Life imitates art in Rhode Island

Yesterday I watched Brotherhood for the first time.  The Showtime drama, recently cancelled after three seasons, was filmed on location in Providence, RI, and details a state rife with backroom political corruption and mafia influence.  Like any good drama, it is influenced by real life.  One of the early themes is corruption among the garbage collectors and the state dump, which the show portrays as mafia-run.  After garbage workers go on strike, the dead body of a “scab” turns up at the dump.  Mafia goons killed the scab, of course.

This morning I started skimming the news online, and the headlines on GoLocalProv.com, a new online news source that appears to do more investigative journalism than the decrepit Providence Journal, reminded me that good fiction is not far from real life.  Apparently, the Rhode Island Resource Corporation suffered internal theft and loss of as much as $24 Million between 1994 and 2007.  These thefts included insider land deals inflated to more than 5 times the appraised value, with one even involving the current Mayor of Johnston, where the state dump is located.  The thefts also included laptop computers and even Christmas wreaths.  The Rhode Island Resource Corporation is currently locked in a dispute with the Travelers Insurance Company over a claim to recover the money.

All right, so Rhode Island isn’t exactly like Brotherhood.  However, after reading about the shenanigans at the State Dump, I am reminded of Mike Stanton’s The Prince of Providence, which detailed the corrupt reign of former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci.  In fact, on Brotherhood, Cianci looms like a zeitgeist over Rhode Island; Rose Caffee, the Irish matriarch of the Caffee family, notes that “The only thing Buddy Cianci was guilty of was bein’ mayor.”

I may have caught on to Brotherhood too late for Showtime’s wishes, but as a relative newcomer to Rhode Island, I am looking forward to watching the remaining episodes, to see more connections to the state around me.

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