Buddy Cianci was once a crusading prosecutor who took on the mob. Now, he’s behind bars. For the mayor of any other city, this would be the end of the road. But Buddy isn’t any other mayor. And Providence isn’t any other city.

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Show transcript

MARC SMERLING: In December of 2002, on a gloomy winter day, 61-year-old Vincent “Buddy” Cianci arrived at Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey.  He was there to serve a sentence for racketeering conspiracy.  Here he is talking to the coauthor of his autobiography.

DAVID FISCHER: Wasn’t there a time when you sat down and said, What am I doing here? This is insane.

BUDDY CIANCI: Absolutely. It is insane. But when you get there, you can’t make the time do you. You gotta do the time.

MARC: Buddy had once rubbed shoulders with senators, governors, even presidents. But now…

BUDDY: Oh, I worked in the kitchen they put me there because I was high profile, they got to show the mayor, serving food. I never did this work before. I had to mop floors, I had to wash dishes, I had to scrub pans and all that kind of stuff.

MARC: And he made friends. One of the first guys he met was a mafio capo from Rhode Island named Matty Gugliametti.

BUDDY: They had heavy hitters there, there was, uh, Gugliametti was there, mafia guy. He’s a nice guy by the way. I used to razz him all the time, I said you guys are so smart, you’re on more tapes than Frank Sinatra.

MARC: And Gugliametti wasn’t the only Rhode Islander Buddy would meet in prison. Buddy also met someone you might remember from previous episodes.

CHARLES KENNEDY: What are the chances of me landing in the same dorm with him? It was just luck that I did.

MARC: Charles “the Ghost” Kennedy.

CHARLES: I was very impressed with Buddy. Because I’m there with somebody who can have a conversation without wanting to kill everybody. Started hanging around with him and I would go to dinner with him and when he would get out of work, I would go to his cell. Buddy was in a two man cell and it was like a little oasis for me because now I could get out of the dorm, and go sit down and read and we’d talk. It was very enjoyable for me.

MARC: Charles and Buddy both liked to keep up on current events. And Buddy had lots of newspapers and magazines sent to him in prison.

BUDDY: I used to get tons and tons, it was embarrassing because I’d stand and guys wouldn’t get any mail. I would get like 30, 40 pieces of mail a day sometimes.

CHARLES: And me, I’m always a voracious reader and I want my newspapers, I love the Providence Journal, I devour it. I go, Buddy can I get on the train? He goes, you’ll be first in line. He had the best subscription of newspapers.

MARC: Picture it: Buddy Cianci, the fallen prince of Providence, in a prison cell with Rhode Island’s most notorious drug dealer, sitting side by side on a bunk, passing sections of the newspaper back and forth and making jokes that only another Providence political junkie would get.

CHARLES: He had a windbreaker that he liked to wear. And he lost it. And he was upset. I knew somebody working in the laundry. I told the kid, I said I need a large windbreaker, the orange one. The kid brings it over to my cell…

When Buddy was indicted and he had a press conference. He said that you’ll find no stains on his jacket. And I took out a little sticky pad I had and I put a note on it. And I said, I hope you like your new jacket. And you’ll find there are no stains on this jacket.

So I’m looking at his reaction and he opens it up and and he started laughing. And I always told him, I said, Buddy, you’re no criminal. You know, in the classic sense.

ZAC STUART-PONTIER: When we first met Buddy Cianci, way back in episode one, he was a crusading prosecutor taking on the mob. Now, Buddy’s behind bars with the same criminals he put away at the beginning of his career. For the mayor of any other city, this would be the end of the road. But Buddy isn’t any other mayor. And Providence isn’t any other city.

MARC: Today, in our last episode of the season, the final chapter in the story of Buddy Cianci, the longest serving mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. I’m Marc Smerling.

ZAC: I’m Zac Stuart-Pontier. Welcome to Crimetown.

[TITLES]

JOE PAOLINO: Oh, I hated him. I wanted everything bad to happen to him. He worked hard to make sure I get defeated for city council and for mayor. I worked hard to defeat him for mayor.

MARC: This is Joe Paolino. He became the mayor of Providence after Buddy was forced from office the first time… for beating up a guy in his living room.  And when Buddy attempted his comeback, in 1990, Paolino fought hard against him.

