Crimetown

We’re number one . . . yay? Looks like the new podcast ‘Crimetown’ has a winner on its hands. The first season, devoted to Providence, is topping the iTunes podcast charts, and lots of locals are raving about the production — the podcast’s creators, Marc Smerling and Zac Sturt-Pontier, were behind the excellent “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

Normally I am a fan of true crime, but I just can not generate any enthusiasm for once again immersing myself in the Buddy Cianci story (Episode 3). It was bad enough living through it in real time but then we had to plow it all up again during his last run for office.

Red Flag: One of the podcast’s creators met Cianci once and admits to having been “extraordinarily smitten with him.” So I think I’ll sit this one out. The taxpayers of Providence are still “smitten” by Cianci every time they open a tax bill. His pension giveaways created the crushing structural debt with which we still struggle.

Of course Cianci is only one thread in our dismal history of corruption. According to the Providence Journal the creators consulted with former Journal writer Bill Malinowski — as well as Dan Barry and Mike Stanton — getting the inside dope on our cutely named mobsters, corrupt politicans, judges, the whole mishegass.

Malinowski connected Smerling with “old wise guys,” retired law enforcement members, mobsters and more. He also helped Smerling navigate the courts and get access to documents, he said.

“Marc and Zac, it was just like this treasure trove for them,” said Mary Murphy, Malinowski’s wife, adding they recently got access to all of the Cianci grand jury files. “They kept pulling away layers and layers and layers.”

For 30 years, Malinowski did his own digging as an award-winning investigative reporter at The Providence Journal, telling the story of city gangs, public corruption and mobsters. He died earlier this year, 16 months after he was diagnosed with ALS.

Having lived in Providence for so long, I find that my curiosity about the Mafia has been completely satisfied. These are not exotic creatures to me. I certainly loved the Godfather movies but the casting was laughable. The overweight, potato-faced, thugs we saw nightly on the news, looked nothing like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. The real guys were never funny, charming, complicated (see: Tony Soprano), or even particularly clever. They were just violent goons with guns. Who can’t make money with threats, extortion, and murder?

And while the casting for “The Sopranos” was a little more physically realistic, the writing was utter fantasy. In 1991 the FBI released a portion of a tapped conversation that had transpired between a coupla mooks setting the table for a party. This was to be an induction ceremony in which four new “made men” would burn a picture of a saint and promise to commit murder. But the conversation on the tape — which was breathlessly teased by local news — was stupefyingly dull. These dopes who did all their talking with their fists really needed some help punching up their dialogue.

1 thought on “Crimetown”

  1. John McGrath

    I dated a Mafia princess in high school. Offered a “legit” job with the father. Also offered a ‘legit” CEO job (after they funded Columbia Law School) by another Mob character. No way Thoroughly evil with a peculiar moral sense foreign to US thinking but in accord with some ancient theological strains. They (the old guard) saw themselves as appointed by God as agents of Satan, whose job is to test the virtue of people. If you join them/get in their clutches in any way then you are accepting Satan and no amount of punishment is too much for you, in this world and in the next. If you don’t accept their invites you might just be virtuous, or not, but not stupid. My aunt had a an opportunity to open a place to rival Elaine’s (her customers assured their patronage AND financial backing). But when she learned she had to “borrow” half the capital needed from the Mafia (of course they handed over no money, you just paid the money “back”) she dropped the while enterprise, even though it was fully backed financially. She already ran a business they could not touch, and she had a mafia don as a neighbor, so she knew: Stay away. These bozos were not glamorous Just very dark and evil. But suburbanite kids wanted a thrill from identifying with these “bad boys” so that’s what pop culture got.

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