Move over, Oscar and Felix — there’s a new Odd Couple setting up light housekeeping together, this time in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Their names are Franny and Zip.
Talk about a perfect reality TV series — two dodgy geezers relocating from the frozen mean streets of South Boston to sunny south Florida after decades of loyal, extremely well-compensated service to the Bulger family.
Top billing would probably have to go to John “Zip” Connolly, convicted Mob hitman and FBI agent, age 80. He was just released from a Florida prison Wednesday after serving more than a dozen years for a gangland murder in Miami.
Zip became a millionaire working for a serial killer named Whitey Bulger.
When he was released from prison, jailbird Zip was picked up by his new landlord, his boon companion from the bad old days in Southie, Francis Xavier Joyce, age 77.
Franny became a millionaire working for a dodgy politician named Billy Bulger.
Do you begin to see the potential here for yet more comic gold out of Massachusetts?
Working title for the series? How about Golden Ghouls? Or Winter Hill Street Blues? Or Neighbor Hoods? Or the Nearly Departed?
A pair of sleazy geriatrics, reminiscing about their glory days in the hackerama, growing fabulously wealthy doing dirty deeds dirt cheap for the Bulgers.
Back in the day, Zip was grabbing so much blood-stained cash from his underworld masters that he sometimes neglected to cash his FBI pay checks for months at a time, while buying mansions in both Lynnfield and Chatham, not to mention a yacht.
As for Franny, he didn’t do badly for a mailman who every St. Patrick’s Day at Halitosis Hall would play the tin whistle in Billy Bulger’s band. Soon Franny would be appointed boss of the Mass. Convention Center Authority for the then-fabulous salary of $75,000 a year for life.
Franny was the only one who applied for the job.
“It was a nationwide search,” the chairman of the MCCA announced with a straight face.
Franny immediately hired the daughter of Whitey Bulger’s girlfriend. He also hired the 18-year-old daughter of one of Whitey’s hitmen, Johnny Martorano. At the MCCA’s garage under the Common, Franny employed one of Stevie Flemmi’s plug uglies as a cashier.
The Flemmi hood was quickly arrested for stealing thousands of dollars in cash out of the garage, which he had used to buy himself a new Cadillac. Soon thereafter, the garage, an amazing cash cow, had to be shut down because the MCCA had neglected to do maintenance on it.
At a 2002 Congressional hearing on organized crime in Boston, Billy Bulger was asked about his coat holder’s mismanagement of the MCCA. The Corrupt Midget shrugged it off.
“I told Joyce, do the best you can.”
Then Billy was asked why Joyce had immediately hired the daughter of the girlfriend of his serial-killing, cocaine-dealing brother.
“She was a very good worker,” the Corrupt Midget explained.
Soon Billy Bulger was out as president of UMass, and Franny Joyce quickly followed him out the door.
Like his patron, Joyce ended his dismal career as a hack not just slurping at the trough, but licking the plate.
When he was forced out of the MCCA, Franny was handed a golden parachute that included $72,000 for 38 weeks of unused vacation, an $80,000 bonus, plus a retroactive $24,000 pay raise, to $150,000, which raised his annual pension to $75,000.
In the almost 18 years since, Franny’s kiss in the mail has ballooned to $82,989 – not bad, although it still pales in comparison to the $272,329 a year Billy Bulger is now pocketing, tax-free.
Friday I left a message in Pompano Beach for Franny, asking him to get back to me. When the phone didn’t ring, I knew it was Joyce. Maybe he was practicing for St. Patrick’s Day on his tin whistle.
But I’m telling you, Zip & Franny would make a great reality TV series.
When you pitch a cable network on a project like this, the producers want what’s called a five-year story arc. I know, Zip’s supposed to be rounding third, nearing the checkout counter (as Billy would say). But so was Sal DiMasi – wink wink, nudge nudge.
I could write the Zip & Franny five-year story arc in two hours.
Start with titles and the show’s trademark music. Considering Whitey Bulger’s habit of burying his victims in shallow graves on public land, there can only be one possible theme song: “Diggin’ Up Bones,” by Randy Travis.
“I’m diggin’ up bones, diggin’ up bones/ Exhuming things that are better left alone.”
Standard weekly opening: Zip and Franny are sitting at the breakfast table, overlooking palm trees and the beach, perusing the weather reports.
“Hey Franny,” says Zip, “it’s gonna be 74 today here in Pompano Beach, 80 by Tuesday.”
Franny guffaws and slaps his knee. “Ya know what it’s gonna be back in Southie, pal? Thirty-two degrees, tops!”
Franny and Zip lean across the table and high-five one another.
Zip turns to the camera with a big grin and says: “Who says crime doesn’t pay?”
Do you see the box-office potential here, boys? Call me back, Franny. Let’s take a meeting in Boca.