- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Charlie Brotman, Mr. Washington, will be atop his makeshift perch in Lafayette Square across from the White House today, ensconced there to perform his duties as the Presidential Inaugural Parade announcer.

It is a role he has filled since the second-term swearing-in of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957, when the now 77-year-old Mr. Brotman claimed to be “a precocious lad of 5.” There is something eternal about the Tacoma Park resident, as former understudy Fred Sternburg noted yesterday.

“I swear, you can see Charlie in the background of the Matthew Brady photo taken at Lincoln’s first inauguration,” said Mr. Sternburg, who spent 13 years with Mr. Brotman’s public relations firm.

Mr. Sternburg said he started out as an unpaid intern before ending up as an unpaid vice president.

“It took six years in a North Korean re-education camp to unlearn everything Charlie taught me,” said Mr. Sternburg, who now oversees the Denver-based Sternburg Communications firm.

Mr. Brotman disputes the notion that he is a charter member of the Whig Party, despite the omnipresent rug that has come to be his enduring identifying mark, if not Washington’s follicle equivalent of the Big Apple’s comb-over perfected by Donald Trump.

It also is part of Washington lore that Mr. Brotman, at the outbreak of the War of 1812, urged the Madison administration to publicize it as, “U.S. vs. England II: This Time It Is Personal.” Mr. Brotman spent the eve of the 55th presidential inauguration hustling to meetings, making last-minute preparations and giving interviews to the press against the backdrop of an unanticipated snowfall.

“The inauguration is going to go well,” Mr. Brotman said. “It should be very nice. And the weather — it can’t top President Reagan’s inauguration in 1985. It was so cold — a wind chill of 35 below — that the parade was canceled. President Reagan, being the person that he was, decided to hold a kind of impromptu celebration indoors at the Capital Centre. And he was right down there on the arena floor shaking hands with everyone.” It has been a special year for Mr. Brotman, what with the return of baseball to the nation’s capital. The game tugs on him in a deeply personal way, stemming from his days as the Griffith Stadium announcer of the Washington Senators earning $10 a game in the 1950s. It was a job that led to a call from the White House and his first stint as the Presidential Inaugural Parade announcer.

Mr. Brotman even made baseball news of sorts in November before the start of a press conference at Union Station heralding the new name of the team.

With a ballpark protester, Adam Eidinger, refusing to leave the podium to the dignitaries, Mr. Brotman, a robust 150 pounds, stepped to the fore to gently usher the person from the premises.

“I thought it was like when a friend has had too much to drink, and you try to nudge him along the way,” Mr. Brotman said. “I placed my hand on the guy’s elbow — not firmly or anything — just to let him know it was time to go. But he would have none of that. So now I have two hands on him, and now he is pulling away, resisting, and now we are trying to drag each other. I am a lover, not a fighter. Thankfully for me, security people got there just in time.” As the one-time personal publicist of Sugar Ray Leonard — an irresistible connection, as it turned out. Mr. Brotman was awarded the unofficial geriatric junior middleweight crown in dispatches after the incident.

“I received calls from friends from all over the country,” Mr. Brotman said. “Seriously, I have been revitalized by the return of baseball.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Brotman has been solicited to be the RFK Stadium announcer on Opening Day in the spring. He has been toying with an opening line intended to capture the moment: “As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted 34 years ago ….” It is a line that only the ageless Mr. Brotman could deliver.

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