher, who plans to move on to "freelance journalism," video production, public speaking and some PR work for his son's mortgage firm.

"There were plenty of other adventures along the way," he said. "I'm hoping there will be more."

Know when to show, fold

Michael Phelps is picking up a new sport: poker.

So says Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke.

"Since winning a record eight gold medals in the Beijing Summer Olympics, Phelps has spent a considerable amount of time in Las Vegas, taking poker lessons from pros, so he can enter the World Series of Poker next year," Clarke writes.

Sound like kind of a grind, training and mastering one sport, then starting all over with a new one? Clarke thinks not.

"Phelps' passion for poker isn't the only reason he's been showing up in Las Vegas," Clarke writes. "The 14-time Olympic swimming gold medalist has been seen in the company of a fetching brunette who works at the Palms. He was spotted at Moon nightclub on Saturday and having lunch earlier at Canyon Gate Country Club."

Picking up on Clarke's column, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton chimes in: "Golden Boy has been jetting into the desert gambling mecca to enjoy the company of a brunette 'hostess' that works at the Palms! How very George Clooney of him! We love a good HOtel HOstess! Go on, player! Play on while you can!"

Giving the bear his due

In a bit the other day about Ian Brennan, Sheila Dixon's newest spokesman, I noted that as an intern for then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Brennan once wrote a proclamation to mark Smokey Bear's birthday.

Well, it took some digging, but the good public servants over at the Maryland State Archives were finally able to locate this bit of history under Governor (General File), somewhere deep inside Box 1236.

"Whereas, Maryland is pleased to join in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Smokey Bear, and in sharing with him in cautioning Marylanders to be careful with fire while asking that we always remember, 'Only YOU can prevent forest fires,' " the Aug. 9, 1994, proclamation reads, in part.

I'd like to quote the whole thing for you, what with this being a holiday week and 17 people heading to my house for turkey tomorrow, but I think my editor would catch on. So I'll leave it at that.

Line up for 'Tanksgiving'

Finally, a radio promo we can all use: 98 Rock is giving away free gasoline this morning, just in time for holiday travel.

Mickey, Amelia and Spiegel will be at the Royal Farms on Churchville Road in Bel Air from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The first 98 people in line get to fill 'er up for free (up to 40 gallons of regular unleaded). After that, gas will sell for 98 cents per gallon until the "Tanksgiving" broadcast wraps up at 10 a.m.

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