Those who knew Buddy Cianci took the good with the bad

The former Providence mayor died on Thursday at 74.

Vincent “Buddy’’ Cianci Jr. passed away on Thursday.
Vincent “Buddy’’ Cianci Jr. passed away on Thursday. –Keith Meyers / NYT

Buddy Cianci’s love-him-or-hate-him career in Rhode Island politics came to an end on Thursday, as the former longtime Providence mayor died at 74 years old.

In an article in the Boston Herald, former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn effusively praised the man who he calls “my dearest Buddy.’’

“I got to know a caring and decent human being. He was also very intelligent,’’ Flynn writes. “Buddy had some happy days and he had some regrets. We talked about both.’’

Flynn, in his rememberance, celebrated Cianci for his personality and charm, as he writes in the Herald:

Another time, after appearing on his radio show, we went to an Italian restaurant in Providence. The place was packed and everyone cheered when he walked in. He then told everyone that I could sing Italian songs beautifully — in Italian. They insisted that I show them and while I was singing, Buddy went outside to his car and brought in a case of Buddy’s Homemade Italian Pasta Sauce and gave everyone a can for listening to me. He had everybody laughing.

For all that charm, though, Cianci’s “regrets’’ involved several scandals while in office.

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Cianci was mayor of Providence from 1974 to 1984, when he pleaded no contest to using a lit cigarette, ashtray, and fireplace log to assault a man he suspected of having an affair with Cianci’s wife. He was forced to resign from office.

Cianci returned to politics in 1990 and led Providence until 2001, when he again was forced to resign after being sentenced to five years and four months in prison in a federal racketeering conspiracy.

Mike Stanton, who wrote a biography of Cianci, wrote in The Boston Globe about the “good Buddy, bad Buddy’’ and his many contradictions.

“I came to know his political brilliance, his insecurity, his wit, his vindictiveness, his charisma, his Jekyll and Hyde ups and downs,’’ Stanton wrote. “But most of all, I learned of his complicated love for Providence. That love could be fickle, preening, narcissistic.’’

Edward Fitzpatrick, a local columnist at The Providence Journal, also referred to Cianci’s split personalities.

“Brash and brilliant, flawed and felonious, former Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. embodied an era in Rhode Island politics, with all of its promise and all of its pitfalls,’’ he wrote. “Now, that era has ended. And Rhode Island may never see the likes of him again.’’

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