Story about dude in a dress is not revealing enough

July 25, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

· Commentary

I need a hooker.

No, not for that.

I need a hooker to give me some information in light of a news story that was dreadfully short of the information I wanted to know.

The story was about prostitution arrests in downtown Hagerstown last week that included one man "who was wearing a tan minidress with a black bow" and two other men who were charged during a nearly two-hour Hagerstown Police Department undercover operation in the first block of North Prospect Street.

The story goes on in detail about the sting operation and professionally answers pretty much every question you might have about the situation except for the main one:


He was wearing a WHAT?

No, no, no, you can't do this. You can't just casually mention that dude was dressed up like a French maid driving around in a minivan in broad, so to speak, daylight and then never revisit the issue again.

I want, no I need to know more. I mean, there's the big, front-page photo of two cops tackling the guy, who is sprawled out on the pavement, and yes indeed, he is wearing a dress (kudos to the guy for perfectly matching the dress to his prodigious mustache) and a well-padded bra.

Well, just another normal day in Hagerstown, I guess.

I went to The Herald-Mail's Web site and clicked on the photo for an enlargement. But the only other information was a corporate notation that I could buy a high-resolution copy of the picture and the tagline that "Photos make great gifts!"

Right. I'm sure the guy's gonna want to put THAT on his Christmas letter. And no doubt the Chamber of Commerce will be ordering a bunch to highlight Hagerstown's happenin' social scene.

Or it might make for a good Southwest Airlines ad. "Want to get away?"

I wasn't the only one left unsatisfied. As the local Broker of Truth, I was getting deluged with questions from the reading public, including these actual inquiries.

"I may be mistaken, but isn't he also wearing Lee Press-On Nails?

"So he was dressed as a woman and is charged with trying to purchase sex from a woman? Was it ladies' night and he was hoping for a discount?"

"How about some market data? Was he buying or selling? Business down or up? These are basic questions."

Look, there's probably a pretty simple explanation. My guess is that he's probably pledging a fraternity. This stunt has Dartmouth written all over it. Send the pledge down to the strip dressed in a tutu and then tip off the cops and the press. Good one.

Deep down, I'm not sure how I feel about this. Yes, you want to cleanse the downtown of vice. But the guys are just out to have a little fun and they get a little excitement all right, but instead of a roll in the hay they get a roll on the macadam with flashbulbs popping.

The photo as a deterrent is used in other communities, too. The Frederick, Md., police post pictures of their offenders on the Web. I guess this works if you have some kind of reputation to protect, and sure enough, every so often there is a respectable-looking guy with a hangdog expression.

But the guys I like are the ones who are just grinning ear to ear like they're accepting an Oscar for best screenplay. And face it, if you're living a normal life, you don't want the embarrassment, but if you spend your evenings sitting around a barrel fire along the train tracks eating Dinty Moore out of the can and pulling on a bottle of Mad Dog, how much lower is there to go?

Certainly, if we can correct bad behavior through publicity, I am all for it. But if we're going to photograph and humiliate gentlemen who might simply like to enjoy some occasional prostitution, I think we ought to bring in the cameras and the authorities for other social offenses. Photograph parents in the department store screaming at their kids. Photograph the otherwise healthy fat guy who parks in the handicapped space to save himself walking 30 extra feet.

And by all means, photograph the chick in the express lane with a full basket who has a fistful of coupons and a penchant for arguing when the clerk points out that most of them are expired and then tries to pay with a check even though she's left her ID in the car.

Those situations need correcting as much as a cat in a tan minidress whose real offense - if we're going to be totally honest about this - is that he really would have looked better in blue.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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