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Comattas Come Out on Top at Follies '05 (posted Feb. 25, 2006)

The smiling face of Democratic lobbyist Guy Dufault graced the program cover at the 33nd annual Newspaper Guild Follies held February 24, 2006 at the Venus de Milo. Perched atop the body of a curvaceous vixen in high heels, the cartoon reminded audience goers of Dufault's infamous attempt to smear Governor Don Carcieri's personal life with his unsubstantiated "comatta" charge caught on tape. Judging from the audience's enthusiastic reaction, it didn't take long to jog people's memories about the rich assortment of gaffes, embarrassments, and scandals that have afflicted Rhode Island political life over the past year. Indeed, in the annals of the Ocean State, 2005 was a banner year for political screw-ups.

Overseen by masters of ceremony Scott MacKay and Frank O'Donnell, this year's show featured the normal assortment of tasteless jokes, musical skits, and pointed barbs, all toward the noble cause of raising eye-brows and email chatter around the state. MacKay started the show by asking, "hey Guy, is my mike on?" and then proceeded to say that the "great thing about tonight is that all the politicians are out with their wives". This was something of an unusual occurrence in the Ocean State, MacKay pointed out.

Noting that Governor Carcieri was not present for the event, MacKay said "the last governor to dis the Follies was Ed DiPrete, and looked what happened to him." However, the emcee predicted that in his re-election bid, "the governor will probably win by default."

Congressman Patrick Kennedy came in for a few barbs, although fewer than in past years due to his absence from scandalous headlines. Referring to some of Kennedy's past nautical tribulations, MacKay asked "would you rather go sailing with Patrick Kennedy or hunting with Dick Cheney?"

MacKay said that when Brown Political Science Professor Jennifer Lawless announced she was running for the second congressional district, he was excited because her name "sounded like a 70s porn queen." Upon meeting her, though, he was disappointed to discover she was a "frumpy Brown professor."

The emcee condemned the rise of obesity in America, saying "the little boys are so fat they can't run away from the priests." But he announced that the state finally had put together an emergency evacuation plan. After reviewing a complicated series of Rhode Island-style directions (such as turn where the Apex used to be), he said "every Dunkin' Donut will be a designated shelter."

Frank O'Donnell had several good jokes after he proclaimed 2005 "the year of the comatta" in Rhode Island. Speaking of Dufault, he said "we had wardrobe malfunctions and he had a broadcast malfunction."

The comedian indicated he was happy to see Providence Mayor David Cicilline, at the Follies. He said "he was not sure the mayor was going to be here with the flower show being in Providence." O'Donnell confessed that he was delighted to learn that former State Senator John Celona now has started singing after his guilty plea and "I can hardly wait for the CD to come out."

Picking up on the gay theme in regard to Cicilline, MacKay advised the Mayor to settle his union contract dispute with the fire-fighters. "If you don't settle the contract this year, they are not doing the calendar." In addition, MacKay recalled the ugly confrontation between radio talk show hosts Dan Yorke and John DePetro in the Cardi's parking lot. "Who do you root for when Dan Yorke fights with John DePetro?" he asked. "It's kind of like the that Iran-Iraq war."

Mixed in with the comedic monologues were a variety of musical skits poking fun at various events. Amanda Milkovits was a delightful slut dressed in red as she sang "Temptation" to the tune of Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby: "Scotty Baby, take that ring off of your hand, my man, wives just don't understand".

Another highlight was "Fairway Blues" sung to the tune of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison". Taking off on the indictment of hospital CEO Robert Urciuoli, the skit had him singing, "I worked at Roger Williams, Thought I had the system beat, Sippin' champagne in my slippers, With my wife down in Palm Beach".

Cranston Mayor and GOP Senatorial candidate Stephen Laffey came in for his share of humor. Poking fun at his explanation that "space aliens" had erased a disloyal friend's picture from his web site, the Follies had a song "Aliens from Space" sung to the tune of the Byrds "Mr. Spaceman". The lyrics went this way: "Woke up this morning, I had a weird night, I think those spacemen, have been on my web site .... Round about lunchtime, I spoke to the Lord, And I said to Him, Good God, I am bored, Cranston's too small for an ego like me".

New reporter Talia Buford won applause for her stirring rendition of Brown University President Ruth Simmons. In a skit called "Protection" sung to the tune of Diana Ross' "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", she belted out these lyrics to complain about Fox News' Bill O'Reilly invading a Brown party: "Oh ain't no cocktail strong enough, Ain't no costume low enough, Ain't no party wild enough, To sully our proud reputation".

House Speaker William Murphy surprised the audience as this year's "Mystery Guest". In this popular feature, a prominent state politician gets a chance to ridicule his opponents and use self-deprecating humor to rehabilitate his own image. Murphy started his routine by promising special Rhode Island prizes. One was a "no-show job at Roger Williams Hospital, courtesy of Bob Urciuoli". Another was the chance "to vote as many times on the House floor as you want".

The Speaker then presided over a new show called "Rhode Island Idol". It featured a series of guests including a character playing House Minority Leader Robert Watson, who ran around the stage and was beseeched by Murphy to "stop parading like a rooster on acid". Another contestant played the role of Goveror Carcieri, but in referring to Donald Trump and Donald Carcieri, Murphy proclaimed "two Donalds don't equal one Charlie".

In a first at the Follies, the Speaker then unveiled his own mystery guest. Senate President Joe Montalbano came up and in one of the most courageous performances in the history of the Follies, sang a song to the tune of "When I'm 64". One of his lyrics complained about the governor and said "I know he is the CEO, but governor, we don't work for you." President Montalbano did an admirable job singing the song until midway through his rendition, when he forgot many of the lyrics. However, his bravery was so impressive in singing in front of 1,200 people that the audience gave him rousing cheers at the end.