Leader of the Band
Gov. Martin O'Malley Plays It His Way at Inaugural Bash

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

In the sea of Free State humanity, we finally found a familiar face - Laura Leedy Gansler, lawyer and author (of "Class Action," which was turned into that Charlize Theron movie "North Country") - and wife of new attorney general and former Montgomery County state's attorney Doug Gansler.

Would your husband kill us if we asked him whether he's looking at this party and thinking of the party he might have himself, say, eight years from now?

She laughed: "I think he'll probably say, 'I'm focusing on the job ahead.' " Okay, let's try. So, Mr. Gansler - any thoughts whether you might be having a party like this yourself in eight years?

"No!" he exclaimed. "People have this propensity, as soon as an election is done, to start thinking about the next one. It's so absurd. I don't even know where the bathroom is yet!"

Laura laughed and shrugged, acknowledging that if this were "The Newlywed Game," she'd just have lost that washer-dryer.

* * *

Onstage, the O'Malley family made for a photogenic group - wife Katie in a blue gown with matching wrap, teen daughters sensibly dressed, the younger of the two boys hanging adorably off the podium.

When former Baltimore mayor Thomas D'Alesandro III (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's brother) beckoned O'Malley over to join O'Malley's March, he smiled. "I don't know if I want to hurt my gravitas," O'Malley deadpanned. "Give me two minutes."

Their rendition of the Green Day song started out earnest and acoustic-y - dedicated to "the hopeful people of Baltimore." But as it revved up into a toe-tapping jig, the guitarist governor leaned into the side of his fiddle player, the two of them shimmying to the ground together, then back up again. One last rock-star move for the night.

LOVE, ETC.

*Battling: Exes Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, who announced their split last week, got into a very public spat at a Golden Globes after-party early Tuesday, reports People. The two managed to be civil during the awards show, but got into it after Diaz saw her ex flirting with Jessica Biel. Biel made a hasty retreat while the former couple stepped into a side room and argued for 40 minutes. So much for their "continued love and respect" press release.

*New digs: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have moved into are living in a $3.5 million mansion in New Orleans, where Pitt is shooting his latest movie, confirms Us Weekly. The couple moved to the French Quarter last week. Jolie has been meeting local moms and plans to enroll the kids in school; Pitt will oversee construction on 20 environment-friendly homes he's building in hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods.

*Shilling: Kevin Federline will star in a Super Bowl ad for Nationwide Insurance's "Life Comes at You Fast" campaign. The 30-second spot begins with Britney Spears's soon-to-be-ex in a rap video surrounded by babes and ends with him working at a fast-food joint. Art imitating life?

What, They Expected Him To Fly on an Empty Stomach?

Busted! Two weeks ago, we reported that Shimon Peres attended Gerald Ford's funeral, then headed for Teatro Goldoni restaurant, where he spent more than two hours over grilled shrimp, steamed vegetables and white wine. We figured a sighting of him wouldn't raise too many eyebrows.

But the lunch turned into a public embarrassment for Israel's vice premier, who was in Washington representing his country at the funeral. Peres was scheduled to meet with a dozen Washington-based Israeli reporters, but begged off at the last minute by claiming he had to rush back home for the funeral of Jerusalem's beloved former mayor Teddy Kollek, who died earlier that day. Peres, as it turned out, had plenty of time to meet the reporters and make it home in time for Kollek's service -- instead, he opted for the long lunch.

That didn't sit well with Nahum Barnea, an influential columnist with Yediot Aharonot, Israel's leading Hebrew newspaper, who chided the former prime minister for using the funeral to dodge reporters. "If Kollek could speak," wrote Barnea, "he'd probably say, 'Very well, Shimon, I'd do exactly the same thing to you.' "

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