We here at Boston Daily love old people. Our grandparents are some of the funniest and smartest people we know, although their old-fashioned, un-PC views sometimes make us cringe. It seems that this is how both our daily papers feel as well, glossing over the bigoted, sexist, homophobic things the late Albert “Dapper” O’Neil said in his lifetime.
From the Globe:
Dapper O’Neil, whose charming presence and lacerating tongue kept alive for decades a bygone era of Boston politics, died yesterday. Often the top vote-getter in City Council races, Mr. O’Neil became one of the more revered politicians in the city’s history with his attentiveness to the smallest needs of constituents, even as his caustic statements about minorities, women, gays, and lesbians made him one of the most reviled.
And the Herald:
[John] Nucci, the former city councilor, said O’Neil was not a bigot and was the first to help black and gay voters.
“He helped people regardless of their color or sexual orientation. He had a very gruff exterior, but a heart of gold,” said Nucci, who is vice president of Suffolk University. “People were often fooled by his sometimes rough-and-tumble approach and didn’t realize how far he’d go to help.”
That may be true. But some of these quotes make us more uncomfortable than our grandfather calling people from the Middle East “A-rabs.”
O’Neil made no secret his disgust for homosexuality, and some labeled him a racist and a chauvinist. He battled with openly gay city councilor David Scondras, and once barked at him during a meeting: “Get up and be a man, if that’s possible.”
In 1992, O’Neil’s disparaging comments about Asians at the Dorchester Day Parade were made public in a home video.
“I thought I was in Saigon, for chrissakes,” he told a police officer at the parade.
Even the columnists for the daily papers agree on Dapper’s legacy. The Globe’s Kevin Cullen excuses O’Neil because beneath his bluster, he was a good guy.
One day, I found Dapper sitting with a Haitian guy in City Hall. Dapper was helping the guy through the maze of the Zoning Board of Appeal. The guy could barely speak English and started to apologize for it when Dapper stopped him.
“Don’t worry,” Dapper said, slipping an arm around his shoulder. “We’ll do this together.”
It was so at odds with the portrait of a politician who sometimes appealed to people’s worst instincts, but it was part of the big, complex picture of an old-school pol.
And, as expected, Howie Carr celebrates the liberal-hating mentality of the late councilor.
Talk about a throwback – Dapper didn’t have a checking account. He paid cash for everything except his car (with the “Liberals: An American Cancer” bumper sticker).
But, in typical Carr fashion, he throws a little self-promotion in as well.
He wanted to know when I was going to put him on the radio. The plan was, Murphy and I were going to have him on the show tonight.
Never put off until tomorrow . . .
But the Dap was happy that day. “I love you, Howie,” he said, and he reminded me he wasn’t gay.
Aww. Dap was kind of like our grandparents—keeping insane sums of money on his person and explaining at every opportunity that he’s not gay. It is kind of sad to see a vestige of old-school politics go. But at least we’ve still got Buddy Cianci to remind us of the old ways.
Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2007/12/20/dapper-oneil-puts-globe-and-herald-on-the-same-page/
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