September stumper: what has happened to Gino Foote, the bald-headed shoeshine artist?

One Friday night this summer -- as best people can recall, it was July 31 -- Foote packed up his cloths and polishes, said good night to the guys in the barber shop and closed his shoeshine stand in the lobby of the Capital Hilton for the weekend.

Normally, Foote would have reopened at 7 a.M. sharp the next Monday. As always, he would have placed a fresh copy o The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on his leather bench for customers who preferred to read rather than chat. As always, he would have greeted his steady customers with a cheerful, "Hey, man," and asked them kiddingly how much booze they'd drunk that weekend. And as alwalys, he would have made a pretty penny -- as much as $75 a day most of the time, more during conventions.

But Gino didn't show up the next Monday, and he hasn't shown up since. Nor has he called, or answered the phone at his home.

Foul play? "We have no reason to think so," said Renee Subrin, the hotel's director of public relations. "He just left. We don't know where he is."

Two new men are running Gino's old shoeshine stand. But as any of Gino's regulars well knows, the patter was as much a part o the experience as the polish -- and Gino was patter's past master.

Hey, man: where are you?