Walter S. Orlinsky was such a good water boy for the Baltimore City Council that he was affectionately known as "Gunga Din." Then one day in 1964, his political patron lost control of the council and Orlinsky lost his patronage job.
On the day he was fired, Orlinsky, who was a 25-year-old law school student at the time, retaliated in kind. He refused to fill water glasses for the councilmen who a few minutes earlier voted him out of a job.
Such defiance may seem bold for a young man dealing with powerful politicians. Not so for Orlinsky, whose irreverant style has followed him from water boy to president of the council to candidate for governor of Maryland today.
"Wally's always had chutzpah," said his wife, Jo-Ann Orlinsky. "When he asked for my hand in marraige, my father asked him how he was going to support me in the style to which I was accustomed. Wally said, She's going to work."
"My father said, Don't marry him; he's a wise guy,'" Mrs. Orlinsky recalled.
A a freshman member of Maryland's House of Delegates, Orlinsky staged a one-man harangue against the Vietnam War, tying up business on the last day of the 1968 session. He was roundly booed and one delegate came after him with a chair leg.
Since then, he was proposed abolishing his current job as City Council president, supervised the baking of an 18-ton Bicentennial birthday cake, declared open war on Baltimore's popular mayor and admitted fixing parking tickets in the 1960s.
Once again he is defying political convention by running a badly underfinanced campaign.
"If I find something is important to do, I'm going to do it," Orlinsky said, declaring his basic political philosophy. "If I think something is important to say, you're going to know it. That happens to be the kind of guy I am."
The water boy story of Orlinsky's post illustrates another aide of his personality. He has, in the words of a friend, "a deep capacity to dislike" and a practice of fighting back and on occasion, "going for the throat" when he feels wronged.
One well-published "blood feud" with a Baltimore state senator dates back 10 years and still rages. He publicly attacks concilmen who cross him. He has had ice cold relations with Baltimore's mayor for years. They often don't speak.
He has seen called the "terroist" of today's campaign because of his fierce assaults on rivals, especially Theodore G. Venetoulis, whom he often describes as a "hypocrite," a political "transvestite" and a "phony."
"What many people see as gall," explained Mrs. Orlinsky, "is a sense of frustration in Wally that other people aren't as intelligent as he is and can't see the issue as cleary as he does.
Orlinsky's political intensity is matched by a dynamic intellect. He leaves listeners breathless with his constant flow of ideas ranging from innovative government reform to complicated engineering concepts.
Widely regarded as the most intellectual of today's candidates, he has proposed such far reaching programs as an aerial transit system to relieve inner city traffic congestion and regional universities to stop redundancy in education.
He was the first candidate to call for aggressive approaches to attract new industry to Maryland and the only contender to consistently attack the state's regulation of public utilities, which he brands "the biggest consumer rip-off."
Even Orlinsky's enemies say he is brilliant, a consummate "idea man" who thinks deeply and unravels complex issues. But even his friends concede that the council president's proposals are not always realistic.
"If I could pick one person to sit next to on a transcontinental flight, it would be Wally," said Ed Rovner, an old Orinsky's friend. "You leave him vibrating. He can generate more ideas than anybody I've ever met."
But, says Rovner, who has watched the 40-year-old Orlinsky mature as a poliitical and government official over the last 15 years, "The only problem with Wally's ideas is that only about 10 percent of them are feasible."
Orlinsky's fulltime city council post, which he has held since 1971, allows him to study issues, generate concepts and enact them into law. But he has little opportunity to administer programs once they become effective.
His biggest opportunity to both formulate a program and bring it to completion came in 1975 when he was appointed chairman of a committee to plan Baltimore's Bicentennial anniversary celebration.
The celebration began in controversy when Orlinsky kicked off events a year early with a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of the bombing of Baltimore's Fort MoHenry, the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthemn.
As the July 4, 1975, day of reenactment: approached Maryland historians pointed out that the bombing of Fort McHenry took place 33 years after the nation declared its independence and was not really relevant to the Bicentennial.
