Big Fish

Q & A With US Congressman John Sarbanes

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Elected in 2006 as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District (comprising parts of Baltimore City, plus portions of Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel counties), John P. Sarbanes has established moderate-to-liberal political bona fides over his two-plus terms, focusing on health-care, education, and environmental issues. He voted for the landmark health-care overhaul, to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding gays in the military, and against a bill that would have denied federal funds to Planned Parenthood.

Currently, Sarbanes sits on the Natural Resources and the Space, Science, and Technology committees, as well as on four subcommittees, notably the one overseeing national parks, forests and public lands.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Sarbanes graduated from Gilman in 1980, from Princeton University in 1984, and then earned a law degree from Harvard in 1988. He spent the next 18 years working as an attorney at Venable. (Oh, his first job: whipping up milkshakes at the Prevas Brothers stall in Fell’s Point’s Broadway Market.) 

His father, Paul, served as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1977 to 2007, exiting Congress just as John entered it. 

Married with three children, Sarbanes, who turned 49 on May 22, lives in Towson. 

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.

Treat people with respect and don’t get ahead of yourself. 

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

My most important personal goal is to provide for my family. I defined that when I got married and started a family. Beyond that, to be a good citizen who is contributing to my community in some way.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

If something seems too good to be true, it is. 

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered? 

I try not to be surprised by the truth.

What is the best moment of the day?

When I walk into my house at the end of the day.

What is on your bedside table?

The Collected Stories of James Thurber and The Collected Stories of J.D. Salinger.

What is your favorite local charity?

The Public Justice Center.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

Do the job you have well and the rest will take care of itself. 

Why are you successful?

If I’ve had success, I attribute it to being a good listener.

If Congress lifted its ban on earmarks for a day and permitted you to submit one piece of locally related legislation, what bill would you push for passage?

Sufficient funds to clean up Baltimore Harbor. 

What is your favorite film about American politics — and why?

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, because it shows you can be idealistic and also make a practical difference.

What music are you into right now that might surprise us?

I’m always into bluegrass.

Q & A With "Modern Family" Star Julie Bowen

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We asked Modern Family star and Baltimore girl-done-good Julie Bowen (nee Luetkemeyer) a few questions about life, the secrets to her success and growing up in Baltimore (in Woodbrook). We learned the Brown University alum and mother of three is not wholly unlike the funny, self-deprecating, lovable character she plays on TV.

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.
If everyone gets to bed with a clean diaper and minimal whining, I win!

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?
I thought my most important goals were career related, and in some ways they still are.  I love working and get (overly?) excited about new jobs and the opportunity to work with creative people.  Having three kids in two years, however, has forced me to shift a great deal of focus outside of myself and my own goals which is, frankly, much more healthy.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?
My parents told me to get an education, whether I “used” it or not, and I did.  It is still the greatest thing I have ever done even if I rarely dig out Neoplatonism in cocktail conversation.

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?
The worst advice was never direct as much as it was implied.  Some people in my life kept saying I was “lucky” to get jobs, and I shouldn’t push my luck by asking for better salaries or even better jobs.  I spent a great deal of time undervaluing myself, and still feel I have to fight against this mentality as a default mode.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

  1. Kids are amazingly fun.
  2. Kids are amazingly hard.
  3. One person, place or thing will never meet all of your needs. Get a deep bench and keep expanding.

What is the best moment of the day?
5 a.m. Coffee, email, and a book before I go running.

What is on your bedside table?
Half a broken toy truck,  crosswords, three books to read and a picture of my dearly departed dog.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?
Get used to hearing “no” and don’t take it personally.  Auditioning is a war of attrition, and if you can resist the urge to quit when you are sure you won’t get a job, you will eventually land on your feet.

Why are you successful?
Am I?  That’s hard to accept…I suppose I have success in acting because I really love it and didn’t look at my failures (there have been PLENTY) and rejections as deterrents.

What was the best thing about growing up in Baltimore?
The Orioles and lightening bugs.

What was the worst thing about growing up in Baltimore?
The humidity!

What do you miss most about Baltimore?
My parents and old friends like Lillie Stewart, Catherine Thomas and Emily Wilson….

What is the thing you must do/place you must visit when you are in Baltimore?
The Irvine Nature Center is the best.  My dad can’t survive without a trip to Tark’s (Grill).  And for culture, the Walters Art Museum is my favorite.

What is your favorite regional delicacy? 
Berger Cookies!!!!  Oh my god!  I always thought you could get those anywhere until I moved away from Baltimore.  What a horrible realization!

Eddie’s or Graul’s?
Graul’s!  The chicken salad alone is worth it.

The creator of “Modern Family” is also from Baltimore.  Do you two ever commiserate on the best and worst of Baltimore?  Did you know each other or any of the same people growing up?

Jason Winer (Friends School alum) directed Modern Family the first season and still has strong Baltimore ties.  We didn’t talk a whole lot of Baltimore, but whenever we did, we used the full-on Bawlmer accent, hon!