A Rhode Island icon sails back into the limelight
TAKING THE BAIT: It was predictable that Cianci wouldn’t comment after his lunch at the Old Canteen, but
the Rhode Island media still couldn’t resist staking out the scene.
Buddy Cianci was already making the media wait.
Last Friday, as he lunched with friends and family at Joe Marzilli’s Old Canteen on Federal Hill, Rhode Island’s rascal king still had another 11 hours or so under the jurisdiction of the US Bureau of Prisons, his keeper for the last four-plus years. And though it was wholly predictable that he would elude —as he did —the assembled throng of reporters, Cianci’s mere presence was enough to keep 15 scribes, photographers, and TV cameramen posted outside, mostly in front of the old-school Italian restaurant on Atwells Avenue, sweating in the humidity and seeking shaded relief from a scorching late July sun.
This was the dawn of a whole new Buddy era, and there was no doubt that the media would be there to cover it.
In the parlance of local scribes, Rhode Island is the gift that keeps on giving. And in the last 33 years, no one in this tiny news-rich state has offered more journalistic fodder than Buddy Cianci, a charismatic and gifted politician, by turns charming and bullying, who has exhibited a considerable penchant for self-destruction. US District Court Judge Ernest Torres nailed this duality while sentencing Cianci in 2002 for a single count of racketeering conspiracy, likening the twice-fallen mayor to a Jekyll-and-Hyde character.
And now Buddy is back.
What form will he take? How much juice will he wield? To what degree does he remain relevant? Was a man who had once talked of screwing his friends and marrying his enemies capable of mellowing, at 66, into something approaching an elder statesman? Or was the sunny exterior he flashed a day later just a cover until Buddy starts settling scores from a well-paid perch on talk-radio?
These questions formed the subtext as the reporters waited for the well-turned quotes that, at least that day, would not arrive.
While Cianci had been released in May from a federal prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey — taking up residence at a halfway house in Boston, and then, his nephew Brad Turchetta’s East Greenwich home — ongoing federal oversight spelled public silence for the typically loquacious former mayor.
Yet with the snipping of his electronic monitoring bracelet last Friday morning at the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office on Cape Cod, it was only a matter of hours before Buddy was, again, suddenly front-and-center in the Rhode Island media.
For now, it was Charles Mansolillo, a longtime Cianci confidante and his former city solicitor, who eventually emerged to answer questions from the press, describing how Buddy will likely hold a news conference about his plans this week, and as widely anticipated, probably take up a talk-radio microphone right here in Rhode Island.
A short time later, Buddy slipped away with enough guile to impress a freshly minted Hollywood starlet, moving from a side entrance at the Old Canteen into the passenger seat of a waiting silver Mercedes SL500, which sped away, photographers snapping all the while.
The departure was a variation on how Cianci used to make reporters wait for an audience in his imperial court at City Hall. In time, he would talk and talk some more, revealing a bit about the next chapter in a remarkable life. Yet even in his uncharacteristic silence, the former mayor’s headgear — a Providence Journal baseball cap — marked a wry nod to his longtime journalistic nemesis.
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