In another life, I used to travel between Austin and Rhode Island regularly (once a year or so).
The first time I went, I stayed downtown, at the Biltmore. This was 1995, I think, and it seemed that downtown was dead.
But I kept going back (this was the business I had chosen) and downtown Providence got better. They built a big new mall within walking distance of the Biltmore. They started Waterfire. The last time I was in Providence, it was a fun, exciting place to be. I miss it.
Buddy Cianci was responsible for a lot of this.
He wasn’t a hero of mine, and I never really “met” him. I did encounter him a couple of times.
It was a running joke among my coworkers (and the folks we worked with in Rhode Island) that you should eat at Joe Marzilli’s Old Canteen at least once; not only was the food good, but if you got lucky, you might see Buddy.
Well, one night I was in there with some of my coworkers and some of our Rhode Island contacts. So was Buddy. He actually came over to our table and commented on how cute and well-behaved the young child who was with us was. (As I recall, he was accompanied by a stunning, and very young, woman.)
Later on that trip, I shared an elevator ride with him. I didn’t say anything to him; didn’t seem like the time or place. I kind of wish I had said something nice to him now.
The Prince of Providence is a swell book about Buddy and Providence politics, though I don’t know if it has been updated since 2003.
Buddy reminds me some of Robert Moses. Both were examples of The Man Who Got Things Done. And it seems that both were also examples of the “rude to the waiter” rule. (I watched him get kind of snippy once with a desk clerk at the Biltmore who didn’t recognize him. To be fair, though, he was actually living in the Biltmore at the time…)
I was always conflicted by him. As a Libertarian, he represented a lot of what I hate about big government. As a connoisseur of politicians, especially crooked ones, he was one of the last examples of a type we probably won’t see again.
And I always thought his second conviction was questionable. He was charged on 27 counts, and was acquitted on 26. The one thing he was found guilty of was “racketeering conspiracy”. What the hell does that even mean? What “racket” was he “conspiring” in, if he wasn’t guilty of the other 26 charges?
Then again, I Am Not A Lawyer, and maybe I’m inclined to make excuses for someone I kind of liked.
He may have been a crook. But he was my crook, damn it.