The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds

The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds

COP: “Buddy, I think this is a whorehouse.”BUDDY CIANCI: “Now I know why they made you a detective.”Welcome to Providence, Rhode Island, where corruption is entertainment and Mayor Buddy Cianci presided over the longest-running lounge act in American politics. In The Prince of Providence, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Mike Stanton tells a classic story of wiseguys, fed...

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Title:The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds
Author:Mike Stanton
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Edition Language:English

The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America's Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds Reviews

  • David Stone

    As the author of the book “Lost Restaurants of Providence”, I appreciated the number of restaurants and bars Mike Stanton discusses in his account of a less-than-Divine Providence.

    Here are just a few references:

    Doorley’s Bar, owned by a relative of Cianci’s predecessor in office Mayor Doorley, was known as Rhode Island’s longest bar and extended a full block between City Hall and The Providence Journal.

    Another Doorley favorite was The Plantations Room in the Biltmore, also owned by his cousin

    As the author of the book “Lost Restaurants of Providence”, I appreciated the number of restaurants and bars Mike Stanton discusses in his account of a less-than-Divine Providence.

    Here are just a few references:

    Doorley’s Bar, owned by a relative of Cianci’s predecessor in office Mayor Doorley, was known as Rhode Island’s longest bar and extended a full block between City Hall and The Providence Journal.

    Another Doorley favorite was The Plantations Room in the Biltmore, also owned by his cousin. There are quite a few index references under the heading “drinking by Mayor Doorley”!

    Buddy announced his first mayoral campaign in the Garden Room of the Biltmore, and at the end of his political career attended a farewell party in the rooftop Biltmore ballroom a week before his sentencing in August 2002 (he also lived in the hotel’s Presidential Suite for a time).

    After resigning as Mayor in 1984, Buddy would eat lunch on Fridays at the Barnsider, sitting in a corner and talking about ”how he had let his career slip through his fingers.”

    At the Left Bank French restaurant Buddy had martinis with Bill Warner, the architect who developed the plans to uncover the Providence river and build WaterPlace park. They could track the progress of the project from their table there.

    My favorite section of “The Prince of Providence” is the account of Buddy’s ascension to power, which is the part of the story I knew least. In particular, Buddy’s work as a prosecutor and later anti-corruption candidate running against Mayor Doorley is vividly limned and is the rise against which his dramatic fall is measured.

    I could not write a restaurant history of Providence without discussing the legacy of Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, and Mike Stanton also places Buddy in the context of the restaurants in the city he led for so long. After all, this is the mayor who called his autobiography “Politics and Pasta.” Food mattered deeply to him, and figured prominently in his rise and fall, as evidenced by his relationship to three lost Providence restaurants, explored in the book.

    Victory: The East Side Diner

    1945 to 1980

    360 Waterman Street (Near the Red Bridge)

    Buddy knew he would win his first term as mayor of Providence in 1974 when he walked into the East Side Diner the week before the election and everyone in the restaurant stood and clapped. If he had the East Side, he had the city. His comfortable lead on the East Side gave him the votes he needed to win as a Republican in this staunchly Democratic city.

    Exile: Trapper John’s

    1989 to 1990

    75 Plain Street

    Few people remember that Buddy once owned his own restaurant in Providence, and a M*A*S*H themed-one to boot. Buddy’s brief personal involvement in the restaurant business in the city came after his first run as mayor from 1975 to 1984 ended with a felony conviction. In 1989, he opened Trapper John’s on Plain Street near Rhode Island Hospital. For a man with such a keen understanding of Providence, he chose a far from downtown location that may have been its downfall, although it was conveniently close to the emergency room.

    The Korean War military medic theme was a fun one, and any resemblance to M*A*S*H was purely intentional. A military style ambulance was parked outside, while inside there were army helmet lampshades and camouflage wallpaper.

    Yes, gentle reader, I am one of the few who ate there, and you can read about it in “Lost Restaurants of Providence.”

    Crimetown: Amsterdam’s

    1990 to 1996

    76 South Main Street

    Amsterdam’s was a mini-chain with two locations in New York City and two in Rhode Island. The Newport restaurant opened in the summer of 1988 at 509 Thames Street in the location of the former Southern Cross and the Providence restaurant followed in April 1990, importing a new level of cool to the city.

    The Providence Amsterdam’s achieved local immortality when issues arose with City Hall after Buddy was denied entry at the rope one night by a doorman. That incident recently achieved international infamy when it was discussed in Episode 14 (“Renaissance Man”) of the popular podcast “Crimetown”

    Buddy presided over the renaissance of Providence as a restaurant city until Operation Plunder Dome led to his resignation in 2002. Like the restaurants in my book, Buddy was himself lost on January 28, 2016. His marinara sauce lives on.

