Leader of the Band

New Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley rocks his own party with the help of Jim Eagan  during his inaugural gala at the Baltimore Convention Center.
New Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley rocks his own party with the help of Jim Eagan during his inaugural gala at the Baltimore Convention Center. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, January 18, 2007

BALTIMORE, Jan. 17 -- (Was there a chance that Martin O'Malley would pick up a guitar and croon a few Irish ditties at his inaugural ball - any chance at all?

For days, his aides made all the right noises to downplay it - his old band mates had gone their separate ways, blah blah blah - even while the guv-to-be hinted broadly that he might, just might, take the stage with Irish faves the Saw Doctors. In the end, he kept the throngs in suspense for all of 10 minutes before leaving his celebratory podium to join his unbilled band, O'Malley's March, to sing a rousing version of "The Times They Are a-Changin'."

Hey, it was his party, and his first day as governor of Maryland. Maybe the last time he'll be able to get away with the cute lead-singer act.

At least he kept his tuxedo jacket on, and thus resisted showing off those famous biceps. Still, by the time they launched into the final song - Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," believe it or not - he had rolled up his strumming sleeve to display a sinewy forearm. (He also played a bit with the Saw Doctors after all.) The Baltimore Convention Center could be the biggest room O'Malley's March will ever play - unless it gets a gig at the 2016 Democratic convention.

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Some 9,000 people - making it slightly less exclusive than Gilbert Arenas's birthday party and slightly more exclusive than BWI on a holiday weekend - milled around in lines for coat check and chocolate fountains, balancing cups of chardonnay or Guinness, wearing that "black tie optional" look that encompasses everything from Oscar dresses to flag-festooned plastic hats.

Oh, my - could it be? No, the entourage was too small.

"I'm a decoy," said Peter O'Malley, doppelganger brother, who works as chief of staff for the Baltimore county executive. Does he induce those double takes a lot? "Everywhere, now," he said. Would we be running into lots of O'Malleys tonight? He paused, doing the math. "Twenty to 30," he said. "A lot of cousins coming in from out of town."

But if we thought we'd spend the entire evening surrounded by square-jawed Irish lads and lasses - well, think again. Even in a state as small as Maryland, it takes a lot of people to win the governor's mansion, and most of them, it seemed, were there.

"It's not what I expected," admitted Doris Lorenzo of Towson, primping a cloud of pale blond hair in the ladies' room, her glasses as sequined as her dress. "I expected something more formal."

"But Doris, you see, he wanted this to be for everyone," said her sister-in-law, Mary Ann Lorenzo, who runs a dinner theater in Timonium. "Something that everyone in Maryland could afford. . . . He's wonderful. So is Joe Curran," she said, referring to the former attorney general, O'Malley's father-in-law.

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