I haven't been shy about praising the Clay Davis scenes from last week's Wire; they were the moment that this season's media critique sprang to life for me. But I've just learned something that makes that subplot even more delicious: the first radio host who interviews Clay is Larry Young, a former Baltimore state senator and current Baltimore radio personality.
Ten years ago Young, a state senator from Baltimore's west side, was censured and expelled from the state senate for ethics violations. As a result, in the words of the Baltimore City Paper, Young "is regarded as a hero, or at least a sympathetic victim of white oppression, by lots of Baltimoreans." Clay Davis is crying in the microphone of someone whose career trajectory has a few parallels with his own. (Which is not to say that Young is the only or even the primary source for Davis. I don't think it's any accident that when Davis gets arraigned, one of the characters goes out of his way to mention it's at the Mitchell courthouse. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.)
But it gets better. Larry Young also showed up in the original Homicide, David Simon's book, where he was largely responsible for a clusterfuck of a case that involved an imaginary abduction, a false police report, a convenient press leak, and a sham trial. (Simon never exactly spells out the root of the trouble, but his implications are clear enough that one of the entries in this Washington Post sidebar drips with irony.) The primary detective on that case, Donald Worden, has also appeared on The Wire, as have two of the superior officers who protected him from the political fallout when some department brass leaked an investigation that was supposed to be confidential.
And that's one of the things I love about The Wire. You don't need to know any of this background to appreciate the storylines, but when you do they get that much better. And Simon has an amazing knack for bringing all these disparate voices together--as a radio host, Young opposed the appointment of Edward Norris as police commissioner. Norris, after some ethics troubles of his own, now plays homicide detective Ed Norris on The Wire (and has his own Baltimore radio show--can a shot at that be far behind?). Somehow, he's able to get all these people to play these sly, knowing, sometimes deeply unflattering roles.
He certainly did with tonight's cameo...