By Kevin Cowherd
Ladies and gentlemen, a big round of applause for our new Wicca-practicing Mega Millions lottery winner, Mr. Bunky Bartlett of Dundalk!
Is this guy beautiful, or what?
Most people who hit for a huge share of a $330 million lottery drop out of sight faster than a snitch on The Sopranos.
They huddle with lawyers and accountants for days and hole up in some fancy hotel suite, all the while issuing the usual statements along the lines of: "We ask that you respect our privacy as we contemplate our recent good fortune and blah, blah, blah."
But not Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett.
Bartlett, a 40-year-old accountant, hits for the prize of a lifetime Saturday night, and yesterday he's driving around in his new Ford Explorer, checking in with his bank, yakking with friends on his cell, doing media interviews and trying to dodge the usual con artists and slimeballs who want to be his new best pals.
"I think my e-mail box is about to explode," Bartlett said.
Probably the weirdest e-mail, he said, "was from a doctor who wants to do a complete workup on me to make sure I'm healthy and will live long enough to spend all the money."
Then there was the gold-digger who recognized him outside Wal-Mart and promptly proposed marriage.
Was she a looker at least?
"She wasn't my type, I'll say that," said Bartlett, who had to inform this junior-varsity Anna Nicole Smith that he was already married. He and his wife, Denise, have two kids, which would therefore make another marriage inconvenient.
But this is what happens when you hit the lottery for more than $80 mil: The nuts come out of the woodwork.
"Well, the first thing I'm doing with the money is, I'm not giving it to anyone," Bartlett said with a laugh. "So hopefully that will calm things down" with the opportunists.
To which I'd say: Hah! Good luck calming down those leeches, Bunkaroo.
Otherwise, he said, he plans to invest the money, set up family members in a real-estate venture, donate to charity and invest in the White Marsh New Age store, Mystickal Voyage, where he teaches classes on moon-magic, psychic-shielding and psychic-healing.
Oh, sure, he got the new SUV. And he'll also move out of Dundalk into a bigger house, which is practically required by law for all lottery winners.
But he won't exactly be sunning himself on the Riviera for the rest of his life, since he intends to devote much of his time to spreading the word about Wicca, which he describes as "an Earth-based spiritual practice."
"I don't see the money changing him one bit," said his friend, Lori Perdue, who owns Mystickal Voyage along with her husband, Mick. "He's generous of heart ... and he's an accountant, for God's sake.
"He's pragmatic ... he's not going to do anything crazy with the money."
When I stopped at the shop yesterday, everyone was still buzzing over Bartlett's good fortune. The love was everywhere for the guy.
Me, I love the fact that he's 40 years old and still goes by the nickname Bunky.
Bunky is a good, solid nickname, a nickname that connotes both playfulness and regular-guy-ness.
And I hope when he starts rolling in all that dough, he doesn't stop calling himself Bunky and start demanding to be called Ellwood B. Bartlett III, or something gag-inducing like that.
"Nah, Bunky was given to me by one of my uncles when I was a baby," he said. "My uncle said: 'We can't curse this one with [Ellwood].'"
On the other hand, there's a tendency among many to think that someone who practices Wicca is more of a, well, weirdo than a regular guy.
Bartlett said he never used to advertise the fact that he was a Wiccan.
"I let [people] get to know me before I tell them," he said, "although that will be harder to do now."
Yep, it'll be harder because as soon as he found out he was a multimillionaire, he got himself a tattoo that features 12 alchemy symbols around his left wrist.
In case anyone can't see the tattoo, it's "also outlined in a material that will glow under a black light," Bartlett said.
"My philosophy is: If [being a Wiccan] matters to people to the point where they don't like me, then they're not the type of people I want to be around anyway."
Well, lots of people want to be around Bunky Bartlett right now, Wicca or no Wicca.
This morning he's scheduled to appear on NBC's Today show, and then there will be a news conference at 11 a.m. at lottery headquarters to officially announce what everyone already knows: that Bartlett won't exactly be clipping coupons out of the Sunday circulars anytime soon.
I just wish I could have listened in on the phone conversation Bartlett had with the Ford dealer before he drove off with that shiny new Explorer, a conversation he described as going like this:
Bartlett: "I just won the lottery. Will you give me any car I want today and I'll pay you later when it's official?"
Ford dealer: "Uh, you're joking, right?"
Nope. Turns out he wasn't joking at all.