ARCHIVAL PAOLINO: I want to ask every single person in this room to band with me and to agree with an ideal and a goal, that this city will never be turned back to the crooks ever again!

MARC: But many years later, after Buddy had been sent to prison, Joe Paolino ran into a mutual friend and asked about his old political enemy.

PAOLINO: And I said gee, how’s he doing? And why don’t you write him a letter? I said, what am I going to do? Ask him how you’re doing at Fort Dix? I said, what do you ask him? She said, just tell him gossip. Just wants to hear what’s going on.

One letter, a one-page letter, I got a return of three pages. Sent him a page and a half, or two pages next. I got a five page letter. All of a sudden, we became pen pals. Through that, he asked me after about a year or two, would I ever consider visiting him? I had never been in one of those places before. So I said, yeah. Put me on the list and I’ll come down. Got there at about 10 in the morning. And you gotta go in and they have a locker you put things in, your clothes and they check you out, and you’re going through a door and then another door, The place is dirty, there’s a cafeteria, vending machines all over. I was told to bring a lot of quarters and dollar bills.

MARC: Joe watched as prisoner number 05000-070 walked into the visiting room. In a simple khaki uniform, Buddy looked thinner and older. And he wasn’t wearing his toupee.

PAOLINO: Didn’t have the squirrel on his head. We sat down, we started talking. Talk about mutual friends, talked about family. Then comparing notes about mutual enemies. Remember I did this to you? Yeah, you remember when I did this back to you?

MARC: Two ex-mayors, sitting across a cold metal table, reminiscing about the old days.

PAOLINO: I said, Buddy, how they give you all the credit? I had the shovel, I started the project. He said, but I cut the ribbon, that’s what they remember. Buddy and I used to kid each other and um, he’d say, I’d say, but Buddy, I really did that. No Joe, I really did that. And finally, we’d say, okay we both did it.

And we just kept on talking. I gotta tell ya, it went by like 20 minutes. It went by like 20 minutes. He asked me if I’d come back again, and I said sure. I mean, when I left there, I just shook my head the first time thinking boy, this guy doesn’t belong here. Too much talent, wasted in a box.

MARC: But even in that box, Buddy still found ways to use those political talents.

.BUDDY: One night, I’m laying down in my bunk and a guy had come into the room. New guy from New York. Sits up there and he stole somebody’s toothpaste. So a guy from another room comes in and says, you stole my toothpaste. I saw you steal my toothpaste. They’re gonna fight. And in prison when you know they’re gonna fight take the shoes off and they put their sneakers on. ‘Cause they have better footing, yeah.

MARC: To prevent a fight, Buddy stepped in and suggested the prisoners take a vote to decide if the new guy from New York should be reported to the guards.

BUDDY: They go around the room. I want him out, too, he could steal my shit. I was missing something from my locker last week, he might have taken it. Now the vote comes down to me. Mayor, they used to call me mayor, what do you think? I said I think you’re all fucking nuts. There’s gonna be a big investigation as to who stole the fucking toothpaste. We’re all gonna go to the fucking hole. I said now look it, up there. You, you’re a fucking drug dealer. You robbed a fucking bank. You, you’re a fucking computer hack. You you’re whatever you did. I go around and said him, he stole fucking toothpaste. The problem is he’s got nothing. Now that’s why he stole toothpaste. I got shit in my locker, I got up I says I’m gonna give him some toothpaste. Pass the laundry bag around, why don’t you help him out, give him something, maybe then he won’t have to steal anymore. Guy’s got nothing. Yeah, alright. I said how many of you guys would like to have a trial, and how would you like to be treated like this, where you can help somebody out? Wouldn’t you like to be treated like that? All right mayor, you’re right. These kids had no brains, they were gonna risk going to the hole for four weeks, five weeks for investigation, over a fucking tube of toothpaste.

MARC: Buddy became the unofficial mayor of Fort Dix. A guy you could talk to. But building relationships in prison had its downsides.

BUDDY: I lived with those guys. And you establish relationships. They leave, they either get transferred to another prison or their time is up, you’ve lost a friend. They would leave and I would watch them from my window. And their whole life is in a laundry bag. You know, they give you a laundry bag and you take it out. And you gotta buy it, by the way. And they have their couple pairs of socks, a couple pairs of underwear, and maybe some toiletries, and a couple books, and some letters. And they’re on their way out. And you’ll never see them again. But there’s always hope when they leave because you know they had their day and you’re gonna get your day.

