Dock of the Bay
Volume VI Number 17
April 30 - May 6, 1998
Appreciation: Artie Dicks, Annapolis' 'Ink-Spot'
photo courtesy of LeRoy Battle
King of France Tavern, Middleton Tavern, The Moon Cafe, Sam's Waterfront Cafe, Surfside 7, Topside Inn, plus churches, festivals and fund-raisers - over the last 13 years Artie Dicks covered the Chesapeake waterfront. You'd have to have been a shut-in to miss him. Wherever, whenever you saw - and more to the point, heard him - you met a man who offered you his heart.
So with Artie Dicks' death at 65 in the early hours of Saturday, April 25, Chesapeake Country is heart-rent.
But "the Lord is happy," says Dicks' some-time band leader LeRoy Battle, "because he's found the most beautiful baritone-bass." Battle, 76, of Harwood, is leader of the Altones and himself a regional musical treasure.
The first gift from Artie Dicks' great heart was music. Singing was the passion that ruled his life: it's what he did, how he reached out, how he defined himself, how he lived and how he died.
Singing was the way you most likely knew Artie Dicks, strolling his stage with his cordless microphone, crooning his heart out in "If I Didn't Care" or "Blue Moon."
It was the way everybody knew Artie.
Born in Augusta Ga., On March 16, 1933, the son of a sharecropper, Dicks began singing in the cotton fields and sang his way through life. As a teen, he joined the Hal Johnson Choir in New York City, and as a young man he sang his way through the Korean Conflict in an army band. He sang with The Chords, who wrote "Shaboom," and harmonized with The Popular Five.
In the '60s, Dicks joined Paul Kalet's Ink Spots out of New York City. "That's the second-generation, no-relation Ink Spots," says Dicks' companion, Judy Rogers. "Artie's Ink Spots didn't record but they kept the legend alive." Their travels brought him to Annapolis, where he settled in the mid-'80s, making sweet, legendary music.
In 1995, Dicks was inducted into the United Group Harmony Hall of Fame, the register of significant Doo Woop groups.
And singing is how Dicks' friends remember him.
Battle recalls playing a nursing home where Artie sang "I'll Never Smile Again":
"There wasn't a dry eye in the place because he'd pick out the people who looked lonely and go over and sing to them. He'd make the people feel so special.
"We'll miss him dearly as the last of the breed of entertainers who liked to sing the old standards and relive beautiful memories. He was unselfish with a huge talent and this ability to always look on the positive side."
Singing is how he's remembered by Mary Randall of Sam's Waterfront Cafe.
"Artie sang here just a week before he died, on April 18. He did a full set and never sounded better," Randall said. "He touched so many people's lives with his music. When Mickey Basil [his piano-playing partner at Sam's since 1993] told us the sad news, everyone wanted to hear songs he used to sing here."
Artie's dedication to making music was as strong as his talent, remembers Jerry Osuna of Surfside 7, where Artie Dicks sang with Stef Scaggiari's Trio every Monday night.
"Our goal was to bring people here from across the South River. We hoped that Jazz on the River would draw Annapolis people to Edgewater and let them know that there was a nice club here. We were marketing to a more mature market for our restaurant.
"He walked the sidewalk and handed out flyers and let people know that there was live jazz. He built Monday Night Jazz on the River. He's had a very loyal following. Every week we get phone calls wanting to know if Artie's going to be there. His music and his talent are going to be missed," says Osuna.
Surfside 7 is where Artie Dicks sang his last engagement Monday, April 20.
Singing gave expression to Artie Dicks' other passion: finding himself a place in people's hearts. That's a side of Artie figured out early by his friend and frequent singing partner Romaine Grubb:
"Artie was quite a flirt, and shortly after we met, and I said so and it kind of hurt his feelings. But that wasn't what I - or he - meant. Artie just wanted to be loved by people. And what a friend he was, with so much compassion and feeling for your feelings."
A friend who took you into his heart and wanted into yours: that's how Mickey Basil, too, remembers his 10-year partner in song and high-jinx:
"He never let down on me or spoke badly of me. He was my little boy's Uncle Artie and first Santa Claus."
