Phillipe & Jorge’s Cool, Cool World: “Rubbers” Ruggerio, SENE in high school

Pretty Faces

Perception is reality, as the old political saying goes.

So what do you think people from elsewhere perceive when they look at the face of government in Little Rhody now that “Rubbers” Ruggerio has been chosen Senate president by his peers at Halitosis Hall? No, not necessarily a police line-up, but don’t discard that thought.

Rubbers was once arrested (but not prosecuted) for stealing condoms from a drugstore – they were in his sock, which, we might inform the good senator, is not where they go for maximum efficiency. Then there was the DUI arrest in Barrington. (He refused the Breathalyzer.) Hey, everyone makes mistakes, but the real story there was that he was supposedly on his way back to his North Providence home from a Providence fundraiser, and we haven’t found a GPS yet that will give you that route through Barrington, unless the disembodied voice that provides the device’s directions was loaded, too. That incident also included his thuggish crony, Sen. Frank Ciccone, emerging to plead Rubbers’ case, including the always helpful, “Do you know who I am?” (And yes, senators, people already know about the nearby safe house, so we needn’t elaborate here.)

So Ruggerio is the face of the Senate in the public eye. Oh, goody. He joins his counterpart in the House chamber, Speaker “Thick Nick” Mattiello, whose forte is selecting criminals and charlatans to head key committees. And his major, defining issue of the day? Car tax. Wow! Bow-wow! That oughta jolt us out of the state’s economic slump.

Oh, we almost forgot Governor Gigi Raimondo, who is practically ornamental now that Rubbers and Thick Nick are for all purposes running The Biggest Little Show via the General Assembly. To date, Gigi’s main news splashes have usually involved spectacular disasters like “Cooler and Warmer” and the UHIP computer crashes; having to fire under-qualified and incompetent employees she was responsible for appointing; or looking to give corporate tax breaks to any business that throws a wink at her. And we can’t forget her ongoing love affair with Wall Street hedge fund managers and anything else with New York City cachet.

Rubbers replaces outgoing Sen. Teresa Paiva-Weed, who can rightly take credit for being an extremely effective champion of social services, particularly for the disabled. And since we voted for her in every election since she entered politics, we hope she doesn’t mind a bit of criticism. Her devotion to Catholic Church mindless dogma put her at odds with P. and J. on LGBT and marriage equality issues, and in later years she was no champion of government ethics until leaping on the bandwagon was her only alternative. But we can understand that, being surrounded by such estimable solons as Ruggerio and Ciccone, she would see no need for any clean government watchdogging. Jaded cynics – unlike the Pollyanna-esque P. and J. – have suggested that her deal with the devil in becoming Senate president was to obey the behind-the-curtain powers-that-be (represented by her Senate Majority Leader Rubbers & Co.), but of course we would never say that, now would we?

At any rate, to her credit, she was a much prettier face to present to the world than either Rubbers or Thick Nick. And Gigi, get busy and stick your own mug into that political selfie.

Sleep tight, Roger Williams.

It Actually Happened!

Not that P & J aren’t believable – in today’s world of “alternative facts” we are practically the gold standard for credibility. Take that for what it’s worth – but for years people have never believed P’s stories of his wonder years schooldays at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut, when it came to music. P. tells stories of the likes of Cream, the Animals, the Doors, the Yardbirds (with both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page), the Young Rascals, and other amazing rock groups playing at his small school auditorium while he was a student on the late 1960s. And never mind Sly and the Family Stone once performing at a Homecoming Dance in the school gym.

But now there’s proof to back up what many claimed were delusions, not unknown or infrequent in the Cool, Cool World.

On April 25 at the Arctic Playhouse in West Warwick, the Southeast New England Film, Music and Arts Festival (SENE, in an interpretive acronym) will kick off with a screening of a short music documentary, The High School That Rocked, that chronicles the bizarre sequence of events that led to these legendary headliners putting on shows for a bunch of shocked and awed suburban white kids. What was going through the entertainers’ minds isn’t revealed, but one can only imagine what a freak show took place in Sly Stone’s head while playing “Dance to the Music” to rhythm-challenged, blue-blazered and Madras-trousered dorks while standing underneath a basketball hoop.

The High School That Rocked was produced by a high school friend of P’s, Fred Cantor, who also wrote the script narrative. It features interviews with folks who attended the shows, a description of how two young kids managed to get promoters to send their groups to suburban Connecticut to play gigs while they were selling out Madison Square Garden in New York City (one of the kiddie impresarios, Paul Gambaccini, another friend of P’s, went on to become one of the biggest rock DJs at the BBC in London in the 1970s), and music and still clips from the performances, which in this day of cellphone media would have been concert-long videos instead of the best a cheap Kodak could offer.

A quick aside: the multi-talented Fred was also involved in a very fine documentary that aired at the 2009 SENE festival, America’s Lost Band. about New England cult group The Remains (“Lonely Weekend,” anyone?) that included two Staples grads, Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs. Here’s where it gets really weird at Casa Diablo: Briggs was the older brother of the Ivory Snow girl turned porn legend Marilyn Chambers, who happened to be a Staples cheerleader, and whom P once dated.

Phillipe attended almost all of the concerts featured, and usually left dazed and dazzled by the performances, most especially Cream, after “Crossroads” and a 20-minute bone-rattling drum solo by Ginger Baker; and the Animals, when Eric Burdon became his short duration personal savior for months, prompting P to go out and by a pair of brown suede shoes just like his new idol, which for some reason failed to have the same effect on his female high school classmates — he thought they would make him instantly attractive to every 16-year old girl he met (long before, of course, he met Jorge). And Jeff Beck became his new guitar hero, especially when he soon after hooked in with Rod Stewart on the Truth album, still a music genre-altering classic, a style which Page quickly glommed onto with Led Zeppelin.

The SENE Film, Music and Arts Festival will take place from April 25-29 at sites around Rhode Island. Since many of them, like the Arctic Playhouse, are small venues, P & J urge you to get your tickets early by visiting senefest.com. The High School That Rocked screening on Tuesday, April 25 at 7:00 pm will also include live music, music films, videos, and complimentary wine, beer and snacks.

Not only be there or be square, but Phillipe must add, “Didn’t I tell you!?!?”

Jimmy Breslin

The legendary New York newspaper columnist and rabble-rouser Jimmy Breslin died at the age of 88 a few weeks back and your superior correspondents feel it only fair to mention the debt all of us opinion writers owe to this premier stylist.
Those who revere newspapers have undoubtedly already read numerous obits and tributes to Breslin, but we wanted to add our two cents. We created our own style, 37 years ago and, while the more obvious influences are S.J. Perelman, the British humor magazine Private Eye, and Alexander Cockburn (late of The Village Voice), you know there’s a little Breslin in there, as well.
Chuck Berry
Also dying recently at age 90 was the great Chuck Berry whose guitar playing, stage attitude and brilliant lyrical gift became primary building blocks for what we call “rock ‘n’ roll.” Indeed all practitioners of this music (and J. has been one for over 45 years) look to Chuck as a founding father.

While J. never met Chuck, he was friends (and worked) with another founding father, Bo Diddley, who told him many stories about him. So long Chuck Berry and “long live rock ‘n’ roll.”

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