The Senate filibuster was about three hours under way (with seven more to go) when someone suggested that Maryland Public Television should have set up cameras in the chamber and the lounge for a live, unedited presentation of democracy in action.
"Oh, God," muttered one senator, looking around at the growing pandemonium around him. "We'd all be run out of town."
Here, then, are some of the scenes that public television did not bring you from the first filibuster of the 1983 General Assembly:
Sen. Walter M. Baker (D-Cecil), the leadoff speaker and the originator of the filibuster against Gov. Harry Hughes's labor department, was barely 15 minutes into his speech when most senators chose to abandon their posts.
Senate President Melvin A. Steinberg (D-Baltimore County) left the podium early to make sure his assistant remembered to order takeout fried chicken and pizza for the any of the 47 senators who had not sneaked out already for more lavish dinners.
Groups of senators had settled into the lounge's squishy leather sofas and chairs, eagerly betting on how long this particular "extended debate" would last.
In the chambers, Baker, with a pile of books and clippings on his desk as filibuster fodder, turned to the sea of empty red leather chairs around him. "Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate," he said, "I know you all appreciate what an important issue this is."
Sen. James Clark Jr. (D-Howard), who presided over dozens of filibusters before he was unseated this year as Senate president, gazed at Baker for a second and then returned to reading the Money section of USA TODAY.
After the buckets of chicken in Steinberg's office were finished and most senators had moved on to other things, two of them remained behind. There, before a small television set, sat the head of the Maryland Democratic Party, Sen. Rosalie Abrams, and her Baltimore County colleague, Sen. Vernon Boozer. They were watching the last installment of "The Thorn Birds."
"Cloture call a motion to end the filibuster is coming soon," someone shouted from outside the office. Abrams and Boozer didn't budge.
"They're going to have to wait another 15 minutes till the next commercial to get me out," said a determined Abrams.
The filibuster got to be too much for Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr. (D-Dorchester) around 10:30 p.m., six hours after it began. Malkus, who had just returned from a long dinner break, demanded that Steinberg call a recess until the next day.
"Mr. President," he said, leaning so far across his desk that some feared he would fall over it, head first, "this is ridiculous. No one here is saying anything worth listening to."
Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount (D-Baltimore) stood up. "I speak against the motion," he said. "A filibuster is a stalling for time so don't expect a Daniel Webster up here talking."
The filibuster already had gotten to be too much for two others: Sens. Thomas P. O'Reilly (D-Prince George's) and James C. Simpson (D-St. Mary's), normally allies in such situations, approached fisticuffs around 9:30 p.m.
Simpson, a member of the filibusterers, was furious that O'Reilly had voted for a cloture motion to end debate.
" . . . you Prince George's whores . . . " Simpson yelled at O'Reilly, as the two men stood in the door of the lounge.
"What are you talking about? What are you talking about?" responded a red-faced O'Reilly. "You don't know what you're talking about," he said before storming to the water cooler.
Eight hours into the event, Steinberg was having more difficulty than expected in rounding up the 32 votes needed to end a filibuster. He had threatened two Republicans with bad committee assignments if they did not vote with him, and he still had come up short.
At this point he called the senators back to their seats. "In all candor," he told them, "the chair has determined that the Senate must be in the middle of a filibuster."
Sen. S. Frank Shore (D-Montgomery) arrived at the filibuster late, after attending a plaque-presentation ceremony. When he arrived, in a tuxedo and yellow frilled shirt, Steinberg gave him the gavel and told him to preside over the three senators sitting in the chambers.
Shortly, Shore got tired of standing and slouched into Steinberg's chair, his feet up on the podium, his eyes fluttering closed. In this posture he was spotted by Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery), who sneaked past Shore and quickly flicked on a set of television lights, lighting up the podium and Shore.
In little more than five seconds Shore was on his feet, gavel in raised hand, beaming into the television lights.
"Could you imagine visitors from Mars landing up there in the balcony and seeing Frank Shore down here in his tux," said Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). "Yeah," responded a Baltimore reporter, "they'd probably feel right at home."