CHAPTER FIVE

The Art of the Deal

Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Buddy Cianci, the popular mayor of Providence, runs for governor. But he knows something the people of Rhode Island don’t. And when they discover Buddy’s secret, it threatens to derail his political career. So what does Buddy do? He picks a fight.  

 More on this episode from the Providence Journal →

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Municipal workers picket Providence City Hall after 180 employees were laid off in 1977. A few years later, Buddy was forced to lay off 300 workers because of a fiscal crisis. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Municipal workers picket Providence City Hall after 180 employees were laid off in 1977. A few years later, Buddy was forced to lay off 300 workers because of a fiscal crisis. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.


Buddy Cianci with former President Gerald Ford in 1977. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

Buddy Cianci with former President Gerald Ford in 1977. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/William K. Daby.

Gerald Ford endorses Buddy, saying he would be a "first-class governor." Courtesy of the Buddy Cianci Archives.


Onlookers rush to greet Buddy Cianci during his run for governor. In the summer of 1980, a fiscal crisis in Providence undermined his popularity and doomed his campaign. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Andrew Dickerman.

Onlookers rush to greet Buddy Cianci during his run for governor. In the summer of 1980, a fiscal crisis in Providence undermined his popularity and doomed his campaign. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Andrew Dickerman.


My idea was to get out of Providence. ‘Cause shit was gonna hit the fan.
— Buddy Cianci

Buddy concedes defeat in the race for governor. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Bryce Flynn.

Buddy concedes defeat in the race for governor. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Bryce Flynn.

Buddy Cianci delivers his concession speech at the Biltmore Hotel. "Tonight is not a total loss," he told the crowd. "I have a lot in common with Ronald Reagan. We both lost Rhode Island. And we both have a job in January." Courtesy of the Buddy Cianci Archives.


Piles of trash rot in the summer sun on the streets of Providence. After Buddy threatened layoffs and cutbacks, garbage workers went on strike. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Piles of trash rot in the summer sun on the streets of Providence. After Buddy threatened layoffs and cutbacks, garbage workers went on strike. Courtesy of the Providence Journal.

Buddy directs a Providence policeman into the cab of a garbage truck in July 1981. Buddy fired striking garbagemen and hired a private company to drive the trucks, guarded by shotgun-toting police officers. Courtesy of Providence Journal/John L. Hanlon.

Buddy directs a Providence policeman into the cab of a garbage truck in July 1981. Buddy fired striking garbagemen and hired a private company to drive the trucks, guarded by shotgun-toting police officers. Courtesy of Providence Journal/John L. Hanlon.



In June 1981, Providence highway superintendent Edward "Buckles" Melise, right, argues with a sanitation worker outside Providence's main garage. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Peter Morgan.

In June 1981, Providence highway superintendent Edward "Buckles" Melise, right, argues with a sanitation worker outside Providence's main garage. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Peter Morgan.


Providence's NBC affiliate, Channel 10, recalls Buddy's standoff with the union during the 1981 garbage strike.


He has a little of the Trump in him, a little bit of the narcissist quality.
— BOB CHASE, on Buddy Cianci
Buddy talks to supporters at the Providence Holiday Inn after winning a third term in office in 1982. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Michael J.B. Kelly.

Buddy talks to supporters at the Providence Holiday Inn after winning a third term in office in 1982. Courtesy of the Providence Journal/Michael J.B. Kelly.


Episode credits

Crimetown is Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling. It is produced by Drew Nelles, Austin Mitchell and Mike Plunkett, with additional production by Laura Sim. It is 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. Sound design by Ted Robinson at Silver Sound. Our title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat. Original music by John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart. Our ad music is by Matthew Boll. Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Austin Thompson. Our digital editor is Kate Parkinson-Morgan. Archival research by Brennan Rees.

Special thanks to Mike Stanton. Be sure to check out his book about Buddy, The Prince of Providence. And a very special thanks again to David Fischer, the co-writer of Buddy’s autobiography Politics and Pasta. This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski. Thanks to the Providence Journal, WPRI, Brad Turchetta and the Cianci Estate, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Dan Barry, Lisa Newby, Mary Murphy, Paul Campbell, Greg Malozzi, 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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