There are few silver linings to this coronavirus hysteria, but one of them is the cancellation of the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston.
COVID-19 will soon be in the rearview mirror, and I for one hope it permanently takes the hackerama’s annual orgy of self-indulgence with it.
It was never what it was promoted as by the bow-tied bumkissers, but once upon a time the breakfast served an instructive purpose — it was a perfect, three-hour live televised illustration of the arrogant, smug attitude of the State House kleptocracy that lords it over the working men and women of the commonwealth.
In recent years, though, the “time” has become … boring beyond belief.
When Billy Bulger, Whitey’s younger brother, was holding court at Halitosis Hall on Eighth Street, at least there was an aura of … something. Presidential candidates, future presidents (George H.W. Bush), even presidents (Bill Clinton in 1995) would at least call in.
The tradition, for lack of a better word, dated back to the 1940s. I think it was started by John E. Powers, then the state senator, who later became persona non grata (and had his pay frozen for years) after he fired Whitey from his post-prison no-show job at the courthouse.
He might have had a nominal “co-host,” but the breakfast belonged to Billy Bulger — the Corrupt Midget, as a housing-court judge dubbed him.
Last year, I put together a podcast on the Bulgers’ reign of terror, entitled “Dirty Rats,” and one episode was the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. I logged at least 25 hours’ worth of them, and it was amazing to realize how many actual criminals, crooked cops, disbarred cops and thieving politicians Bulger singled out for unctuous praise, decade after decade.
Jimmy Kelly, the city councilor: “There are not many communities in America that could produce a city councilor as solid as Jimmy Kelly.” (Turns out, during busing, Whitey was paying him $100 a week cash to stir up trouble.)
Dennis Condon, ex-FBI agent: “There’s a super sleuth right there, he thinks this is just great.” (He was one of the two G-men in the Boston office who framed four men from the North End for a murder they did not commit.)
Future Middlesex County Sheriff Jim Di Paola: “How ya doin’ pal?” (Not well, apparently – Di Paola ended up killing himself in a motel room in Maine as he was about to be indicted on corruption charges.)
Jack Bulger: “My brother!” (Soon afterwards sent to federal prison for perjury. His Bureau of Prisons number is 23986-038.)
Bottom line: If you were indicted, you were invited. My podcast included two fawning shout-outs to jailbird state senators from one district: Bill Owens and Dianne Wilkerson. (I’m sure he lauded the third of the Roxbury felons, Royal Bolling Sr., income-tax evasion, but I just didn’t get around to watching that year’s breakfast.)
Speaking of income-tax evasion, Charlie Flaherty, a House speaker who like Bolling went down on a federal tax-evasion rap, made a joke in 1995 about Billy’s driver, Eddie Phillips. Turns out, that was the year Billy went to Phillips’ house in Quincy to take a call from his serial-killer brother Whitey, who had just gone on the lam.
Bill Weld, now a bust-out candidate for president, used to sing funny songs about that great cocaine dealer, Whitey. One year Gov. Weld was so wasted at 10 in the morning that Bulger asked him if he’d been into the “hard cider” early.
“Oh, but they were little ones, Mr. President,” Weld told the Corrupt Midget. “Wee little ones.”
But lately, the breakfast has been dreadfully dull. Speaking the truth is frowned upon, let alone getting nasty. As despicable as Bulger was, has anyone ever more brilliantly put down John Kerry (“His initials are JFK – Just for Kerry”) or Ed Markey (“To a battle of wits he comes unarmed”).
The last few years, I couldn’t watch the breakfast for more than a few minutes. For one thing, it’s too roomy in the convention center. The cramped quarters and general claustrophobia of Halitosis Hall added to the general menace, although, as Dapper O’Neil used to say, “Who wants to go somewhere you can’t take a piss for four hours?”
Well, it’s all over now, and I want to just say, thanks coronavirus. Let’s make this an annual tradition — no St. Pat’s day breakfast.
If you’re still jones-ing out on the lack of a breakfast this year, you can go to dirtyratspodcast.com/saint-patricks-day and check out my podcast. It’s “only” 26 minutes — you can thank me later.