Artie Dicks left this world with a song. With him in his last days, as a respiratory infection overtook his system, Judy Rogers recounts Artie Dicks' swan-song:
"He turned the Intensive Care Unit at Anne Arundel Medical Center upside down singing to Parris Lane and she to him. In his semi-conscious state, he sang like Paul Robeson, he was about breaking glasses like Ella.
"His angels were present as he sang 'Amazing Grace' with Parris and he kissed her hand as they did on stage."
Artie Dicks is survived in Annapolis by his companion Judy Rogers, his adopted grandchildren Stepanie and Robby Lilley, and the Mason, Colasuonno, Basil and Smith families.
Celebrate the life of Artie Dicks and help raise funds for his grandchildren's schooling in a memorial musical service and buffet at Surfside 7 on Monday, May 4. Parris Lane emcees from 7-8pm followed, as usual, by Jazz on the River with Stef Scaggiari and his Trio, now bereft of Artie Dicks, from 8.
In Shady Side: Land Trust Instead of Subdivision Explored
Suddenly, an alternative to Baldwin's Choice subdivision is emerging.
In behind-the-scenes maneuvering, key parties in one of Maryland's longest running land disputes have agreed to seriously consider a land trust on the Shady Side Peninsula rather than build the 477-acre subdivision, New Bay Times has learned.
Gov. Parris Glendening has invited a proposal for state participation. Dominic Antonelli, the Washington parking magnate and principal owner of the property, has signalled a willingness to listen to offers to sell the land.
And in the latest development, Anne Arundel County Executive John Gary said this week that he, too, will look seriously at committing county money to the trust.
Many details need to be worked out, not the least of which is the multimillion-dollar purchase price for the land. Moreover, land trusts are iffy propositions that seldom are secured without painstaking negotiations.
Nonetheless, the lightning-quick developments mark a positive turn away from the rancorous dealings that have persisted for more than a decade. The property, known locally as Franklin Point, is one of the last remaining Western Shore greenspaces in the Annapolis region.
"This is the solution to our problem," said Mary McHenry, of the South County Conservation Trust, the entity that would handle the transaction.
McHenry was among a small group that met informally with Gary after the county executive's appearance on Monday night at the Kiwanis Club in Shady Side. In the combative meeting, Gary predicted that Antonelli's Pointe Properties ultimately would win the permits necessary to build its 154-home subdivision.
Pointe Properties already has obtained several key authorizations, among them wetlands permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Board of Public Works go-ahead. A main hurdle remaining is a county requirement that developers build where school capacity is adequate. Gary said he believed Pointe Properties could prevail after a court fight in that dispute.
Responding to questions, Gary said that the county would not consider purchasing the acreage outright. But when a land trust was hinted at during the meeting, Gary responded positively. "If you bring a proposal to us, I'd be glad to look at it," he said.
Later, after meeting with trust organizers, Gary spoke even more positively. "If the governor is willing and he will come up with money, we will participate and help make it happen," he said.
For Gary, a land trust on the Shady Side Peninsula could help solve election-year problems. Rightly or wrongly, he is viewed with suspicion and outright hostility by a highly charged portion of the electorate worried that development along the Chesapeake Bay threatens their quality of life.
During the interview, Gary, a Republican, expressed frustration that he is blamed for Baldwin's Choice even though the project was in the works long before his election in 1994.
A trust also could provide acreage that the county has sought for recreation in Southern Anne Arundel. During the meeting, Gary said that he has run into problems finding land for baseball diamonds and soccer fields because so much of the county is wetlands. In the interview, he said that the county's ability to use land for ballfields would be critical to his support.
Gary said he was told that Antonelli was receptive to offers, which would satisfy his concerns about the property rights of developers.
"I think these people can be successful if they put this deal together," Gary said, summing up new-found hopes in Shady Side.
Jim Foster, acting president of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development (SACReD), praised Antonelli. "He is showing himself to be someone who is concerned about the environment," Foster said. "We support the effort by the South County Conservation Trust. This is what the community has been wanting."
S-C-R-A-B-B-L-E For $$
Gordon Shapiro, with hat, and Marlon Hill during a high-stakes Scrabble tournament, below. photo by Stephen Armstrong.
It's a simple game, sort of. You draw tiles stamped with letters and point values. Write words with them on a board. Try to beat your opponents.
