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The Marzilli Tragedy

As long as we're digressing this (slow news) afternoon, I'll add to the bizarre Jim Marzilli saga Noam wrote about below. As it happens, I know Jim well.

Before I came to TNR, I was a political reporter in Boston. Up at the State House, Marzilli was one of my best sources. In the late 1990s the House was run by an autocratic speaker, Tom Finneran, a conservative Democrat installed with the support of Republicans. Finneran was a classic iron-fisted type who severely punished his political enemies, and a lot of State House liberals were afraid to take him on openly. Not Marzilli. Jim was the go-to guy for candid, on-the-record assessments of Finneran's bullying style.

More generally,  Jim was one of the smartest and most decent guys I encountered in that storied rogues gallery. (To give you some idea: During one infamous all-night budget session a bunch of legislators got drunk and struck up a chant of "Toga! Toga!"... on the House floor. They also shaved the legs of one pathetic colleague who'd passed out in his office.)

It sounds to me like Jim is clinically ill in some way, because in all the time I knew him he never said or did anything the least bit strange.

As for Howie Carr, well, the guy is something of a Boston legend. And he can certainly be a riot sometimes; I confess that his WRKO talk show is a guilty pleasure when I'm up north: It's a window into the id of disgruntled blue-collar Massachusetts. But he also specializes in denigrating government and the people in it. It's part of a well-honed  populist schtick (never mind that Carr went to a tony prep school). So a groping State House liberal is a dream come true for the guy.

The Marzilli story has a slapstick element that I realize people can't help laughing at. But without excusing his appalling behavior, it's a really tragic tale about an otherwise honorable and dedicated public servant who somehow went off the rails.

P.S. Freaky vanity link: A much younger me named Marzilli "best legislator" in this Boston Phoenix year-end roundup from 1997. Eleven years later, Fran Marini's quote (at bottom) still cracks me up. Ah memories.... 

--Michael Crowley