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Masloff in hospital, reported as 'alert'

| Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff, who once thought a caller claiming to be Bill Clinton was a prankster and hung up on him, is recuperating from pneumonia in UPMC Shadyside.

"She was alert and lectured me about politics, which I took to be a good sign," her attorney, Frederick N. Frank, said Saturday.

Masloff, 93, hadn't been feeling well for a few days and was admitted to the hospital Friday night after calling 9-1-1.

In 1992, when he was running for president, Clinton called the Pittsburgh mayor's office and introduced himself. Masloff, thinking a prankster was on the line, said: "Yeah, and this is the Queen of Sheba," and hung up.

The colorful Masloff became known as Pittsburgh's grandmother after breaking through political barriers to become the first woman and first Jewish person to serve as mayor.

Then 70 and a grandmother, she became mayor when Mayor Richard Caliguiri died in May 1988. It was Masloff's personal brand of politics, however, that propelled her career, longtime friends and associates say.

During a political debate when she was running for a full term as mayor in 1989, one of her opponents criticized negative campaigning, presumably in reference to Masloff.

"That's like being called ugly by a frog," she said.

Some political observers said the comment might have sealed her victory.

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