Handicapping the Follies

UPDATE: One of my astute media colleagues has come up with an even-better dark horse: John Celona, who has a little more than a week of freedom left before he is scheduled to be imprisoned.

One of the great Rhode Island events of the year is prevented, by statute, from taking place in Rhode Island. We speak of the Providence Newspaper Guild's annual Follies, which happens on the last Friday in February (in other words, two days from now) at the inimitable Venus de Milo in Swansea, Massachusetts.

More than 1200 Ocean Staters turn out each year for the event, which began as a way to heal the rifts of a bitter 1973 strike at the ProJo. Highlights include a lively cocktail hour, a sumptuous buffet, and -- best of all -- a satiric, often-biting send-up of the year in Rhode Island news. (As us newsies in this ethically challenged state are fond of saying, "Rhode Island is the gift that keeps on giving.") Talented ProJo staffers and Guild members do much of the song and dance. Guild administrator Tim Schick, although something of an appealing ham, should keep his day job, however.

The closing ritual of the Follies is the appearance from the world of politics of a Mystery Guest who proceeds to poke fun at him or herself. Those taking the treatment in recent years include then-Lieutenant Governor Charles "Fogarty Goes Wild" Fogarty; US Representative Patrick Kennedy, in less-than-seaworthy shape; Providence Mayor David Cicilline, as a very flamboyant and fabulous fellow; and a hippie-fied then-US Senator Lincoln Chafee

Despite Not for Nothing's many sources on Fountain Street, the identity of the Mystery Guest routinely remains shrouded with the utmost secrecy. So we'll go out on a branch and predict that it will be one of these five individuals:

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, who faced a recent spate of unflattering publicity involving a few of his children: Excellent choice.

Governor Donald L. Carcieri, who committed the cardinal sin of not attending the Follies last year: Bravura choice.

US Senator Jack Reed: Could happen.

Newcomer Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts: Unexpected, and therefore possible.

The N4N dark horse: former Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, who has faded from public view since he left office: Unlikely, but you never know.

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