MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We head now to Baltimore where people are fighting over an identity many locals hold near and dear to their hearts.
MR. ROB SACHS
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
Hey, Hon, you get something to eat yet? Did you eat? Come on over here and get some steamed crabs, hon.
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.
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
Men have man caves so where do Hons hang out?
You are in the secret Hon cave. And we've tiki'd it out with bamboo sailings, walls and heated massaging recliners.
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.
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.
But she's quick to point out, there's no single definition of a hon.
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.
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.
Steel mills were cranking, everybody had a fabulous job.
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.
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.
Not that Charlene says, when I'm in character.
My character is Blaze Char.
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.
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.
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
Good morning. How you doing today, Hon?
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.
It was just mostly the bubble cut and it had the little bangs here.
Up-dos were also popular.
When the women swept their hair up off their neck and pinned it up.
But no beehives.
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.
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
I will need if you come back later.
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.
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...
And for you, that's a Baltimore Hon?
Oh, yes, definitely.
So maybe you don't have to sport a beehive hairdo and cat eyed glasses to be a real Baltimore Hon.
This is Charlene again.
It's not about what you look like, it's about who you are.
Someone who's authentic, confident and willing to stick her neck out to help a neighbor or friend. I'm Cathy Duchamp.
You can see thousands of Baltimore Hons or people who dress like them at the city's annual Hon Fest. That's in June.
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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