Southie’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day breakfast was anything but traditional yesterday. A testament to the new Boston, a majority-minority city, the breakfast was hosted for the first time ever by a woman, a person of color, a Haitian-American, and a resident of Dorchester…all wrapped up in the energetic and charismatic persona of State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry.
Dorchester was well represented among breakfast attendees, reinforcing the sense that the new Boston is on its way to becoming a rainbow coalition. Dorcena Forry had prepared a few videos to marry her to the Southie part of her First Suffolk Senate district. They were a success, as was Governor Patrick’s touching farewell ballad, his last St. Patrick’s Day breakfast as Governor. Hugging the Senator, the Governor said, “This is what a Forry and a Patrick look like these days.”
Other high points were Congressman Stephen Lynch, an old hand at this event, with humor on target and effectively delivered, and, relegated to the end of the program, GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, who was emotional in paying a tribute to the generosity of the Dropkick Murphys but also crisp, funny and off-color in skewering Councilor Bill Linehan, who won the sour grapes award of the day by skulking off for Ireland because he was not hosting the event.
Many of the speakers paid tribute to Tom Menino, announced just hours before to be suffering from metastatic cancer. But it wasn’t the former mayor’s serious illness that cast a pall on the proceedings. That was achieved by the singular failure of the majority speakers to be funny. It was as if they didn’t understand the goal of a roast.
There was a dreadful video featuring outgoing Senate President Therese Murray, shown looking for the next step in her career. It was interminable and prompted nary a smile. (Pity its narrator Warren Tolman, obviously included to achieve visibility for his Attorney General campaign, saddled with a bad idea poorly written.) Another failed video featured Murray’s counterpart in the House, Bob DeLeo, the video highlighting a string of “selfies” showing the Speaker at different ethnic eateries in Southie. That dog didn’t hunt either.
Gubernatorial candidates Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman and Senator Ed Markey were also flat. The traditional breakfast format requires wit, sometimes pointed, sometimes self-deprecating, but usually good for a laugh. Throughout, there were few laughs, not even any of the traditional groans that bespeak good-hearted attempts at humor. Slightly more successful than most was Senator Elizabeth Warren, who – in addition to jabs at new New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown -noted that Charlie Baker was known as the heart and soul of the Weld administration, (pause), “which is like being called the smartest Kardashian.” Baker laughed amiably.
So yesterday’s breakfast had plenty of Kumbaya, and relatively little ha-ha-ha. Not even a mini-cameo video of former Senate President Bill Bulger, longtime star of the event, could evoke its past success. One wonders if the sharp repartee of the past was put aside, even subconsciously, in the interest of comity in the newly diverse environment. Perhaps next year, when Dorcena Forry is no longer a first-time emcee, we can be treated to the sharper jabs and inside humor captured this year only in her well produced videos. As for yesterday, however, I hope the corned beef they served at the Convention Center was tastier than the generally bland corn delivered up at the mic.
I welcome your comments.