The last Friday evening in February means it's time for the famous Providence
Newspaper Guild Follies. The big annual event, a must for Vo Dilun political
junkies, is a little evening of acid-tinged sketches and song parodies that
poke fun at the big news stories of the past year. Held annually at the amazing
Venus De Milo banquet hall in nearby Swansea, Massachusetts, the evening is
duly famous for its cholesterol bomb buffet. That no one has actually "taken a
hot" at the event is just one of the true mysteries of Vo Dilun life.
As written and performed by Guild members (the Guild is the collective
bargaining representative for more than 500 employees of the mighty Other
Paper), the show always does a fine job of slapping around the top pols in the
state, most of whom can be found in the audience. A willingness by elected
officials to attend the follies is generally considered a yardstick of good
As always, P&J attended and were (also, as always) given a table way in
the back of the hall. According to Henry Shelton, head ramrod of the George
Wiley Center in Pawtucket, this may not have been such a bad thing this year.
Henry was also at a back table, but he moved up front to the special seating
for the performance and found that the sound was just too loud. In the back, we
heard everything crystal clear, but couldn't really make out the performers
without binoculars (which we foolishly left at Casa D).
The pre-show cocktail hour has got to be one of the premier schmooze-fests of
the year, and we arrived early to make sure that we didn't miss any of the
dish. This year, we were particularly interested in the tense relations between
the Guild and management at the BeloJo, since the union is currently working
without a contract. (By the way, the only way to keep up on the progress of
contract talks is right here in the Phoenix, since the Urinal will
basically not be covering the stand-off and local TV offers only sporadic
coverage.) Seems the management types decided to not only pass on attending
this year, but had a little dinner of their own somewhere on Federal Hill. Our
interpretation: the negotiations are bound to get uglier.
Top schmoozing honors this year go to Kate Coyne-McCoy, chief of the state
chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, who's been mounting a
strong bid for the Congressional seat being vacated by Bob "Dorian" Weygand.
Kate's done an impressive job of fund-raising so far and, at the follies, she
claimed to have shaken hands with just about everybody in the room. Dorian was
on hand as well, flashing his high beam smile and nearly blinding Jorge, and
Kate's main competition, Secretary of State Jim Langevin, was also on hand.
You can pretty much predict who's going to get hammered from year to year. So
the fact that the Bud-I failed to appear was no big surprise, while US Senator
Linc Chafee and Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse garnered points for facing
Since we don't really have room for a blow-by-blow description of all the
numbers, here are some selected lyrics, just to give you a little of the
evening's flavor. (All lyrics (c)2000, Providence Newspaper Guild.)
* A salute to Bruce Sundlun -- "I am 80 going on 18, my love's just 45/She's
sexy and smart, but here's the best part/She's my little trophy wife/Money and
fame and power too are in my bag of tricks/I wonder if in a year or two, I'll
be on number 6."
* A salute to HPHC -- "Harvard Pilgrim bites and we acted like cheap
whores/This melodrama puts us all to sleep and yes, to snore/'Cause we haven't
got time for your pain/Your little loss is our gain/Golden parachuting to
Spain/It's been nice knowing you."
* A salute to guess who? -- "They wanna pin stuff on him/They're all going for
his throat/But if they look, they'll notice/ There's no stains upon my
coat/This whole Plunder Dome's a joke/I'm happy as can be/Living the Buddy
loca/They got nothing on me/Living the Buddy loca."
* A salute to the Providence police -- "Lookie here we finally found it just
lying about/We put our noses to the grindstone (snort) and sniffed it out/Our
reputation's tarnished and now it's a joke/All because we lost our baggie/But
now our chief is happy/'Cause we finally found that bag of coke."
* A salute to Linc Chafee -- "Nights with white powder/Who knew it would
sell?/Unlike the others/I decided to tell/I disclosed to the public/That I
snorted at Brown/Got on the Today Show/And my polls went to town/Did I do
drugs?/Yes I did drugs/ . . . oh I loved drugs."
Of course, it wouldn't have been the Follies without the traditional Sheila K.
Lawrence "man-bashin' hot mama" tune or the Bob Dylan parody from John Mulligan
of the Urinal's Washington bureau. This year it was Mrs. Weygand, aka
"Hurricane Fran" who copped the honors: "Here comes the story of the
hurricane/Woman the state house hacks love to blame/For pushin' me
politically/Despite my mediocrity/I coulda been the congressman for life."