BRAD TURCHETTA: The phone call comes in the night before, He says, this is Warden so and so. I have your Uncle on the phone.

MARC: This is Buddy’s nephew, Dr. Brad Turchetta.

BRAD: And Buddy gets on the phone, in Buddy’s’ voice, and says boss, I need you here at 4 AM. I said what? Just be here at 4 AM. I’ll give you back to the warden.

The warden said to me that they had had so many calls from the media to say that they wanted pictures of him, they want him coming out of prison. The warden did not want any kind of that media hype, so he had us go down early. And couldn’t tell a soul.

MARC: It was May 29th, 2007. That evening, Brad picked up Buddy’s daughter, Nicole, and they hit the road.

BRAD: I was gonna be the driver, and she and I were gonna go down, and pick him up. That’s five plus hours. We get to the prison, and we have to go to a certain gate we’ve never been to, so we’re trying to find it, and we eventually find it and pull off the road.

So we’re waiting and all of a sudden, I see a car up ahead, flick its lights on and off. So I turn my lights on. And so he drives over, my heart’s beating, I’m in the middle of New Jersey, nowhere. And a guy rolls down his window and he says, are you here to pick up the package? And I said, I guess I am. So we follow him, we go inside the gate, and there’s Buddy. In another car, he’s got a satchel full of his personal items. And, we sign him out. So, he’s happy, we get in the car, and we start driving to a private road that leads us to the Jersey turnpike, and we are up and gone.

BUDDY: And all the press was waiting at one gate, and they thought I was gonna get out at 9 o’clock in the morning. And I remember listening on the radio, oh, we are waiting for the mayor, live television, we’re waiting for the mayor, we’re waiting, we’re waiting, we have a telescopic lens. I was already going over the George Washington Bridge when that was happening.

MARC: Brad had assembled a care package for Buddy. A cell phone, potato chips and Twizzlers, and Buddy’s toupees.

BRAD:  There were a bunch of toupees that he had, so I brought them all. I think there were four, actually.

MARC: Once they were in the clear, Brad pulled over at a rest stop, so Buddy could take a moment to enjoy his freedom.

BRAD: We pull over and we get out of the car, and he lights up a cigarette. He’s in his sweats, he takes a few drags, and he’s got his toupees I brought him. He puts them on and I don’t know if his head shrank, or the toupees grew, but they looked ridiculous. He starts taking some drags of the cigarette and he starts doing this, all I can describe it as his crane walk.

Picture Ralph Macchio of The Karate Kid, with his arms up in the air. Buddy goose stepping forward with a toupee on and a cigarette in his mouth.  Smoking like he’s high.  So excited to breath in fresh free air. Sight I’ll never forget.

RON ST. PIERRE: When he returned, when he came back from prison. It was just electric, it was a buzz.

MARC: This is Ron St. Pierre, the talk-show host you met in last episode. And now, he wanted to give Buddy his old radio show back.

ST. PIERRE: I remember saying to my boss, you won’t spend a penny on promotion, okay? It’s just one name. It’s Cher, it’s Ringo. Boom, everybody knows. All you have to do is say Buddy.

MARC: Buddy settled into a life as a local celebrity and radio talk show host, commenting on the news of the day.

BUDDY: They don’t even need secret service, if anyone ever bumped off Obama, which we don’t ever want to see, Biden would be President. My God. You know how awful that would be if Biden was President? That’s the best security you could possibly have is Biden…

MARC: Rendering judgement on those in power:

BUDDY: This caught my eye – Nancy Pelosi. She spent a little over $2.1 million just on criss-crossing the country in a big air force jet. How about that.

MARC: And of course, taking calls from his fans:

ARCHIVAL CALLER: I used to call in and tell you I was the only guy who voted for governor.

ARCHIVAL BUDDY: Oh god that’s years ago. That’s from the old days. I ran for governor in 1980 and we all have a reunion, we meet in a phone booth, everybody who voted for me.

MARC: In 2008, Buddy decided the time had come for him to write his autobiography. So he partnered with a prominent author named David Fischer. They first met at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence and this is a recording of that first meeting.

