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West Roasts Kennedy, Harwood, and Cianci for a Good Cause (posted December 21, 2001)
Note: Comments by Darrell M. West delivered at a roast of Congressman Patrick Kennedy for the Woonsocket Milk Fund, December 20, 2001.
Thank you. It is a real pleasure to be here. I want to congratulate the organizers of the Milk Fund. You do terrific work, and I appreciate the chance to participate in your event. I have to say I am honored to be on such a distinguished panel.
Nice to see Speaker Harwood here. However, I am surprised that he is here for dinner. Is the Capital Grille closed tonight?
I am sorry Mayor Cianci had to leave early. He's probably going back to the Foxy Lady. Don't get me wrong. I love Mayor Cianci. He has done more for my media career than anyone else. But I want to tell you a secret. I actually was going to write a book about Buddy Cianci. However, I was forced to give up the project when my publisher told me the title I wanted to use already was taken, that was The Fugitive.
And have you noticed what a big smile Father MisGivings has on his face tonight. It is like he died and went to heaven. For a comedian, being on a roast panel with Buddy Cianci, John Harwood, and Gene Valicenti is like Osama bin Laden eying those 70 virgins. So many opportunities and so little time. Not that I am suggesting any of these guys are virgins.
But enough with the other panelists. Tonight, we come together to honor Congressman Patrick Kennedy. What can you say about a guy who has it all -- wealth, celebrity status, and good hair. I am a guy who appreciates good hair. Kennedy has gone through more hair changes than Hillary Clinton.
When Larry Berman called to invite me to participate in this roast, he told me to tell all the stories that I couldn't include in my book. Do you believe that? Congressman, you need to talk to Larry about that advice. Can you imagine me telling stories about you that I couldn't include in the book? Let me assure you that I'm not going to say anything tonight about the hot tub in the basement at your old Mt. Pleasant home. Also, I'm not going to use any material provided by John DePetro or Mary Ann Sorrentino.
Plus, I also have a philosophic objection to making fun of Kennedy's early life when there is so much to make fun of in his current life.
Actually, I am very impressed with the personal growth the Congressman has shown since 1988 when he first ran for the General Assembly. We all remember back then when Buddy Cianci was just a radio talk show host and Kennedy was a college student. Now, Cianci is under indictment and Kennedy is a leading member of Congress with a spot of the House Appropriations Committee. The only thing I don't understand is Cianci has a 61% job approval rating while Kennedy is at 42%. Frankly, I think the Congressman would have been better off if he had been indicted at the Los Angeles Airport.
Last year, Kennedy generated press coverage all across the country when he announced he has been in therapy for most of his adult life. Some people worried there might be negative political fallout from that. Not at Brown University. At Brown, it is embarrassing if you are not in therapy. At cocktail parties there, people think you are abnormal if you don't have a therapist. So Congressman, I just want you to know that we at Brown are firmly behind you on this issue.
Many of you know that Congressman Kennedy has been very active in fighting bio-terrorism. In fact, there was a big anthrax scare early in October at Kennedy headquarters. They found a white powdery substance on his desk. Kennedy staffers wanted to call in the State Police for testing. The Congressman was very courageous He said he was sure it was white sugar. And then he really impressed his staff by volunteering to take a spoon, clean it up, and take it home. You didn't see Senator Daschle or Tom Brokaw doing that.
Some of you may have seen my book about Kennedy that was published last year, Patrick Kennedy: The Rise to Power. There are several questions I often get asked about this book.
1) are there any changes you would make in the book if it came out this year instead of last year? After all, there was the airport incident, the trashed yacht, and the girlfriend rescued late at night by the Coast Guard. But to be perfectly honest, there really aren't big changes I would make. Maybe I would have a slightly different subtitle. Instead of Patrick Kennedy: The Rise to Power, I might have used something like Patrick Kennedy: From the Penthouse to the Outhouse.
2) how did Kennedy react to the book? The honest truth is he loved it. In fact, most people don't know that my book played a major role in the LA Airport incident. You know the security guard wouldn't let him take his luggage on board and demanded that he check the bag. According to her, he was so upset that he shoved her. What most people don't know is my book was in his bag and that is the reason he didn't want to check the suitcase. He wanted to re-read it on the flight back home. I feel terrible about this, that such a big controversy erupted over his attachment to my book.
3) what lies ahead for Patrick Kennedy? I think the Congressman is going to do fine in the future. You know, he has been a great congressman in many respects. Just sent out a mailing claiming credit for $90 million in federal grants he has brought to first district. This includes $4 million for a new Life Sciences building at Brown University. But you know, sometimes the press can be quite critical. Last week, the Hill newspaper (a publication distributed on Capitol Hill) had a negative headline saying "Endangered Rep. Kennedy Gets $90 Million in Pork" (implied he was wasting federal money). I want the congressman to know that I immediately sent off a letter demanding a correction. The headline should have read "$86 Million in Pork and $4 Million in Valuable Constituent Service to Brown University".
But I don't want to be unfriendly to my congressman. After all, I live in the first district, and someday I might want a federal job. It is the holiday season, and we all should be in a charitable mood. I want to close with a compliment about the Congressman. Rep. Kennedy is a very hard-working public official. He cares passionately about the issues. I expect big things from him in the future. Thank you very much.