For many, Scrabble is great fun - a parlor game that lets you use words and your brain.
But for some, Scrabble is a sport, a competitive activity that demands discipline, strategy and endurance; time clocks; sanctioned rules of play and even referees.
Last Saturday, for instance, Scrabble players from around the country came to Annapolis to compete in the First Annual Annapolis Scrabble Tournament. Over a 10-hour period, 86 players played in a king-of-the-hill competition that ended with laurels and cash prizes for winners.
"When the money's on the table, this all gets very serious," says Marlon Hill, who entered Saturday's meet as a top seed.
Hill, a professional Scrabble player, lives off his prize winnings. "These competitions provide a competitive outlet for ex-jocks like me," he says.
Since 1994, Hill has been on the road, criss-crossing the nation, striving to win the money and earn a national ranking that will get him an invitation to the Scrabble world championship in Great Britain. To improve his game, he often rides with Gordon Shapiro, who's been playing Scrabble for 42 years.
"Scrabble is a game of knowledge that you learn as you play," says Shapiro. "Better players make fewer mistakes, and better players take advantage of other players' mistakes."
To get good, really good, Shapiro says that players must spend time studying word lists, absorbing word definitions and developing strategies that both maximize word values and reduce opponents' options.
"Playing Scrabble like this is work," Hill exclaims. "You have to do the best with what you've got, and every game is predicated on the luck of the draw."
Packing the first floor of the Annapolis Recreation Center last weekend, players played seven timed games each. They played in pairs, hunched over long tables, slapping chess clocks with each move. If a dispute arose over a word's veracity, they would stop their play and send the word to Matthew Hopkins, the tournament's authorized official.
Hopkins, a director of two Scrabble clubs in Philadelphia, would then check the word against the National Scrabble Association's official word list.
Hopkins understands the game and its players.
"The top players," he says, "the ones headed for the national and world championships, abound with incredible word knowledge and great strategic acumen. These people have highly developed memory skills and cognitive systems that enable them to pull up a lot of information under the pressure of competition."
Sound too much like college finals? Sure tournament scrabble is competitive, observes Marlon Hill, but "also a great opportunity for social interaction. Players cut across all social lines here. And the travel is fun."
Some, like Genie McGarry, who is new on the tournament scene, find real pleasure in the competition. "I like it. I love words, knowing what they mean and getting to use them. I've been playing this ever since I could read. It's fun."
"Playing Scrabble keeps you going," adds Mary Lou Goetz, director of The Suburbanite Scrabble Club, the group that sponsored the tournament. "I'm 62 years old and I love working with words. You get good conversations here and intellectual activity and the spirit of competition."
Think you're a Scrabble champ in the making? Nothing beats joining a club to prepare yourself for this kind of play. Goetz's Suburbanite Scrabble Club meets several times a month at Bowie City Hall, and the fourth Wednesday of every month at the Annapolis Barnes & Noble.
Way Downstream ...
In Northern Virginia, that bizarre, space-age structure across the river from Washington is a Department of Energy solar demonstration project. The $36 million project has 16 reflective mirrors capable of converting enough of the sun's energy to heat 25 homes ...
In South Carolina, Clemson University researchers decided to test the fields of poultry farmers to see if they were applying too much fertilizer. In 24 of 25 fields examined, they found excessive levels of nutrient pollution, the Columbia State newspaper reported last week ...
In Boston, scientists are adding evidence that global warming from upper atmosphere pollution is real. According to the journal Nature, last year, 1995 and 1990 were the warmest years in the Northern Hemisphere at least since the 15th century. This wasn't a guess: A team of scientists used data from trees, ice cores, coral reefs at more than 100 sites around the world to reconstruct a 600-year climate record ...
Our Creature Feature this week comes from Florida, where pigs are a matter of litigation. No, it's not a smelly barnyard or manure runoff polluting rivers.
A circuit judge in Orlando is considering a lawsuit filed by neighbors of a farm that insists on playing loud country music for the pigs. This matter raises a host of questions about animal preferences and the nature of country music, none of which we will try to answer here. We'll only give you the pig farmer's stated reason for cranking up Waylon and Tammy: It "soothes" the animals, he said.
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Volume VI Number 17
April 30 - May 6, 1998
New Bay Times
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