Howie column ping
The Unforgettable Dapper O’Neil
by Howie Carr/Boston Herald 10/10/07
How do you thank a guy for a million laughs?
Thats a line from the end of Edwin OConnors novel, The Last Hurrah. The fictional mayor, patterned after James Michael Curley, is dying, and hes saying goodbye to one of his oldest aides, a guy named Ditto who always kept him amused. Thats the mayors question to Ditto: How do you thank a guy for a million laughs?
So here is Albert Leo Dapper ONeil, 14-term at-large Boston city councilor, now 87 years old and confined to Room 204 of the Deutsches Altenheim rest home on Centre Street in West Roxbury. On Columbus Day around noon, he was lying in his bed, half-asleep. Dappers legally blind now, and he had to finally quit smoking, at age 86, before he was allowed to move into the Altenheim.
Dapper is at least 100 pounds lighter than he was in his prime, when he was battling the people he called social-planning liberal do-gooders, when he carried a .38 and had a bumper sticker on his car that said: Liberals: An American Cancer.
Good to see you, he was saying to his two visitors, me and City Councilor Steve Murphy. He recognized our voices. Howie, I knew you when you were a kid.
Thats right, I told him. One day at City Hall you asked me where I lived, and I said Somerville, and you said, I pity you.
And I still do, the Dap said.
The Daps girlfriend of 54 years, Helen Suski, is now his legal guardian, but she lives in Plymouth - 32 miles away, and she cant get up to West Roxbury every day. Dapper doesnt get nearly as many visitors as he should, given what he has meant to this city. The regulars include Murphy and ex-councilor Joe Tierney, Richie Masterson from Eustis Street in Roxbury, John Fahey the cable guy, restaurant guys Sal Lombardo and Vinny Marino, his niece Dolly and a campaign worker named Dorothy.
I asked Dapper, does the mayor ever stop by?
No, the Dap said sadly. I cant remember the last time I saw him.
Somebody ought to remind Menino hes where he is today because he got seven votes for City Council president in 1993. That set him up to become mayor-for-life when Ray Flynn quit. One of those seven votes came from the Dap, not that he had much choice. The other candidate for Council president that year was Maura Hennigan, whom Dapper used to call Veronica Lake, unless she was huddling with the other three female councilors, in which case he referred to them collectively as the Andrews Sisters.
Murphy and I tried to make small talk with Dapper, but he was tired. We couldnt even get him going on the subject of Rosaria Salerno, a/k/a Sister Sunshine, the ex-nun from Chicago who got elected to the Council and drove him crazy. I remember one day, it must have been around 1987, he was campaigning at Florian Hall in Dorchester, and the old-timers were all cooing about Rosaria, that nice nun. Dapper finally exploded.
Shes not a nun, dammit, shes an ex-nun. That means she turned her back on God. You know what that means? If shed turn her back on God, think what shed do to you, the voters!
All these years later, Dapper looked up at me and asked how old my daughters were now. I told him and he nodded.
Remember Millie (his late sister) used to give them ice cream and theyd sit in the kitchen, eating it up, wearing my hats?
Sure do remember it, Dap. Like it was yesterday. I mentioned how hed outlasted them all - Freddie, Chris, Pat McDonough, Gabe Piemonte, the Kerrigans, Louise. All gone, except for the Dap. Steve Murphy brought up the Roslindale parade next Sunday.
Im ready for that! Dapper said, but then he closed his eyes.
Im going to sleep now, he said. Thank you very much for coming by.
If youd like to send Dapper a card, someone will make sure its read to him. Doesnt have to be a get-well card, just a note letting him know you havent forgotten the Dap. His address is 2222 Centre Street, Room 204, West Roxbury MA 02132
That’s another great Howie column.
As always, thanks for the pings.
LOL! I loved Dapper -- talk about "politically incorrect" before the concept even existed. He was ahead of his time!
Thank you for all of your efforts Raccoon!
Is it me or is the redesigned BostonHerald.com terrible? I’ve given it a few weeks, but I hate it.
I hate to say it, but the Globe has a much more user-friendly, cleaner design to it.