Former Baltimore writer Tom D’Antoni (Harry, Baltimore City Paper, Evening Magazine, MPT, WFBR) looks back in anger at his native city in this excerpt from his book “Rabid Nun Infects Entire Convent: And Other Sensational Stories from a Tabloid Writer” (Villard, 2005).
“Some people aspire to greatness. A combination of bad parenting and coming of age in Baltimore, Maryland, at the same time as John Waters pushed me in a different direction…I know that some cities are toilets, but Baltimore was a special kind. And I say that in a good way.
I don’t know exactly what it was about Baltimore that spawned people like John Waters and his particular brand of inspiration. I think the chromium that leaked into the Baltimore harbor for about eighty years might have something to do with it. My theory is that the lowered IQs and other forms of brain damage that resulted in the general population stemmed from the constant exposure to chemicals like that, plus massive doses of drugs (LSD for me) helping to create warped perception and skewed reality.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a spot inside me that holds feelings for Baltimore. That place may not be my heart, but it’s in there someplace. Maybe my urologist found it the last time I visited him. I still have Orioles stuff all over the house, and I walk around Portland wearing my Orioles sweatshirt, cursing at Yankees fans.
But I have to say, people seem dumber in Baltimore. Most outsiders agree. I always gave that theory lip service, but when I revisited Baltimore three years after moving to Portland, Oregon, I came to the stunning realization that I was right. People really do act dumber, meaner, more miserable and perverse in Baltimore than they do in other places in America.
Cleveland is just as dirty and dangerous, but think about the difference between John Waters and Harvey Pekar.
Thus, it was in Baltimore and nowhere else that Divine, a three-hundred pound transvestite, ate dog shit right off a sidewalk in Pink Flamingos and gained worldwide acclaim.
John Waters was Baltimore’s most visible underground filmmaker in “the sixties.” I was Baltimore’s most visible underground journalist, writing for and later publishing the hippie paper of record there [Harry, 1969-1971, 1991]. Everybody knew each other. So I was primed to come up with these stories at some point.
Of course, John is rich and famous, and here I am hoping to sell a few books of these by doing dozens of Morning Zoo radio shows and being funny for radio “personalities” who would rather fart than talk.”
“Fuck Us: Former Charm City Writer Tom D’Antoni Has More Than 10 Things He Hates About Baltimore” (City Paper, January 25, 2006)
“Goodbye Baltimore – Happy To Be Outta Here” (Tom D’Antoni, Baltimore Sun, July 9, 1997)