BUDDY: I’ll just tell you by way of introduction. This hotel is a famous old hotel. Willie Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman says to his kids you know I was in Providence this morning selling and I was having breakfast with the mayor of Providence at the Biltmore Hotel, nice guy. So I always remembered that line and years later, Arthur Miller came to the Biltmore Hotel at a dinner and so I met him and I gave him the key to the city and I said, now you’re really going to meet the mayor of Providence.

MARC: David taped hours of conversations with Buddy. You’ve been hearing some of those recordings this season. And during one of their many dinners, David asked Buddy a question: would he ever run for mayor again?

FISCHER: Would you consider it again?

BUDDY: Sure.

FISCHER:  You would?

BUDDY: Yeah. I don’t think my accountant would like it. I would do it just for, I don’t like the way I left. I’ve never walked out of that office shall I say, I don’t know what it’s like to leave that office because your term was over.

FISCHER: Every time you leave the office, lawyers were involved.

ARCHIVAL CALLER: I think if you ran for mayor tomorrow you would get it.

ARCHIVAL BUDDY: Oh thank you for saying that but they got a mayor and we want him to do well.

ARCHIVAL CALLER: Oh yeah sure.

ST. PIERRE:  It didn’t take me long to realize that he was never not running for public office. If you know what I’m saying, right?

MARC: Again, radio talk-show host, Ron St. Pierre.

ST. PIERRE: If straddling the fence was an Olympic sport, he would get the gold, you know what I’m saying, maybe the silver and the bronze too.

MARC: Could Buddy Cianci, a two-time felon, twice kicked out of office… make another comeback?  That’s… after the break.

[BREAK]

MARC: Welcome back. One afternoon in 2014…  after months of speculation… Buddy Cianci took to his radio show to make an announcement.

BUDDY ARCHIVAL: Today, I wish to share with you my personal plans for future public service. There are some of you who may say that this is an 11th hour decision. But I assure you it was not made rashly or in haste. Rather, it has been conceived with much soul-searching and reflection. Today, with a sense of humility, contrition, and confidence, I announce to you my candidacy for mayor of Providence.

BUDDY ARCHIVAL: Thank you. Joseph, how are you. Been a while. Thank you. How you doing? Thanks for being here.

MARC: Buddy Cianci was running for mayor … for the seventh time.

MEET THE PRESS ARCHIVAL: The 73-year-old Cianci wants his old job back holding court on this night at a drag bingo game.

BUDDY: Under the B for Buddy, 6!

NEWSCASTER: Why dive back in?

BUDDY: We’ve had over a decade of decline in the city, that’s number one. And i looked around to see who was running and none of them had the vision so I decided that I would run for mayor.

NEWSCASTER: Cianci has his share of critics but the polls show Providence just might give Buddy another try.

ANNOUNCER: Now, Campaign 2014: the Providence mayoral debate.

MODERATOR: Live from Rhode Island College a televised debate among the candidates for Providence mayor… First, let’s tackle the topic that has been front and center from the beginning, at least since at last June, which has been Mr. Cianci’s entrance into the race…

MARC: Buddy was running as an Independent.  And his main opponent was a young Democrat named Jorge Elorza.

MODERATOR: Mr. Elorza, at a recent forum you said, and I quote, I think it’s an embarrassment that Mr. Cianci is running for mayor. If he’s such an embarrassment, why are more than one in three voters supporting him?

JORGE ELORZA: You know, that’s truly the question. We have a clear choice in this campaign. We can vote for honest leadership that moves the city forward, or we can go back to the failed and corrupt politics of the past. Let’s leave behind all of the corruption and what led the ex-mayor to go to jail.

MARC: Buddy’s Republican opponent, Daniel Harrop, put a finer point on it.

DANIEL HARROP: Mr. Cianci has a half century history of recurrent thuggish criminal behavior.

BUDDY:  Well let me tell you this. I’ve made mistakes in my life. I’m sorry for them. I’m humbled by them. But there were no mistakes in the area of developing the city of Providence, when I was Mayor.

PAUL CAMPBELL: I’d been with him for a long time, and he was not 100% during that 2014 campaign. You can see it in the debates.

MARC: This is Paul Campbell, Buddy’s friend and longtime campaign manager.

CAMPBELL: He wasn’t as sharp as he had been in the past.

BUDDY: 66, the next, wait a minute, my budget went from 2002 to 2003, basically.

MODERATOR: 64% in 2003.

