Clinton “Shorty” Buice, a popular figure on the nightclub scene who was born and raised in West Baltimore and spent much of his early adult life playing poker, Black Jack and dice on the gambling circuit, died Nov. 10 after suffering heart failure. He was 72.
Friends said Buise had experienced recent setbacks in his health. He had his foot amputated recently because of diabetes and was recovering at a local convalescent home.
Buise, who earned his nickname “Shorty” because of his diminutive stature, was described by loved ones as a man who took a big bite out of life every day. He had legions of friends, many dating back to young childhood.
Five years ago, he played himself on the 10th episode of the final season of The Wire, an HBO series about Baltimore’s street scene, the last of several acting endeavors. The episode was called “-30-,” which used to mark the end of newspaper stories.
Buise attended Booker T. Washington Jr. High and Frederick Douglass High School, where he played the drums. He later switched to saxophone, which he studied at the Peabody Conservatory, said Clifton “Hines” Early, 71, a close friend.
He also attended the Baltimore Culinary Arts School where he received an “advanced culinary arts professional diploma,” Early said.
“His claim to fame was his ability to comprehend and learn,” said Early. “Anything he picked up, he stuck with until he mastered it. He was colorful, very smart and he had one of the best memories in history.”
Rosa Pryor, an AFRO columnist and author who once worked with some of the area’s best-known entertainers, described Buise as a kind and giving man who would help her to raise money for music scholarships for local children.
“Baltimore will remember him as a character,” she said. “He loved to have fun and he loved to do things for other people.”
He was knew his way around a dance floor.
“He was a helluva dancer,” Pryor said. “I’ve lost my hand dancing partner.”
Buise was also affiliated with a social organization called “30 Flat.” He, Early and several other friends also mentored youth in a group they called the “Young Timers.”
“Even though we were old, we didn’t want to be called ‘Old Timers,’” Early said.
Two of Buise’s seven children said they had been surprised by his passing. His son, Michael, said he spoke to him on his last day.
“He was in good spirits,” he said.
Fifteen years ago, Buise began driving a cab to make a living, according to Early, who said he last spoke to Buise the day before he died.
Like other friends, he believed Buice was on the way to recovery. Instead, they were now preparing for his home going ceremony.
He will never get over the loss, Early said, his voice breaking. They were friends for 65 years.
“We grew up together on Madison Avenue, in the 1200 block. That was a very popular block for Blacks at the time,” he said.
He recalled holding vigils with Buise outside a local hotel which drew Black celebrities like Nat King Cole when they were little.
“We would find out who was there and run down to see them,” he said. “I met him when I was five. We had our little things like friends do, but we were always there for each other.”
The viewing for Buise will be held 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 17 at Howell Funeral Home on Liberty Heights Avenue at Gwynn Oak Ave. The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m., Nov. 18 at the House of Prayer for All People at Edgewood and Liberty Heights avenues in West Baltimore.