A Real Baltimore "hon" (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

A Real Baltimore "Hon"

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:32:29
We head now to Baltimore where people are fighting over an identity many locals hold near and dear to their hearts.

MR. ROB SACHS

13:32:35
We're talking about the Baltimore "Hon," the image of a working class beauty with a beehive hairdo and cat eye glasses and greet you with something, like...

MS. CHARLENE OSBORNE

13:32:45
Hey, Hon, you get something to eat yet? Did you eat? Come on over here and get some steamed crabs, hon.

SHEIR

13:32:50
A business woman in Baltimore actually holds a trademark to the word, Hon, and wants to control how and where the word is used. But critics say, um-hum, Hon is something you can't own. It's a part of Baltimore's blue collar culture.

SACHS

13:33:02
So while lawyers and linguists duke it out over the trademark, we sent Cathy Duchamp to find some real Baltimore Hon's to get a better understanding of the Hon persona.

MS. CATHY DUCHAMP

13:33:12
Men have man caves so where do Hons hang out?

OSBORNE

13:33:16
You are in the secret Hon cave. And we've tiki'd it out with bamboo sailings, walls and heated massaging recliners.

DUCHAMP

13:33:25
Not to mention pink flamingos, carved coconuts and a plastic palm tree decorated with sparkly green and white lights. And the owner of this Hon cave is Charlene Osborne, voted Baltimore's best Hon in a contest in 2009.

OSBORNE

13:33:39
A Baltimore Hon, it's a warm fuzzy feeling. It's apply pie, it's beehives, it's cat eyes, it's kindness, it's caring, it's a very genuine state of being.

DUCHAMP

13:33:51
But she's quick to point out, there's no single definition of a hon.

OSBORNE

13:33:55
There's some tough women that are Hons that could spit across the street and cuss better than a sailor. And, you know, I like them, too, you know.

DUCHAMP

13:34:05
Charlene's Hon is based on the women she grew up around in the early 1960s in Dundalk, a blue collar suburb just east of the Baltimore city limits.

OSBORNE

13:34:14
Steel mills were cranking, everybody had a fabulous job.

DUCHAMP

13:34:17
And you knew people were doing well because they could afford that trip to Florida and they'd return with a pink flamingo to stick in their front yard. Charlene says the Hon is part of remembering those good old days.

OSBORNE

13:34:29
When I am in character with the beehive and the cat eyes, people just love it. The smiles are from ear to ear. They look at me and they say, you remind me of my mom. You remind me of my Aunt Ava, my Aunt Edith.

DUCHAMP

13:34:43
Not that Charlene says, when I'm in character.

OSBORNE

13:34:45
My character is Blaze Char.

DUCHAMP

13:34:48
An homage to Blaze Star, Baltimore Burlesque queen in the 1950s. But the day I meet Charlene, she looks like any other women in Baltimore, purple Ravens football jersey and jeans, hair straight and long. I start to wonder, is she a real Baltimore Hon? John Waters, who brought Baltimore Hons to the big screen in the movie, "Hairspray," said in an interview a few years back, that all the real Hons he knew were dead.

OSBORNE

13:35:14
Sometimes I think, do Hons really exist? Or are they just something that was characterized in a John Waters movie and then commercialized?" That certainly did happen, but no, Hons really do exist. And I have a couple favorite diners around here and I can go in there and I can tell by the style of their hair, their accent and you just know, you do know.

DUCHAMP

13:35:38
I decided to apply some of Charlene's Hon-dar to my own neighborhood, Locust Point in South Baltimore, a place, which if you believe Wikipedia, was chock a block with Hons back in the day.

MS. SOPHIE ELLEN BERGER

13:35:51
Good morning. How you doing today, Hon?

DUCHAMP

13:35:54
Meet Sophie Ellen Berger, Ms. Sophie is 88, lives on her own. I think she must be the real deal. She's got the Baltimore accent and she ran a hair salon out of her house in the early 1960s when Hon-style hairdos were all the rage.

BERGER

13:36:09
It was just mostly the bubble cut and it had the little bangs here.

DUCHAMP

13:36:13
Up-dos were also popular.

BERGER

13:36:15
When the women swept their hair up off their neck and pinned it up.

DUCHAMP

13:36:19
But no beehives.

BERGER

13:36:21
You know, I wouldn't want to take every beehive. Just like having a piece of cardboard hanging on your head with all the spray net that -- and they never used spray net then, they used lacquer.

DUCHAMP

13:36:32
So Ms. Sophie isn't exactly setting off the Hon-dar. She tells me beehives and cat eye glasses were just fads, one she never really got into. Then someone knocks on Ms. Sophie's door.

MR. LEONARD ERLONO

13:36:44
Hi.

BERGER

13:36:45
Hi.

ERLONO

13:36:45
Need anything?

BERGER

13:36:46
I will need if you come back later.

DUCHAMP

13:36:48
It's a neighbor, Leonard Erlono (sp?) doing his daily check in. Asked Leonard if Ms. Sophie is a real Baltimore Hon, he says, oh, yeah.

ERLONO

13:36:57
She's done so much for the community. She's an organizer and she does helping out every which where. She volunteers and does all kinds of things and that's been since I've been living around here, 20 years. She's always...

DUCHAMP

13:37:11
And for you, that's a Baltimore Hon?

ERLONO

13:37:13
Oh, yes, definitely.

DUCHAMP

13:37:15
So maybe you don't have to sport a beehive hairdo and cat eyed glasses to be a real Baltimore Hon.

OSBORNE

13:37:20
Absolutely not.

DUCHAMP

13:37:21
This is Charlene again.

OSBORNE

13:37:21
It's not about what you look like, it's about who you are.

DUCHAMP

13:37:25
Someone who's authentic, confident and willing to stick her neck out to help a neighbor or friend. I'm Cathy Duchamp.

SHEIR

13:37:33
You can see thousands of Baltimore Hons or people who dress like them at the city's annual Hon Fest. That's in June.

SACHS

13:37:39
In the meantime, you can go to our website, metroconnection.org, to see photos of Charlene and a link to her book documenting her year as Baltimore's best Hon.
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