CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Renaissance Man

Buddy Cianci celebrates his victory following the 1990 mayoral race. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

Buddy Cianci celebrates his victory following the 1990 mayoral race. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

Buddy Cianci left City Hall in disgrace after torturing a man in his living room. Now, he attempts the impossible: running for mayor of Providence again.

More on this episode from The Providence Journal →

LISTEN TO CHAPTER FOURTEEN


BUDDY IN THE WILDERNESS

Buddy hosts his live talk-radio show from the WHJJ-AM studios. In June 1990, Buddy announced on-air that he would run again for mayor. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

Buddy hosts his live talk-radio show from the WHJJ-AM studios. In June 1990, Buddy announced on-air that he would run again for mayor. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

Although Buddy's radio show was hugely successful, and he also opened a restaurant and went into real estate, he said he missed the thrill of political life. Courtesy of the Cianci estate. 


OBEY THE GIANT

Frustrated with the superficiality of American politics, RISD student Shepard Fairey wheatpasted an 8.5-foot-tall Andre the Giant image over Buddy Cianci's head on a campaign billboard. The prank was inspired by a fortune-cookie message: "To affect the quality of the day is no small achievement." Courtesy of Shepard Fairey.

Frustrated with the superficiality of American politics, RISD student Shepard Fairey wheatpasted an 8.5-foot-tall Andre the Giant image over Buddy Cianci's head on a campaign billboard. The prank was inspired by a fortune-cookie message: "To affect the quality of the day is no small achievement." Courtesy of Shepard Fairey.

While a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, Shepard Fairey made this sticker featuring the professional wrestler Andre the Giant. The image, which began as an inside joke, eventually became an underground meme, and could be seen all over Providence. Courtesy of Shepard Fairey.

While a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, Shepard Fairey made this sticker featuring the professional wrestler Andre the Giant. The image, which began as an inside joke, eventually became an underground meme, and could be seen all over Providence. Courtesy of Shepard Fairey.

In October of 1990, Buddy Cianci announced he would not press charges against Fairey. It was a chance at image rehabilitation for Buddy, who had developed a reputation as a violent thug. Courtesy of the Providence Public Library/The Providence Journal.

The billboard did not hurt Cianci. It may in fact have helped him.
— Shepard Fairey

This 2012 short film re-enacts Shepard Fairey's billboard stunt. Fairey went on to become a well-known artist and graphic designer, best known for his Obama HOPE poster and his OBEY clothing line, which also features Andre the Giant. Courtesy of Julian Marshall. 


the comeback candidate

This 1990 campaign advertisement emphasizes Buddy Cianci's efforts to revitalize downtown Providence during his first stint as mayor. Courtesy of the Cianci estate. 

Buddy's daughter makes an appearance in this campaign spot, in which he calls for solutions to lagging employment opportunities and high crime rates. Courtesy of the Cianci estate. 


Buddy, Andrew Annaldo and Fred Lippitt faced off in a contentious debate on October 30, about a week before the election. Polls indicated that the three-way mayoral race remained tight right up until election day. Courtesy of the Providence Public Library/The Providence Journal.

Buddy attacked his opponents during the October 30 debate, calling Lippitt and Annaldo "big dipper" and "little dipper" because of their generous government pensions. Courtesy of the Cianci estate. 

Everything’s fair in love and war, man.
— Buddy Cianci
A television cameraman removes lighting equipment from Cianci headquarters at the Holiday Inn in Providence. The vote was too close to call on election night and would later be decided by absentee ballots. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Timothy C. Barmann.

A television cameraman removes lighting equipment from Cianci headquarters at the Holiday Inn in Providence. The vote was too close to call on election night and would later be decided by absentee ballots. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Timothy C. Barmann.

Buddy at his inauguration in 1991. Buddy won the election by just over 300 votes, his smallest margin ever. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/ James J. Molloy.

Buddy at his inauguration in 1991. Buddy won the election by just over 300 votes, his smallest margin ever. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/ James J. Molloy.


The Victory Lap

After leaving Brown University to give acting a try in Los Angeles, Mike Faella moved back to Providence to take a job as staff writer for Mayor Buddy Cianci. Courtesy of Mike Faella.

Buddy and Faella share a laugh. "He was filled with all the confidence and the energy and the charisma of a man who’s been vindicated," Faella said. Courtesy of Mike Faella.

Buddy and Faella share a laugh. "He was filled with all the confidence and the energy and the charisma of a man who’s been vindicated," Faella said. Courtesy of Mike Faella.

Buddy leads a bicycle brigade of police officers on mountain bikes around Kennedy Plaza in June 1991. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Sandor Bodo.

I always felt you had to brand the city.
— Buddy Cianci

Buddy gets acquainted with a polar bear at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. He "adopted" one of the polar bears as part of a fund-raising program. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski.

Launched in 1994, WaterFire drew thousands to the revitalized Providence River, once covered over by railroad tracks and roadways. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

Launched in 1994, WaterFire drew thousands to the revitalized Providence River, once covered over by railroad tracks and roadways. Courtesy of The Providence Journal.

When it opened in the late 1990s, the Providence Place Mall was heralded as a sign of the "Providence Renaissance." Courtesy of the Cianci estate/WJAR.


One evening at Amsterdam's Bar and Restaurant, a bouncer tried to charge Buddy and his friends a cover. The mayor then called in the fire department, which temporarily shut the restaurant down for code violations. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Kathy Borchers.

One evening at Amsterdam's Bar and Restaurant, a bouncer tried to charge Buddy and his friends a cover. The mayor then called in the fire department, which temporarily shut the restaurant down for code violations. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Kathy Borchers.

Buddy and his dog Tucker put in a day at City Hall. According to Mike Faella, Buddy would send his police security detail out to get hamburgers for his purebred cocker spaniels. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

Buddy and his dog Tucker put in a day at City Hall. According to Mike Faella, Buddy would send his police security detail out to get hamburgers for his purebred cocker spaniels. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

I had a feeling like, these guys are going to get into trouble.
— Mike Faella
A 1991 invitation to the Mayor's house on Power Street. Courtesy of Mike Faella.

A 1991 invitation to the Mayor's house on Power Street. Courtesy of Mike Faella.

Faella with two other Cianci aides, Will Fleming and Tom Rossi, at the Mayor's house. Courtesy of Mike Faella.

Faella with two other Cianci aides, Will Fleming and Tom Rossi, at the Mayor's house. Courtesy of Mike Faella.


EPISODE CREDITS

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. It is produced by Drew Nelles, Austin Mitchell, Kaitlin Roberts, and Mike Plunkett. The associate producer is Laura Sim. The show 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. Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Martin Peralta. The title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat. The credit music this week is “Black Jays Errday” by James Swanberg. Original music by John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart. 

Ad music is by Matthew Boll. The show's digital editor is Rob Szypko. The design director is Ale Lariu. This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski. Thanks to Brad Turchetta and the Cianci Estate, The Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Victoria Yarnish, Yuya Kudo, Lisa Newby, Mike Stanton — check out his book The Prince of Providence — Kate Wells, David Fisher, Mary Murphy, Dan Barry and everybody who shared their stories with us. Providence is a special place, and we're honored to tell a part of its story.

Ale LariuEpisode Fourteen