The Man and City Combined to Reach Unimagined Heights of 'Buddyness'

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

“His (Cianci’s) place in the history of American mayors is there for us to look at and conclude that there is no question he changed his city from a wrong turn on the way to Boston to a Destination City.”
               -Tom Cochran, Executive Director, U.S. Conference of Mayors

I never had any dealings with Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, but I’ve spoken through the years with many who did. To a person, they all say roughly the same thing:
He was brilliant and driven, one of the smartest and best politicians they’d ever seen. He rightly deserved credit for the economic and cultural rebirth of Providence, Rhode Island. It was hard to work for him, or be accountable to him, but you always learned something when you were with him.  Unfortunately, you never knew when one of his inner demons would pop out to torment you and/or create a spectacle.

We were once engaged in a project in Massachusetts with a man who’d run the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin Donuts Center) for a spell when Cianci was mayor.
“Buddy was a wild man, a total wild man,” the man told us.  “He’d think nothing of calling you at 1:00 a.m. to ask a question about some nothing issue.  But he was a genius.  He could see things in government that other people never could.  He’d make a victory out of something everyone had missed but him.”

This man explained that he’d been hired by the center’s board of directors and reported directly to the board.
“That didn’t matter to Buddy,” he said.  “From the beginning, he made it clear I worked for him, and that, if I wanted to keep my job, I would do what he told me. Period. End of story.  That’s how it was for everyone in Providence.”

Cianci died this past Thursday, Jan. 28, at the age of 74.  Up until a few days before his death, he was still going, fairly strong, as a radio talk show host in Rhode Island.
Of all the things I’ve read about the man since his passing, nothing is as good and as worthy of recommendation as Matt Taibbi’s piece yesterday in Rolling Stone, “One Crazy Hour With Buddy Cianci.”  This is a highly entertaining account of the time in September, 2013, when Taibbi was a guest on Cianci’s radio show together with Stephen Day, former head of the Providence firefighters union.

Here’s a sample from “One Crazy Hour,” told in Cianci’s voice to Taibbi during a commercial break:
“This one time, we’re signing a collective bargaining agreement.  There’s cameras everywhere and when I’m done signing the paper, all of a sudden all of these firefighters are slapping me on the back and shaking my hand.  And I’m panicking.  Why are they so happy?  I lean over and I say, ‘Stephen, what the fuck did I just sign?’ ”

That Taibbi is the author of this piece provided a needed hook (excuse) to write this post: he grew up around Boston and graduated from Concord Academy.  His father, Mike Taibbi, was an outstanding TV reporter in Boston before going on to a distinguished national career at NBC news.
To get Matt’s entire article, click on:

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