A Rhode Island icon sails back into the limelight  
By IAN DONNIS  |  August 2, 2007
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.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
  Topics: News Features , Bob Kerr, Mike Stanton, Talk Radio,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    Five years ago, when Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) launched its mission of promoting Ocean State-produced food, co-founder Noah Fulmer discovered a curious disconnection in the local food chain.
  •   TICKET TO RIDE  |  February 11, 2009
    In April 1999, two weeks after I started on the job at the Providence Phoenix , the FBI raided City Hall, formally unveiling the federal investigation that would land Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., Rhode Island's rascal king, behind bars.
    During a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the State House rotunda, proponents of significantly expanding publicly financed elections in Rhode Island — a concept they call "Fair Elections" — cited a litany of reasons for why it would be good for the Ocean State and its citizens.
  •   THE UPSIDE OF HOPE IN RHODE ISLAND  |  January 29, 2009
    Everywhere one turns these days, there's seemingly more bad news about Rhode Island: the unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, tops 10 percent — and the state's running out of unemployment assistance.
    Former Providence Journal reporter Jan Brogan is out with her fourth mystery, Teaser .

 See all articles by: IAN DONNIS