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Celebrities not new to W.Va. town

January 08, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The president of the United States chats with locals over coffee and the secretary of state lunches in a downtown eatery.

For most small towns such moments would be historic. Not so much so in Shepherdstown. Its residents have been rubbing elbows with the rich and famous for decades.

Shepherdstown has been overrun with government and media celebrities in town for the Syrian-Israeli Peace Talks under way here since last Monday.

President Clinton has been here four times. He shook hands with residents in an impromptu stop of his motorcade on Duke Street Monday. On Friday he had a cup of coffee in the Pharmacy Cafe, then walked across German Street for a quick visit to an art gallery.

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Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright has been in town all week. She was seen in several local restaurants.

"Old hat," say some longtime residents who remember when Nancy Reagan and columnist George Will stopped by the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant for lunch one day in the early 1980s.

Joan Mondale, wife of Walter Mondale, was almost a fixture in town during the years her husband was Jimmy Carter's vice president. Joan Mondale often visited her friend Caroline Landreau who lived in a log home on West High Street. The two met through Landreau's daughter, who was a close friend of Mondale's.

Margaret Didden, the town librarian, remembers the time Landreau threw a block party for Mondale. Landreau has since died.

President Carter came here several times to fish on the Potomac with Ben Schley, an avid bird hunter and fisherman known to be a local expert. Schley has since passed on.

Diane Suttenfield, a local artists whose work was among those Clinton saw on Friday, remembers the time Carter was on a tour of the area's Civil War sites with historian Shelby Foote. Their motorcade had to stop on the S curve on the Flowing Springs Road about three miles south of town while farmer Charles Conard's cows crossed the road, she said.

Charles Conard, who is also gone, once owned a dog that was a direct descendant of movie canine Rin Tin Tin, Suttenfield said.

"The dog helped Charles herd his cows," she said.

Hollywood too has sent its famous to Shepherdstown. Jessica Lange had dinner at the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant during the filming of "Sweet Dreams," the movie of Patsy Cline's life, said Kevin Connell, owner of the restaurant.

Mary Tyler Moore spent several days in town for the dedication of the Civil War center that was named after her father.

Dita Beard, the Washington lobbyist for International Telephone and Telegraph who made national headlines for refusing to testify in a case involving an ITT scandal, lived outside Shepherdstown.

More recent notables include Public Television newscaster Jim Lehrer who lives outside town. Lehrer has written two mysteries with a local setting, Connell said.

"I'm in one of the books, 'Purple Dots,' " he said.

His character sets up a meeting in his restaurant, he said.

Syndicated Columnist Jack Germond, who also lives nearby, is seen in town on occasion.

Mostly it's local residents who have become celebrities in the last week. Hundreds of journalists here for the peace talks have been rounding up residents and business owners for stories on local color.

"Anybody who hasn't been interviewed five times is not a citizen," said Lori Simmons, designer of a popular "peace" T-shirt that she printed for the peace talks. Clinton got one of her shirts Friday.

"All you have to do to be interviewed by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, AP or UPI is walk down the street," said resident Tom Chadbourne.

Chadbourne lived in several California cities before he came East and he keeps in touch with hometown happenings by reading newspapers online.

"I was going through the San Diego Union web site the other day and there was a short interview with Meredith Poffenberger, manager of the Yellow Brick Bank," he said. "I looked up the LaJolla newspaper and there was a copy of the peace poster that Hali Taylor designed."

Taylor, a local librarian, designed the peace signs seen in home and store windows all over town.

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