    I highly recommend Mike Stanton’s book as a masterpiece of writing about municipal politics and eagerly await the new play based on it, opening in September 2019 at Tony-award winning Trinity Repertory Company, the theater Buddy saved from the brink.

  • Kenneth P.

    SPOILERS!

    This was a difficult book to read because it documents so many crimes that went unpunished. Buddy Cianci, as a law student, raped a woman at gunpoint. He paid a settlement in response to a civil suit. In his first term as mayor of Providence he drove his Police Chief to suicide. Yes, Buddy was bummed out for a day or so, but he had a city to run. Most maddening was his burgeoning popularity, a convicted felon who served a record six terms as mayor. People actually voted for this scumbag

    SPOILERS!

    This was a difficult book to read because it documents so many crimes that went unpunished. Buddy Cianci, as a law student, raped a woman at gunpoint. He paid a settlement in response to a civil suit. In his first term as mayor of Providence he drove his Police Chief to suicide. Yes, Buddy was bummed out for a day or so, but he had a city to run. Most maddening was his burgeoning popularity, a convicted felon who served a record six terms as mayor. People actually voted for this scumbag. He was credited with the "renaissance" of Providence which showcased a flashy new waterfront, new hotels and restaurants, all of it built on bribes and extortion.

    Like Buddy (famous for his toupees) the renaissance was and is flashy and superficial. When he finally went to prison on racketeering charges he left Providence with a very nice waterfront, terrible schools and crime-ridden neighborhoods.

    This is a well documented piece of journalism that is a tough read only because of its disgusting main character who was, without doubt, a pig.

  • Colin

    Buddy Cianci, former mayor of Providence, seems larger than life. I remember describing him to a friend from Ohio in the late 90s, and my friend thought that I *had* to be making it all up. Larger-than-life, mayor who brought about an unbelievable Renaissance for Providence, but whose regime was unspeakably corrupt, Buddy is a study in contrasts - and this book captures the good, the bad, and the ugly very well.

  • Richard Wise

    Like many of the reviewers, I grew up just outside of Providence. Of course, given the state's size, any former Rhode Islander can say the same.

    A good buddy of mine found the book in the remainder pile and gave it to me for Christmas. Gotta say, it's the best thing since O'Connor's, The Last Hurrah.

    I was a community organizer working out of Providence until about a year before Cianci's ascension and have always wondered how he managed to outflank the democratic machine. He didn't and Stanton's

    Like many of the reviewers, I grew up just outside of Providence. Of course, given the state's size, any former Rhode Islander can say the same.

    A good buddy of mine found the book in the remainder pile and gave it to me for Christmas. Gotta say, it's the best thing since O'Connor's, The Last Hurrah.

    I was a community organizer working out of Providence until about a year before Cianci's ascension and have always wondered how he managed to outflank the democratic machine. He didn't and Stanton's chronicling of how he won election is fascinating.

    I was particularly tickled by the story of Ted Collins. He was a lieutenant in the Providence Police and my Providence landlord. I lived in one of his apartments during my first two years in college. He spoke out of turn and Cianci had him arrested on an outstanding warrant for serious code violations in some of his properties.

    The one I lived in collapsed into a pile of rubble one sunny morning a few years after I moved out. Even the termites had moved on. A couple of days later, the one next door, also a Collins property, collapsed as well. You can still see the vacant lots on West Park Street on Smith Hill. "No one's above the law," Cianci said. He got that one right.

  • Alan Mills

    I went to Brown in Providence from the Fall of 1974 through the Spring of 1978. I was vaguely aware that the Mayor was Buddy Cianci, and of rumors of corruption. However, I had no clue how much more there was to the story.

    The autor, a journalist with the Providence Journal, has done a good job of digging into Cianci's past, explaining his transformation from a reform minded prosecutor who rode his reputation as a corruption busting prosecutor into the mayor's job--driving out the "corrupt" demo

    I went to Brown in Providence from the Fall of 1974 through the Spring of 1978. I was vaguely aware that the Mayor was Buddy Cianci, and of rumors of corruption. However, I had no clue how much more there was to the story.

    The autor, a journalist with the Providence Journal, has done a good job of digging into Cianci's past, explaining his transformation from a reform minded prosecutor who rode his reputation as a corruption busting prosecutor into the mayor's job--driving out the "corrupt" democratic machine which had ruled Providence since the depression, into a twice convicted felon (re-elected as mayor after his first conviction!).

    relying heavily on the proof introduced during his federal racketeering trial, he also does a fine job of demonstrating how corruption works in a big city. While the cast of characters is large and can get confusing, the diving narrative keeps the reader going, with no problem.

    Highly recommended for anyone with any Providence connection (it truly is the city that Buddy built), and for anyone interested in the operation of bi city political machines in the second half of the 20th century.

