BALTIMORE -- The specials board in Piccadeli's downtown window has been drawing lunchtime customers for such overstuffed "Contra Club" sandwiches as the "Ollie North Club," featuring a bit of shredded lettuce tucked in with ham and bologna, the "Ronald Reagan," the "Mrs. Reagan" and the "Poindexter Club."
Deli owners Larry Cornwell and Jim Deibel laugh when explaining the "Ollie" ingredients: Bologna because the lieutenant colonel "was indecisive about some of his answers"; ham for all the attention North drew during the hearings and the stacks of fan mail he kept on the witness table; shredded lettuce for the shredded documents; and swiss cheese for the hidden Swiss bank accounts.
And then there's the Russian dressing for flavor and a hint of superpower politics, and the American cheese for the country that brought it all to television.
Cornwell credits television with giving him an obsession that turned to inspiration. "I was sitting at home, just watching the North testimony, and I was constantly talking about North," he said.
Cornwell decided to translate his fascination into dollars. The sandwiches range from $4.25 to $4.50 -- slightly more than the usual fare, but then, he says, the whole Iran-contra affair has been expensive for the government.
The most popular club so far with men is the "Shultz Club": chicken salad, bacon, mushrooms, sprouts, tomato and swiss cheese stuffed between slices of whole wheat toast, according to Cornwell and Deibel.
The professional businesswomen are going for a different combination: egg salad, tuna, swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato on pristine slices of toasted white bread.
"The ladies really do like the 'Mrs. Reagan.' We figured we had to get her in somewhere. She basically runs the White House," Cornwell said.
Cornwell and Deibel have tried hard to keep their own opinions of the Iran-contra hearing characters out of their chats with the droves of downtown professionals drawn to the wood-framed board flanked by two miniature American flags provided by an employe.
However, they admit that a few sentiments have influenced the choice of ingredients for the sandwiches.
The "Poindexter" includes sauerkraut, a sour pickle and pastrami because "his whole thing totally left me sour," Cornwell said.
They've also been adding bacon to most sandwiches to mark "the fat" and "greed" of the scandal.