Heat turned up at BBQ, mayor creamed in roast

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The mayor doesn’t have a reputation of being a funny guy. And surely priests aren’t comedians. But then things can change when it comes to a good cause.

That’s what happened Thursday when the Rotary Club of Warwick roasted Scott Avedisian for the benefit of scholarships and charities supported by the club. WJAR TV Anchor and WPRO radio host Gene Valicenti was the first to turn up the heat at the barbecue at the Radisson Hotel. He started with former Governor Lincoln Chafee who, along with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church, and Raymond Studley, now Avedisian’s chief of staff, all had a turn at the microphone.

Valicenti noted Chafee was opposed to the studio part of the 38 Studios deal but was okay with the 38, as that was his approval rating before leaving office. Valicenti then pulled an air freshener from his pocket in the shape of an evergreen. The audience was on to it as soon as Valicenti said it wasn’t a Christmas tree.

“It’s a holiday tree for you,” he said to Chafee.

Valicenti spoke briefly of Avedisian’s support for increased flights from Green Airport, alluding to Norwegian Airlines and the transatlantic services they provide, saying, “You satisfied Rhode Island’s desire to fly directly to Oslo.”

Chafee had people wondering where he was headed when he asked the audience to identify names he read off. He then revealed they were mayors, starting with one who has been in office for 50 years. He ended up with Buddy Cianci, who served 22 years as mayor of Providence.

“You have to at least get the Rhode Island record,” he told Avedisian.

Fung had a zinger for Valicenti – “some people actually do have a face for radio” – before starting in on Avedisian. He said he was surprised to see the mayor on time, concluding that he is usually late because of all those rotaries in Apponaug. Rather than the Apponator, as some call the circulator, Fung said, “it should be called the Terminator.”

As roasts go there was a mix of fact and fiction, or was it?

After suggesting that, due to having two jobs Valicenti could afford it, Father Marciano said he brought a gift for the master of ceremonies…a registration form for St. Kevin’s parish. And Father Marciano confessed after seeing the advertisement in this paper featuring a drawing of the mayor, apple stuffed in his mouth, roasting on an open fire, “he couldn’t help but remember the good old days when heathens like him ended up like that.”

He teased Avedisian for getting upset, even sobbing like a kid, when he doesn’t get 80 percent of the vote in Warwick. And Father Marciano talked of Avedisian’s alma mater, Providence College, and how he was a classmate of Al Kenney, now Msgr. Kenney. In fact, he said, Avedisian and Kenney took basic Catholicism together and how the pair had been caught cheating.

When called on it, the two denied cheating, to which the professor replied, “Oh really. Well how is it, Mr. Kenney, that on question 13 you wrote, ‘I don’t know’ and you, Mr. Avedisian wrote, ‘I don’t know either?’”

Studley, CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority before working for the city, related how he and Avedisian traveled to China when the mayor chaired the RIPTA board. The story told of Avedisian’s assurances that Studley, a big man, would have no problems with the 15-hour flight. Avedisian arrived freshened after sleeping most of the way. Studley, however, didn’t fare as well.

Longtime friend who has worked on virtually all of Avedisian’s campaigns Mark Russell rounded out the roasters as a special surprise guest. Russell wound up asking his wife, son and daughter, who had all worked on Avedisian’s campaigns, to join him in a roaster’s toast to the mayor. But while that could have been the closer, it wasn’t. Roast organizers Lara D’Antuono and Janis Constantine planned an auction.

Avedisian knew what was coming. He took off his jacket and tie. Valicenti started the bidding at $100 to toss a cream pie in Avedisian’s face. The honors went to attorney Joseph McGair for $600. And if one pie was not enough, D’Antuono added another.

Avedisian had the final word. He talked of how the funds raised will help young people further their education. He also talked of community and although “we have our differences, but understand what needs to be done for the greater good…that’s what Warwick is all about, working together to solve problems.”

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