VAUDEVILLE SHOW AT THE SUFFOLK COURT HOUSE

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^ the Lady’s not for trashing : Patty Campatelli on the big stage — with Mayor Walsh

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It’s vaudeville time at the Edward W. Brooke Court house down-town, hard by TD North Garden, up the street from pugs and mugs bars, close on Haymarket Square.

Yep, vaudeville time. There’s the current Register, said to be a party animal given to fisticuffs and cuss words. She’s now on “paid leave” while certain scandalous allegations made against her are duly investigated by inquisitors official.

There’s not one but two (2) former City Council candidates — one of them who served as such, with distinction — seeking to replace her. There’s also an East Boston businessman in the running. My question to all is, “why ?”

WHY does ANYONE want to be Register of Probate ? Why is the job an elected one at all ?

The Register of Probate keeps the records of Probate Court cases : estates, guardianships, divorces, custody matters, and some restraining orders. Because estates especially are public records and must necessarily be so, the keeper of these records gets to be elected by the public. Or so goes the collective wisdom of those who enact our State’s laws. And why not elect each county’s Register of Probate ? We elect the State Auditor, for goodness sake. We elect Registers of Deeds. We elect Library commissioners.

One wonders why we don’t go ahead and elect the Boston Harbor Master, or the Commissioner of Transportation, or the Franklin Park Overseers. But the trend is moving in the opposite direction : toward appointing ministerial officials. Heck, we no longer elect even Boston’s School Committee — and for very good and sufficient reason. Our experience of the School Committee in its last decade was of a body beset by racist demagoguery, by insider politics with respect to administrative jobs, by a custodian’s union immune to reform and accused — perhaps unfairly — of acts verging on the illegal. The elected school committee spent more time politicking than managing; and the school department’s managers spent more time politicking, too. Today, the Mayor appoints Boston’s school committee. It perhaps hasn’t enough power : but it does advise, and often wisely. Those who serve on it do so as citizen activists, which is what elected school committees are supposed to do as they govern the system that prepares the entire society’s next generation.

A Register of Probate has no such vital task. The Register’s work is purely ministerial. The only connections the office have public policy are that its expenses are paid by the public, and its administration must enable those who seek Probate services to do so efficiently and well informed.

Upon these tasks are placed, in Suffolk County, a six figure salary and a six year term. a Register, once elected, is almost impossible to defeat. The work is not strenuous. Assistant registers do the grunt stuff. A name well known to the voting public, and not tainted by scandal, gives a candidate entree to that never-to-be-lost six figure income and the tasty pension that accrues to it.

Thus the vaudeville. Let’s look at the players :

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^ out of retirement : Felix D. Arroyo with newly elected Charlestown St Representative Dan Ryan

Your show time includes Felix D. Arroyo, returning from pleasant retirement in Uruguay, to the political klieg lights with a familiar beard and an act that he performed very skillfully long before he was ever a City Councillor : administrator of a bureaucracy. People forget that he served as such in the Mayor administration of Ray Flynn.

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^ dancing and prancing : Marty Keogh is rushing to the stage now

The marquee also lights up the name Marty Keogh, long a City Hall aide and, last year, a City Council candidate at large. Keogh has an especially lively act on offer.

Every vaudeville act needs a newcomer, a kind of opening act, and in East Boston business-person John Sepulveda, this show has its man. Give him room to show his stuff and then applaud or throw rotten tomatoes, in the best vaudeville tradition.

And finally there’s Patty Campatelli, the buxom gal who won the Register’s job in 2012, when it happened to be open; and who has since then entertained many, infuriated others, and delighted me. I kind of like her act. Spunky, charismatic, buxom strong. But then she hasn’t yet punched my face or called me a vagina.

Yes, it’s show time at the Probate Comedy Hour, and not far from where once the Old Howard theater — formerly an emporium of serious theatricals — displayed strippers and dialect comics to Harvard students and those who couldn’t get enough of bare boobs, scatological wise cracks, and ethnic cartoonery. I miss the Old Howard, and so, probably, do you. Time to welcome it back.

Arroyo, Campatelli, Keogh, Sepulveda. One to be Register of Probate, the others to be — why not ? — Boston Harbor Master, Franklin Park Commissioner, Head Keeper of Licensed Bicycles. I insist.

All that’s missing, so far, is for Ted Lewis to strut on stage, cane in hand, and orate “Is everybody happy ?”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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