BUDDY: Yeah so it was up there. But it was the plan, it wasn’t 100%, never said it was 100%, and if I misled you, I’m sorry…

CAMPBELL: But I think his mind was somewhat distracted. It would certainly distract me, trying to deal with a challenge like that. I knew that he was sick and he was being treated for colon cancer. Apparently he had delayed treatment for a while and it was pretty advanced. And I told him that he’s got to make the decision based on his own goals, his own vision, and in a sense his own survivability.

MIKE STANTON: I went up to a barbershop up in you know the Elmhurst section of the city.

MARC: Longtime Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton followed Buddy’s campaign.

STANTON: And there was this old Italian barber holding court about Buddy and how he loved Buddy. And this guy had a huge Cianci for mayor campaign sign on the roof of his building. And all around him was all these new Guatemalan immigrants. But then this quiet little sign in the window of the Guatemalan bakery you know was for Jorge Elorza, his opponent and the demographics of the city had changed.

ARCHIVAL NEWS: In one of the state’s most closely watches races, the race for Providence mayor, political newcomer Jorge Elorza beat out two time mayor independent Vincent Buddy Cianci and Republican Daniel Harrop.

BUDDY SPEECH: I can tell you that it’s kind of a bittersweet night tonight because this will be my last campaign…for this year. You know there were some people who said that we shouldn’t even have been in this race. And maybe they were right. However, I can tell you this. I can tell you that I loved every minute of it. I can tell you that it was a great experience. And it was a great, great love affair that I have with the city of Providence that will never end, that will continue till the day I die.

ZAC: Check, check, check, check, check. So we are in Downtown Providence.

MARC: Off to City Hall for the unveiling of the official Buddy Cianci mayoral portrait.

MARC: It’s now 2015, and Zac and I are in Providence for a special event… A new portrait of Buddy is being unveiled in City Hall.

MARC: Hi, how are you. We’re here for the unveiling.

MARC: We walk into the Alderman’s Chamber and wait for Buddy to arrive. This will be my second time meeting Buddy Cianci.

When I was twenty-one, a friend took me for a drink at the Biltmore Hotel. He saw Buddy and pointed him out, sitting alone at the bar hovering over a martini.

My friend asked if I wanted to meet the mayor of Providence. So we walked over, and Buddy lit up.

It was just a chance encounter.  A guy, who knew a guy, who happened to know the mayor. But Buddy made me feel like an old friend. He asked me questions about myself and told stories. We talked for half an hour and then, said our goodbyes.

Not long after, I read an article about a fireplace log and a cigarette…how Buddy had attacked a man in his living room. I couldn’t recognize the Buddy I was reading about as the Buddy I’d just met. And that…  the inability to reconcile the two sides of Buddy… never left me.

When Zac and I started this podcast, I got Buddy’s cell phone number, and he and I talked a few times.

And that’s how I find myself here in City Hall at this portrait unveiling. I am here to convince the six time mayor of Providence to talk to me about his life.

ZAC: There he is.

MARC: There he is. Here comes Buddy. Coming over to say hello. Which is amazing. Hey Buddy, I’m Marc Smerling. We talked on the phone. How are you?

BUDDY: Oh! You’re Marc?

MARC: I’m Marc. Came by to see you. This is Zac.

ZAC: Hi, I’m Zac.

BUDDY: I saw you on TV. I told you. At the uh, Durst thing. It was amazing. It was funny. Absolutely. How are you.

MARC: And just like that, Buddy’s off to shake another hand, win another vote in an election that will never happen.

PAOLINO: Before I, we start the ceremonies I do want to say a few things.

MARC: The man MC’ing the ceremony… is Buddy’s old enemy turned friend, and prison visitor… Joe Paolino.

PAOLINO: Because if anybody ever asked me in the 1980s would I ever be the MC for Buddy Cianci’s portrait, I would have done just what you’re doing now. And I need to tell you that sometimes the best friend that you can have is somebody that’s your greatest foe.

MARC: Paolino finishes his introduction and it’s finally time.. to see Buddy’s new portrait.

PAOLINO: Wow, look at that.

MARC: There, high up on the wall is Buddy as he used to be, as everyone remembers him: standing in the mayor’s office, toupee on his head, presiding over the Renaissance City—his city.

Then Buddy as he is today—old and bald and thin—steps up to the microphone.

