CHAPTER THREE

The Making of a Mayor

Buddy Cianci sports a "Cianci for Mayor" button a few days before the election. Providence Journal file photo/Lawrence S. Millard.

Buddy Cianci sports a "Cianci for Mayor" button a few days before the election. Providence Journal file photo/Lawrence S. Millard.

Buddy Cianci runs for mayor as the anti-corruption candidate, promising to change Providence. He’s a novice Republican politician in a city ruled by Democrats and mobbed-up unions. As he struggles to get elected, he faces an impossible choice: stay clean and lose, or get a little dirty and win.

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Buddy announces his run for mayor in 1974. He was only 32 years old and had no political experience. He was also Italian, and a Republican, in a city ruled by Irish Democrats. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Buddy announces his run for mayor in 1974. He was only 32 years old and had no political experience. He was also Italian, and a Republican, in a city ruled by Irish Democrats. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

I didn’t sell myself out, but, you know. You have to make arrangements.
— Buddy Cianci
A poster from Buddy's first campaign for mayor of Providence. He ran as "the anti-corruption candidate." Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

A poster from Buddy's first campaign for mayor of Providence. He ran as "the anti-corruption candidate." Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


Buddy celebrates his 1974 mayoral win with his mother and wife. He won by just 709 votes. Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

Buddy celebrates his 1974 mayoral win with his mother and wife. He won by just 709 votes. Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

Buddy makes his way to the head of the table at his victory celebration. Providence Journal file photo/Richard Benjamin.  

Buddy makes his way to the head of the table at his victory celebration. Providence Journal file photo/Richard Benjamin.

 


Excerpts from "A Promise For Change," a campaign film made by Buddy Cianci about his first mayoral election. Courtesy of the Buddy Cianci archives. Narrated by Leif Jensen.


Buddy, right, hurries around his office as he prepares for his inauguration ceremony on January 7, 1975. Among the guests is Larry McGarry, the chairman of the local Democratic Party, in a wheelchair. McGarry was one of the major power players who helped win Democratic support for Buddy. He even allegedly called upon mob enforcer Jerry Tillinghast to help round up votes. Providence Journal file photo/Thomas D. Stevens

Buddy, right, hurries around his office as he prepares for his inauguration ceremony on January 7, 1975. Among the guests is Larry McGarry, the chairman of the local Democratic Party, in a wheelchair. McGarry was one of the major power players who helped win Democratic support for Buddy. He even allegedly called upon mob enforcer Jerry Tillinghast to help round up votes. Providence Journal file photo/Thomas D. Stevens

Buddy at his swearing-in ceremony in 1975. He became the youngest mayor in the city's history, its first Italian-American, and its first Republican since the Great Depression. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Buddy at his swearing-in ceremony in 1975. He became the youngest mayor in the city's history, its first Italian-American, and its first Republican since the Great Depression. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


An excerpt from secret FBI wiretaps that recorded conversations at mob boss Raymond Patriarca's Providence headquarters. This document summarizes the most significant parts of the conversations. In one note, dated 12/28/62, Patriarca is overheard saying he gave $4,000 to the campaign of politician John A. Notte. Notte was the governor of Rhode Island from 1961 through 1963. Patriarca recognized the importance of having influence in high places.

An excerpt from secret FBI wiretaps that recorded conversations at mob boss Raymond Patriarca's Providence headquarters. This document summarizes the most significant parts of the conversations. In one note, dated 12/28/62, Patriarca is overheard saying he gave $4,000 to the campaign of politician John A. Notte. Notte was the governor of Rhode Island from 1961 through 1963. Patriarca recognized the importance of having influence in high places.

Basically, you do not hire professional murderers, period.
— JAMES DIAMOND, former member of Buddy's administration
Mob enforcer Jerry Tillinghast rounded up votes for Buddy in exchange for a job as environmental control inspector. But Jerry spent little time fixing the city's problems, preferring to flirt with the secretaries at City Hall. Above, a photo of Jerry at 31. Courtesy of Jerry Tillinghast.

Mob enforcer Jerry Tillinghast rounded up votes for Buddy in exchange for a job as environmental control inspector. But Jerry spent little time fixing the city's problems, preferring to flirt with the secretaries at City Hall. Above, a photo of Jerry at 31. Courtesy of Jerry Tillinghast.


Buddy worked long hours during his first few years as mayor. He spent much of his time at ribbon cuttings, groundbreakings and business openings. "They say I would go to the opening of an envelope. I went everywhere. The opening of a wound, I’d go to," Buddy said of his early years.

In 1975, Buddy samples a cake made in the shape of City Hall, for the city of Providence's 100th birthday. Providence Journal file photo.

In 1975, Buddy samples a cake made in the shape of City Hall, for the city of Providence's 100th birthday. Providence Journal file photo.

Wearing a new pair of overalls, Buddy shakes hands as he arrives for a neighborhood cleanup in August 1975. Providence Journal file photo.

Wearing a new pair of overalls, Buddy shakes hands as he arrives for a neighborhood cleanup in August 1975. Providence Journal file photo.


Buddy Cianci's team made this ad during his 1978 re-election bid. The film depicts Buddy hard at work in Providence, trying to solve the community's problems. Courtesy of the Buddy Cianci archives.

Buddy dances with a spry senior. Providence Journal file photo/Reynold R. Paniccia.

Buddy dances with a spry senior. Providence Journal file photo/Reynold R. Paniccia.


EPISODE CREDITS

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. It is produced by Drew Nelles, Austin Mitchell and Mike Plunkett. The show is edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney. Fact-checking by Mick Rouse. This episode was mixed by Matthew Boll. Sound design and scoring also by Matthew Boll. Our title track is "Run To Your Mama" by Goat. Original music by John Kusiak, Jonathan Ivans, Edwi, and Bienart. Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Martin Peralta. Our intern is Yuya Kudo. Kate Parkinson-Morgan is the digital editor and Ale Lariu is the design director. 

This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski. Special thanks to David Fisher, the co-author of Buddy Cianci's autobiography, Politics and Pasta. Thanks to the Providence Journal, the Rhode Island Historical Society, Brad Turchetta and the Cianci Estate, Ed Dimeglio at Retro Media, Paul Campbell, Austin Thompson, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Dan Barry, Mike Stanton, Mary Murphy and everyone who shared their stories with us. Providence is a special place, and we are honored to tell a part of its story.


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