Vincent Albert Cianci — called Buddy by friends and foes — is back.
Cianci served almost 20 years as mayor of Providence and ran for governor in 1980. Cianci was among the defendants included in a 30-count indictment in 2001, and was ultimately convicted of a single count of racketeering conspiracy. He was sentenced to serve 64 months. He was released in May.
I have known Buddy for more than 30 years. I worked for Cianci from 1975-80 as the city’s director of community development, and from 2001-02 as the city’s director of housing code enforcement. And I consider him a friend.
I interviewed Cianci at his office in the plush 903 Residences condominium complex behind Providence Place. Upon his release, he worked in marketing and sales in a job provided by the complex owner, Joe Paolino, scion of a real estate investment family, a former mayor himself, and one-time critic of Cianci. He resumes his second career as a talk show host on September 20 from 10 am to 2 pm on WPRO-630 AM.
Buddy answered my many questions in a forthright, open, and often somber manner. Humor flashed, usually in the form of one-liners aimed at his critics: “My return should help the Journal increase its revenue, which — in my absence — I understand, went into decline.” All in all, however, Cianci was philosophical.
Throughout the plunder dome trials you maintained your innocence. What were your thoughts the day you went off to prison? What were the early days there like?
It was one sad day in my life. It was Christmas time when I left, early December, the 5th. I remember leaving the Biltmore Hotel [where he lived at the time], and it was snowing, Christmas carols were playing in the city, it was festive, children were skating in the ice rink across from the hotel, a rink which I had a lot to do with establishing. The whole scene was surreal — the snow, the singing, the festive atmosphere. I thought of my family — Christmas was always my favorite time — and I was going to prison. It was surreal.
My friend Bob Lovell drove me to New Jersey, we stayed in a hotel overnight in Trenton, and I reported the next day to the prison. We waited at an Army guard station and then I was picked up and taken to the prison and Bob left. I was taken to a holding room where I stayed for about eight to 10 days. I didn’t know what to expect. I was given a physical exam, strip-searched, the usual stuff you hear about. Naturally, I was full with apprehension about how adjustment would go, what would happen. Around December 16, as near as I can remember, I was shackled with about 10 to 12 other guys and remember waiting for a bus to take us to a permanent place, and it was “cold, cold, cold” waiting for the bus, and we were then taken to new quarters in a building that housed about 400 men, most in dormitory-style living arrangements. All my personal clothes and property were taken, including my “squirrel” [toupee], which I never wore again in prison and now have decided not to wear.