BUDDY: Well let me say, this is quite an honor, but I must say, it’s not the first time I’ve been framed.

MARC: After Buddy speaks, people mill around, while picking at cheese plates and drinking white wine. It all seems too much for Buddy.  He walks over to a bench and sits down.

MARC: Buddy doesn’t look so good.

ZAC: Want to get him a water or something? He just fell over.

WOMAN: He’s not doing good.

MARC: Buddy slumps over. He’s not responding… He seems to have passed out.

ZAC: He’s collapsing.

SECURITY: Clear the hallways! Get to the sides!

MARC: Security starts to clear the room.

ZAC: Did you guys see what happened?

VOX: He was just sitting and I saw them slapping his face, wake up, wake up. That’s all I saw.

VOX: It’s hot in there.

MARC: Buddy is taken away in an ambulance.

MARC: Wow. Well, um, yeah. Oh my god, if he doesn’t live – we were there the night Buddy Cianci died. We got his last speech.

ZAC: It was a good speech.

MARC: It was a good one. It really was a good one.

ZAC: You saw his hand though? His hand was like this.

MARC: He was having a stroke. Probably had a stroke. The heat.

 

MARC: But then a few hours later, Buddy is spotted at an after-party at his favorite Italian restaurant on Federal Hill.

ARCHIVAL BUDDY: I’m fine, I was a little dehydrated. I’m back eating and looking forward to having my pasta. The room was hot.

MARC: Buddy, who’s made so many improbable recoveries over his long career, seems to have made another one.  We keep in touch.  Not long after, Buddy calls.. to say he’s ready to talk on tape. We set a date, and I tell him I’ll see him soon.

And then, a couple days later, he dies.

ARCHIVAL NEWS: We have from confirmed sources that former Providence mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci has died. Cianci has passed away at the age of 74.

MARC: Roughly a year earlier, when Buddy knew he had cancer and was deciding to run for mayor one last time. He sat with his friend, Joe Paolino and made a list of pros and cons.

PAOLINO: I said, let’s look at the cons. Cons, you’re gonna lose a lot of money. You’re going to be kissing women with jelly donuts in their mouth at a home for the elderly. I said, you’re going to do all this stuff that we’ve always had to do in order to get a vote and you have cancer.

Okay, let’s look at the pluses. Pluses? You’re probably going to die in office. You can tell your police commissioner, show me what my funeral will look like. You tell ’em, I want to be, lay out in City Hall.

ARCHIVAL NEWS:  Thousands gathered at city hall this weekend to say goodbye to Cianci..

PAOLINO: You want a horse-drawn carriage.

ARCHIVAL NEWS: His casket was carried down the steps this morning and was brought by a horse drawn carriage to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.

PAOLINO: You want to have the people throwing roses at the hearse, up Atwells Avenue, saying they miss you.

VOX: He did so much for this city and we all love him and we’re all gonna miss him.

PAOLINO: He said, now you’re making it enticing.

MARC: Turns out, Buddy didn’t need to win the election to get the funeral he wanted.

VOX: You know, he was a gentleman. Besides his faults. You know, everybody has faults.

VOX: There was nothing wrong with what this guy did. I believe that he just loved Providence too much.

MARC: At Buddy’s funeral, the church is packed with people from his past. Cops, politicians and judges sit shoulder to shoulder with crooks and ex-cons.  They all grew up together, attended school together, went to each others’ weddings—and funerals.

PRIEST: That those in public office may promote justice and peace while continuing the work of our brother, Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. Let us pray. Lord in your divine providence, hear our prayer.

MARC: In death, just as in life, Buddy divided the city. Some praised him, some condemned him. Others just remembered him.

JERRY TILLINGHAST: Personally, he got fucked.

MARC: Jerry Tillinghast, the wiseguy who helped round up votes for Buddy so he could win his first election:

TILLINGHAST: Anyway, and then last summer when he was running for mayor, I run into him up the hill. He’s sitting there and he’s looking at me, and I says, You don’t remember me Buddy? I said, Jerry Tillinghast. He says, how you doing? We shook hands. He says, You still live in Providence? I started laughing, says, mo but I still have a lot of relatives, I’ll do what I can for you. He said thanks, and that was that.

DENNIS AIKEN: I think he’s a man who wasted the talents he had.