  • Peter Lech

    Detailed, even minute narrative, and probably a must-read for any long-time Providence resident. Ultimately, flawed. The author claims to want to give a balanced narrative in the end-matter, but the story assumes the arc of the all-too-familiar "rise and fall of a Mafia Boss," and seems mostly concerned in re-prosecuting the man. The comparisons Stanton invites -- the book ends with Raymond Patriarca and concludes with Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo -- make clear what his objective is.

    Thu

    Detailed, even minute narrative, and probably a must-read for any long-time Providence resident. Ultimately, flawed. The author claims to want to give a balanced narrative in the end-matter, but the story assumes the arc of the all-too-familiar "rise and fall of a Mafia Boss," and seems mostly concerned in re-prosecuting the man. The comparisons Stanton invites -- the book ends with Raymond Patriarca and concludes with Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo -- make clear what his objective is.

    Thus there is very little on the mayor's contributions to the city, and what little there is, gets downplayed. Yet the author's summary of his own book belies the lack of balance in it: "the story of a man who becomes a major, has political battles. He beats up his wife's lover has to leave office. He comes back, brings back the city. Then he runs into some other bullshit with the feds. He's kind of a rogue. Maybe he wins on his appeal..."

    This is not to deny the engrained corruption at City Hall, or that Cianci deserved to be put away. He did. Stanton has produced a carefully researched, and well written book. In the end though he prefers to tell the story of Hyde, not Jekyll.

  • Bill

    I found this book to be, for me, part nostalgia and part horror show about the state of politics in the city of Providence. Part horror because I, too, remember Bobo Marapese and all the Federal Hill mafia gang and horror show because I had forgotten just how awful a person Buddy Cianci could be in spite of his remarkable achievements. It should be required reading for anyone living in Rhode Island.

  • Marsha

    As a native Rhod Islander, now living across the border, I wanted to read this book to gain an understanding of the very charismatic mayor of Providence. I found the book dull and hard to get into. A chore to read.

    Well researched which but the writing style was dry and tedious. Read more like a text book then a novel.

  • LATOYA JOVENA

    The author has obviously done a great deal of research and is quite proud of it. It almost seems like he's "peacocking" his brilliance. He seems to believe that there is no way you'd remember something he said 30 pages ago so he re-explains, over and over.

    To top it all off the title is misleading. This isn't Buddy's story, it's the story of corruption in Providence over decades some of which Buddy played a part. No detail is overlooked, unfortunately.

    Nevertheless Providence Rhode Island is quit

    The author has obviously done a great deal of research and is quite proud of it. It almost seems like he's "peacocking" his brilliance. He seems to believe that there is no way you'd remember something he said 30 pages ago so he re-explains, over and over.

    To top it all off the title is misleading. This isn't Buddy's story, it's the story of corruption in Providence over decades some of which Buddy played a part. No detail is overlooked, unfortunately.

    Nevertheless Providence Rhode Island is quite a town. It's like housewives of where ever if all the skanky behavior was coming from super educated rich white men. The mayor was like the crazy queen bee. This would've been brilliant tv if it wasn't elected public office. *sigh*

  • David Quinn

    Mike Stanton is a very good reporter and Buddy Cianci was describable by many lively adjectives, but The Prince of Providence is an unsatisfying read. Stanton largely failed by embracing the more-is-better philosophy when telling Cianci's story. Clever quips are repeated to an annoying degree; passages are larded with too many quirky anecdotes creating a meandering and packed-on feel; and it felt like Stanton was pandering to Rhode Island readers with his excessive local references.

    The early se

    Mike Stanton is a very good reporter and Buddy Cianci was describable by many lively adjectives, but The Prince of Providence is an unsatisfying read. Stanton largely failed by embracing the more-is-better philosophy when telling Cianci's story. Clever quips are repeated to an annoying degree; passages are larded with too many quirky anecdotes creating a meandering and packed-on feel; and it felt like Stanton was pandering to Rhode Island readers with his excessive local references.

    The early section about young Buddy suffered from Stanton's attempt to paint Cianci as an impish rascal with a sharp tongue. I was never a Cianci fan so the Oh-That-Buddy! treatment was a challenge to read. I nearly put the book aside but was glad I finished because the book improved substantially when Stanton addressed Cianci's dark nature. Here, Stanton removed Cianci's charming veneer and dug deeply and convincingly into the scary abuses Buddy's legions of fans so willingly ignore.

    Cianci's admirers shrug off his criminality by saying he transformed Providence for the better and was the only politician with the ability or the will to transform it into the Renaissance city. Stanton ably rebuts such arguments with many stories of prominent business leaders who avoided Providence while Cianci was mayor; unsustainable pension benefits provided to his cronies that haunt the city to this day; tax revenues that went uncollected because of graft; and more.

    I'll never understand the blind loyalty and adulation given to politicians (despite their very obvious bad behaviors) but Buddy is a legend in Providence and it's a shame this book is as flawed as its subject.

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