BY DAN VALENTI
Readers of this website were not surprised by Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s “surprise” announcement to the Boring Broadsheet that he would not be up for re-election in 2011. The Planet had this information weeks ago and shared it with many. The Eagle once again eats our dust on another big story.
We shall be posting at greater length on the mayor’s decision, especially what it means politically. First, we offer a gut-personal reaction.
Let’s us say for now that Ruberto made the right call. Personally, The Planet is happy he has decided to take care of himself. After his wife died in 2009, Ruberto almost immediately dove into the mayoral race. He was like a diver in the ocean deeper than he’s ever been, surfacing too soon. He got the bends.
We are not violating assurances to tell you, first hand, that Jimmy’s first instinct was to react to the devastating news of his wife’s death in a devastatingly human way: He went into the shock of grief. He spent several weeks shutting down, existing, not living, disembodied in a cacoon, part dreamlike, part nightmare.
This was his body and soul in “self care” mode. Several so-called “friends,” however, interrupted this pathway to healing. One of them was his erstwhile campaign manager, Angelo Stracuzzi. This happened, of course, before the press uncovered a dirty secret Stracuzzi successfully hid from most everyone for five years, including, tragically, himself. We refer to his arrest on charges of child molestation (two boys 13 and 15 years of age) and assault.
Greater Love Than This …
These “friends” literally barged into Jimmy’s private grief and told him “to get off his ass. There’s a race to be run.” They didn’t care for the man, only for the mayor.
You’ll recall Ruberto took out his nomination papers in 2009 with a mortally sick Ellen Ruberto at his side. She had lost all her hair, and she appeared with him in the city clerk’s office at the height of her sickness. Greater love than this no woman hath.
Ellen Ruberto did it for Jimmy. She probably — secretly in her heart — wanted him to tell his so-called “friends” what they could do with the campaign, but she didn’t. She loved her man. She heroically blessed his 2009 run not for herself but for him. It was Ellen Ruberto’s dying gift to her husband. Jimmy Ruberto ran because of his wife, and he ended up in an uncultured hell — what we call a “campaign.”
It was a sad scene, like rain beating on a roof while people under it shed tears of loss. Grief runs along a thin wire. It conveys a lugubrious tone, till all it signifies dissolves into the soul of the grief stricken. No one outside this type of numinous, dismantling grief can understand what a person is going through.
Ruberto’s so-called “friends” didn’t have the God-damned common respect to leave him to heal. No. They had a race to run and their privileges to preserve.
A Long Way Back We Went a Tiding
When Jimmy Ruberto moved back to Massachusetts from Texas, we were one of his first stops. At the time, we had a hot radio show, a column, and knew where the skeletons of Pittsfield resided. Jim, not sure of what he wanted to do with the rest of his career, made regular visits to our downtown Pittsfield HQ, Shipton Building, 150 North St., Suite 230, for those keeping score at home.
Why did he call on The Planet? (1) Jim was a childhood hangout, from the Mt. Carmel-Fenn Street crowd, a “neighborhood kid.” He palled around with my brother Pete, Jim Cuillo, and them guys. (2) He wanted to educate himself as to the nature of the political landscape, since he obviously was toying with a political future.
He had been gone from Pittsfield for decades. I might add that (3), brother Pete took to the junior prom in 1962 Ellen Reynolds, later to be Jim’s bride. On “The Dan Valenti Show,” we broke word during the campaign that he still had Texas plates on his Cadillac. It became a long-standing joke between us.
The Planet has never refused any politician who wanted counsel, friendship, or just to chew the fat. This had led to numerous accusations over the years that Valenti “is in so-and-so’s camp.” In 2009, some Ruberto followers thought I was on Dan Bianchi’s campaign committee. I wasn’t. Stracuzzi even accused me of being Bianchi’s “secret campaign manager. ” Larry Kratka of Vox Radio can confirm that, because Angelo made this ridiculous charge when we were both on the air on Election Night at WBEC in 2009. Likewise, some Bianchi followers were convinced I was a double agent, secretly trying to stack the deck for Ruberto on the basis of friendship.
I DID give Bianchi advice in 2009, but only when he asked. A particular example came the day Ruberto’s mother died. He and Bianchi were scheduled to debate at BCC. Bianchi wanted my views on whether he should cancel his appearance at the debate, in respect of Ruberto’s loss. In the same way, I gave Ruberto my opinion on the campaign.
I N-E-V-E-R betrayed anyone’s trust or secretly tried to rig anything. That was primarily an Angelo Stracuzzi fantasy, along with others he might have (we only say “might have”) entertained about the flesh of young boys who could service him. Jim Ruberto has chewed us out many times over things we’ve written or said. We’ve given “The business” back to him in kind, telling him how far off base he was on a particular issue. A lot we agreed upon. Whatever — It was never personal.
We urged Jimmy to take care of himself. His so-called “friends” stuffed Ruberto’s grief back into the box, an ugly Jack-in-the Box with storm-wrecked hair and a screeching mouth. The Planet is not an expert in these things, but we fear that part of Ruberto’s healing in the time ahead will be to break the lesions of this repression. Unexpressed mourning extracts a double tariff when it finally emerges.
‘Friend’ is One of the Greatest Words
We are not ashamed to call Jim Ruberto a friend. “Mayor Ruberto” was always something else: a man whose office deserved respect but whose policies demanded scrutiny. Ask Ruberto today, and he will tell you The Planet treated him fairly. We never crossed the line, either with our praise or our criticism. The former was never gushing but reasoned. The latter was never venomous but hard-hitting. Thus, we are proud to call anyone by the great word of “friend.”
We will also say this. We rattled Ed Reilly, Gerry Doyle, and Sara Hathaway to the point where they stopped talking to us while in office. It never came to that with Ruberto. If he had a problem, he’d pick up the phone or call in person and give us what for. Same with The Planet. We laughed. We fought. Like brothers.
Jimmy Ruberto had the good sense, the internal widsom, to know it was time to get out. I once asked Ted Williams when he knew it was time to retire. The great Boston Red Sox slugger told me on the back fields at Chain O Lakes Park in Winter Haven, Fla., of a hot day in Washington, 1960. Ted came to bat against Camillo Pascual of the Senators. Pascual has the best curveball in the American League. He broke one “off the edge of the table,” as they say.
Williams, being a great hitter, held back at the last moment then managed to flick his bat to make contact. He blooped the ball down the left field line. He huffed and puffed his 42-year-old body into second base, barely beating Chuck Hinton’s throw for a double. As Ted stood on second, out of breath, he looked at third.
“Man, third base looked like a long ways away,” Ted said. “That’s when I knew I was gonna quit.”
Ruberto is on second base, out of breath. He looked over at third. It looked like a long way off.
“When foxes eat the last gold grape,” in the great line of poet Elinor Wylie, “and when the last white antelope is killed, I’ll stop fighting and escape into a little white house I will build.”
So will Jimmy Ruberto.