MARC: Dennis Aiken, the FBI agent who brought Buddy down:

AIKEN: I think he was smart. But he used it for his own greed and personal satisfaction, he loved nice things and he loved power. And power took over. He could have been a really, really good mayor, or even more. ‘Cause he certainly had the talent. But he didn’t choose that road.

MIKE STANTON: He’ll be remembered as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

MARC: Mike Stanton, the reporter who trailed Buddy and wrote a book about his life:

STANTON: That mixture of good and evil, that ability to bring people together, and drive them apart. That the ability to have this vision for the city on the Hill but then kind of drag the city into the sewer. It’s very complicated. He’s a very complicated man…If he was just Dr. Jekyll he would be boring. We wouldn’t care about him, if he was just Mr. Hyde, we would hate him and despise him and not want to know much about him.

PRIEST: No one – not a politician or a priest, not a bishop or a bus driver, should ever be defined solely by their faults.

CONGREGATION: Lord, in your divine providence, hear our prayer.

MARC: Providence is essentially two hills, on either side of a river. On one side is Federal Hill, the former headquarters of Mob Boss Raymond Patriarca. On the other bank is the East Side, where Brown University is, where the doctors and lawyers and professionals live.

BUDDY: The one great contribution to the city that I made was all this physical stuff, yeah maybe. No it wasn’t it. It was the raising of the self esteem of these people in the city who always thought that they were pieces of shit.

MARC: Providence has never quite been able to reconcile its two halves, just as Buddy was never able to reconcile his: the dark Buddy and the light, the Jekyll and the Hyde.

BUDDY: You got people to believe in themselves, they had to focus around an individual. And they focused around me. They’d say Cianci, and it’s cause I had all this national shit of all the trouble I had. But the city came alive too and it became a national story. And I became their guy.

MARC: And in the end, it’s impossible to say whether Buddy changed Providence, or Providence changed Buddy.  Buddy was Providence. And Providence, for better or worse, was Buddy.

BUDDY: Almost like a symphony, a city has got to sing, it’s got to dance. And it has to be neighborhoods, it has to be streets. I mean like a musical score.

 

ZAC:  Marc and I want say thanks to everyone who listened to this first season of Crimetown. We had a lot of fun making this show. And to our team: Drew, Austin, Kaitlin, Matt, and Laura — you are all rockstars… thank you for making the show what it is.  We really couldn’t have done it without you.

And Alex. You never wavered.  You brought us into the Gimlet family and we learned so much. It’s truly been an honor.

Keep an eye on our feed for bonus episodes. And for news about season two… it’s coming.

 

MARC: Crimetown is me, Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier.

We are produced by Drew Nelles, Kaitlin Roberts, Austin Mitchell, and Mike Plunkett. Our associate producer is Laura Sim.

We’re edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney.

Fact-checking by Mick Rouse.

This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Matthew Boll.

Additional mixing by Enoch Kim, Martin Peralta, and Kenny Kusiak.

Additional sound design by Ted Robinson at Silver Sound.

Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat.

Our credit track this week is “Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” covered by Rosaleen Eastman.

Original music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart.

Our ad music is by Matthew Boll.

Our digital editor is Rob Szypko. Our design director is Ale Lariu.

Archival footage courtesy of WPRI Channel 12.

Alex Blumberg is The Podfather…He has a half-century history of recurrent, thuggish, criminal behavior.

This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Bill Malinowski.

Thanks to The Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Brad Turchetta and the Cianci Estate, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, Yuya Kudo, Tim White, Lisa Newby, Wayne Miller, Kate Wells, Mary Murphy, Dan Barry, David Jacobson, and everybody who shared their stories with us.

For a full list of credits, bonus content, and to sign up for our newsletter, visit our website at crimetownshow.com.

You can find us on Twitter @crimetown, and on Facebook and Instagram @crimetownshow.

And if you enjoyed Crimetown, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps others find out about the show. Thanks.

Providence is a special place, and we’re honored to have told a part of its story.

[CODA]

ZAC: Alright so they are handing off a box. Marc’s got the box in his hand. And oh my god, on it is written “Buddy Tapes.”
MARC & ZAC: Holy shit.

View full transcript

Onlookers lined Atwells Avenue after the memorial service for the late Buddy Cianci. (Courtesy @projo) #photooftheday