And at the end of each Follies presentation, there's a special mystery guest,
a newsmaker who gets to spout off. This year, URI head ramrod Bob Carothers did
a bang-up job with a routine about his trials and tribulations, done in an
over-the-top Minnesota accent straight out of the film Fargo.
After 27 years of Follies, the Guild gang keeps getting better. The singing
gets more and more impressive (damned near professional) and the music, under
the direction of Larry Berren and the amazing Leith Johnson, is just about
perfect. Kudos to the gang at the Guild for another fine evening of scathing
The real ProJo follies
Amidst the merriment at the follies, there was much talk among attendees of
union-busting by Urinal management, as reported in the Phoenix last week
by Steve Stycos. His excellent piece was the talk of many of the reporters who
P&J encountered amid head-shaking over the tactics being used against Guild
Interestingly, the next-day Urinal article written by Brian Jones, an
outspoken critic of the Other Paper's management, mentioned nothing of Guild
president Bob Jagolinzer's withering introductory attack on the paper's
executive branch. Somehow, P&J believe that a reporter making remarks about
his employer -- accusing them of "underhanded tactics;" noting the Dallas-based
Belo's "anti-union attitude of the Deep South;" and declaring that the "Texas
owners seem intent on destroying one of the best papers in New England" --
might be an item of genuine news interest for readers. Or was that Mr. Sutton
perched at the copy desk when Jones filed his story?
Farewell, so long, goodbye
Speaking of the Urinal, Phillipe and Jorge are sad to report that two of our
Fountain Street faves, sports editor Dave Bloss and his lovely wife, Jody
McPhillips, have left the BeloJo to take jobs in nearby Cambodia. Bloss is a
genuine nice guy and great sports fan who did much of the dirty work behind the
scenes in the toy department with resources so limited it was laughable.
Fragrant Jody is an excellent beat reporter who crowned her career in the
Biggest Little by pairing with our old pal Scottso MacKay on the extraordinary
"Rhode Island Century" series that ran throughout 1999. They will be working
for the Cambodian Daily, a rural paper aligned with an orphanage, which
tells you all you need to know about the couple's commitment to social issues,
as well as truth-seeking. Bon voyage, kids. You'll be missed.
From the February 21 police blotter in Camas, Washington:
"Tonya said , 'Give me 10 inches and make it hurt.' So I stuck it in twice and
she hit me in the face with a hubcap."
Many people appeared shocked to read that Pope John Paul "Don't call me Karol"
II recently made a "virtual pilgrimage" to the ancient city of Ur,
inconveniently located in Iraq, which is off-limits to His Holiness. Instead
J.P. II pinned up some oak branches behind his throne, set out three flaming
copper pots, sat next to a stone depicting the altar where Abraham prepared to
sacrifice his son, Isaac, and watched a film of biblical sites. No mention if
it was in 3-D, with the Pope donning red and green glasses, or if there was a
little repast of goat and figs.
Actually, this venture in virtual religion is hardly new to P&J, since we
invented the concept. For years your superior correspondents have been
"attending" church on Sunday from home, making members of the household staff
kneel down around us in makeshift cardboard pews, lighting some patchouli
incense sticks, taking the virtual sacrament of mimosas and bagels with cream
cheese from our pool boy, Mario, who is dolled up in a fetching silk bathrobe
and rhinestone-studded papier mache mitre, while The Gospel at Colonus
plays in the background. It's heaven on earth.
Sleep tight, Bishop Jellomold.
Since P&J are unabashed fans of Dollar Bill Bradley in his Democratic
primary quest against the unspeakable Al Whore, we will be trying to drum up
support for our hero in time for March 7 primary. It appears there are other
well-respected people here in the Biggest Little who appear to be working
harder to get Bradley elected than the candidate himself.
Bradley's local steering committee is a wild and wondrous blend of old and new
Dems that cuts across society. What is most interesting is the endorsement he's
received from a trio of past and current attorneys general, Julie Michaelson,
Jim O'Neil and Sheldon Whitehouse. Normally one sees the law enforcement types
on the side of the more conservative candidate, which "Two-by-four" Gore
certainly qualifies as, but the AG3 have thrown their considerable support
behind the former New York Knick. They're joined by people like Christine
Roundtree of Amos House; URI professor Maureen Moakley; Democratic party honcho
Jack McConell; and other local leaders who have the good sense and commitment
to hit the hustings for Dollar Bill. Let's hope their influence and involvement
turns out the vote for Bradley at a time when he needs it most.