Not So Great Gatsby: The Diminutive Demon of Dorrance Street 

cianciDear Nick,

Imagine this: a pudgy, tiny, toupee-sporting man hatches a cocaine- and alcohol-fueled plot to recover his divorce settlement money (as much as $500,000) by kidnapping his ex-wife’s friend and extorting the money from him. If the man refuses to comply, the tiny, pudgy, toupee-sporting man will threaten him, then hit him and then promise to kill him, all while a judge and armed policeman stand guard. Then he threatens an elderly Palm Beach socialite’s life when she refuses to lie for him about his ex-wife and the guy the tiny, pudgy, toupee-sporting man held captive. If you are imagining this scene as a Cohen Brothers crime movie starring Danny DeVito as the bad guy, you’d be wrong. This is real life and the bad guy was the mayor of Providence.

Vinny Cianci ran on an “anti-corruption” platform when he first ran for mayor of Providence and successfully got a law passed that made it necessary for any elected official to resign if they are convicted of a felony. A law that came back to bite him after he took a log, an ashtray and a lit cigarette to the man he held captive during the night that should have ended his political career.


Americans love an underdog story, but he was never an underdog. He seeks the spotlight like pigs seek shit, and he is filled with ambition and a sense of entitlement. He is an attorney and the son of a doctor. His is not a rags-to-riches tale. He is a manipulator who takes credit for things he has nothing to do with (Waterfire), and is able to pin blame on others for evils it’s evident he created (the current pension problem). “He’s a compulsive liar. He will say anything and do anything to get credit for things that he had nothing to do with,” says former RI governor Lincoln Almond. Boston Magazine stated  Jon Lovitz’s Saturday Night Live character “The Pathological Liar” was modeled on Cianci.

We also love a redemption story, and if Vinny Cianci’s story had some redemption I would embrace it as well. But he didn’t redeem himself. Some would argue he got worse during his second run, which ended with 30 indictments for him and the conviction of nine of his staff members. Let’s just say that you weren’t indicted on 30 counts and convicted of violating the RICO Act for a minute. If you ran a city and nine of your staff members were convicted of felonies on your watch, you are a terrible administrator.

So this tiny, evil clown of a man is back darkening our doorsteps, once again cooing that he’s never stopped caring. If that were true, then why didn’t he ever try to pitch in and do something selfless for the city in the seven years since he’s been out of prison? He’s barked at folks from the safe distance of his radio show, but what has he contributed to the city he supposedly loves? He is a walking caricature, a poster boy for the failure of recycled personalities and policies and we get the privilege of letting his hubris make Providence a laughing stock one more time. Even his billboard-sized lawn signs are laughably proportional to his monstrous ego and the polar opposite of the stature and integrity he clearly lacks.

Allegedly, he is doing well in the polls. I have thought long and hard about how this is possible, old sport. Providence could be populated with some of the stupidest, easily abused rubes this side of a traveling revival tent show crowd. With the blatant corruption that has eroded the city, one could make a case that the citizens themselves are to blame. The citizens of Providence have been dumb enough to elect him twice already. But I don’t think that is true. I think the people who still stroke this short sociopath’s sizable ego are the vocal minority. The “Jersey Shore” trash that we still see in some pockets of the state are jazzed about his candidacy, hopped up on mob movies and hair gel (I saw three lawn signs for Cianci on Killingly St in Johnston — those morons probably don’t realize they can’t vote for the twice-convicted felon outside of Providence). If they looked past the style of Goodfellas, they would realize the substance of the film is that everyone ended up dead or in jail, and that the gangsters all took from the regular “mooks” and they never ever gave back. Vinny Cianci never stopped caring, but only about the only person he has ever cared about: himself.

Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result. As you mull that over I will leave you with Vinny Cianci’s own words from the book he wrote:

“I admit that I used jobs as currency to get the support I needed,” he wrote. “I admit I used campaign money for everything from a personal helicopter to get around the state to paying for dinners, and on occasion I even used my influence to do favors for people. I even admit that I rewarded my friends and supporters and punished my political enemies.”

Get Out the Vote,