Undeterred by the criticism, Orlinsky turned his attention to the 200th birthday party itself. He decided he "wanted to do something with Indians" and invited a tribe of Apaches from Arizona to set up a model village.
The Indians were paid $3 an hour show off their crafts and set up their village in a city park considered unsafe at night. The "village" had to be enclosed in a fence and watched by police while the Apaches spent the night elsewhere.
Orlinsky's most controversial project was yet to come. It arrived with his plans to bake "the world's biggest birthday cake," an 18-ton pastry shaped liked a map of the United States with 200 electronic candles and red, white and blue frosting.
After the cake was baked and floated onto a barge off Fort McHenry, the rats and rain took over, spoinling half the product. Then the city had trouble selling pieces at $2 a shot and barely broke even with the $54,000 baking bill.
Orlinsky got the cake entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's "largest confectionery" and defended his stewardship of the celebration as a means for drawing the nation's attention to Baltimore.
But the cake became known as "Wally's folly" and he was criticized for overspending the entire program's budget by 100 percent. When the city comptroller questioned the cost of the cake, Orlinsky called him a "guttersnipe."
"After all the laughter and the screamming, that bicentennial thing did exactly what it was supposed to do," Orlinsky said this week. "It got us a million bucks worth of publicity and put Baltimore on nationwide TV."
All of the controversy and crticism inspired by Orinsky's program - The Sun called it "insubstantial and clowdish" - deepened the City Council president's conflict with Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
Relations between the two highest city officials while never very close, degenerated to the point where Schaefer began excluding Orlinsky from admininstration decisions.
Still smoldering today, the tensions reached a high pitch in early 1976 when Orlinsky began openly opposing the mayor's desire for a Baltimore subway and even had bumper stickers printed saying "I Don't Dig The Subway."
Schaefer began viewing the council president as a saboteur who was out to upstage and embrass him and torpedo programs the mayor considered vital to Baltimore's growth, sack as the subway and a downtown revitalization program.
Orlinsky found himself shut out from everything told to stay away from the General Assembly, where he used to head Baltimore's lobbying effort, and not consulted about the admininstration's urban redevelopment programs.
It was ironic that while Orinsky shuttled around the nation making speechles as a noted urbanologist and official of the National League of Cities, he played almost no role in Baltimore's revitalization of the downtown retail district.
"Both men are stubborn and unwilling to bend," explained a Baltimore official, who said relations remain poor today. "The junior man has to accept junior position. But Wally is constantly pitting himself aginst the mayor.
The conflict has taken a personal toll on Orlinksy. Once a jolly, if occasionally tart-tongued man, his colleagues began finding him frustrated, argumentative and gloomy. City Hall observers began calling it "Wally's malaise."
Some poliitcal observers believe it was Orlinsky's frustration that led him into the current governor's race. Unhappy with his City Hall plight and blocked by a popular mayor, they say, "Orlinsky has no where to go."
Wally's on a kamikaze run," observed a longtime friend, Frank A. DeFilippo."He's laying the ground-work for something later on." (Orlinksy does not give up his council presidency until next year)
Orlinsky, the son of a prominent Bible scholar, was born in Baltimore. He was raised in Brooklyn where he commited his first political act as a young man handing out campaign literature for Harry Truman.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Law School, he continued his political activity through his school years, participating in several statewide campaigns, and serving as a national committeeman for Maryland's Young Democrats.
He lives in a Victorian row house in a renovated Baltimore neighborhood. He said his net worth is around $100,000 in addition to the home he own. He holds several thousand dollars worth of stock and Israeli bonds.
After his schooling, he became a leader of Baltimore's most influential liberal political club and won a seat in Maryland's House of Delegates in 1966.As a delegate, he floor-managed the state's air quality law and sponsored legislation requiring that generic drugs be used in filling prescriptions for Medicaid patients.