When I talked to Laura Lippman, David Simon's wife, about her book "After I'm Gone" last February, she noted how strange it was to "hear so much 'Wire' lingo in day-to-day life from strangers who have no knowledge of my connection to Baltimore, much less 'The Wire.'" She gave people saying "I'm a police. I'm a murder police" as an example, but if you've been following social media this weekend, you've probably seen a lot more, as HBO unveils one season of the newly remastered version of David Simon's show per day, ie, #TheWireMarathon.
We recently discussed what the remastering has done to the original product, and Sun reporter Justin Fenton started posting then-and-now pics of Wire locations yesterday, while various websites, including ours, are collecting their old stories about "The Wire" or "Wire"-related characters. Meanwhile city officials and civic boosters still deal with the problem the show presents to the city's image. Both Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts almost proudly claim not to have seen the show and last month, CNN's Mike Rowe attacked the show's portrayal of the city, which he hoped to combat with an epsisode of his own show "Somebody's Got to Do It" and a PR campaign.
Brett Martin's excellent 2013 book about the showrunners of the current "golden age" of television, provides a fascinating portrait of Simon—the chapter on Simon is aptly called the 'Arguer'—and the show's creation. (City Paper contributor and former Sun reporter Rafael Alvarez says, of their early days at the Sun, "We were young, devil-may-care, work-around-the-clock, party-till-you-drop, rock 'n' roll reporters.") And the book's portrayal of the way its cast spent its time in Baltimore shows another interesting light on the city with Clark Peters ("Lester") hosting "a kind of groovy bohemain salon for an older set of cast and crew members . . . Peters, a strict vegetarian, would cook elaborate group meals. There was a piano and impromptu jam sessions fueled by red wine and pot smoke. For those seized by the after-hours impulse to paint, there were canvasses on easels set up in the basement. Among its habitues, the house was called 'the academy.'"
On the other hand, the younger cast members were "centered on The Block . . . with a core group including West, Gilliam, Lombardozzi, Wendell Pierce, Andre Royo, J.D. Williams, and Sonja Sohn." Royo, who played Bubbles, recalled a number of fights Sohn saved the group from by keeping her eyes on the bouncers. "She's a sexy little chick, so they'd make sure she was comfortable."
And now, as everyone goes "Wire" crazy again, Lippman's new book, "Hush Hush," which is about to be released, deals once again with the show.
"There's a character, a bookseller, who starts something called Wirecon," she said. "There comes a point where ignoring something seems fake. If you're writing about Baltimore in 2013, 2014, and you're not referencing The Wire, it's sort of like, 'come on.'"