Shortly after my folks moved us to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 1975, I began to hear about the Philly police department’s Gestapo-like reputation, and the bullyboy tactics of then-mayor Frank Rizzo. At one point, a bunch of goons actually encircled the Philadelphia Inquirer building and blocked access for at least an hour, apparently to express their displeasure with an Inquirer series that cast Rizzo in an unflattering light. Even Doonesbury made jokes about Frank Rizzo. Mike Doonesbury and Mark Slackmeyer, stopping at a Philly diner during a cross-country road trip, are warned to get out of town before sundown by a thug with bandoliers criss-crossing his chest. “Who was that?” they ask. “The mayor,” the counterman says.
Like they say, you had to be there, but if you weren’t here’s a good documentary about Rizzo’s penchant for conducting surveillance against anyone with the nerve to criticize the powers-that-be. A lot of it reminded me of my favorite political boss, Frank Hague, when his newfound obsession with stamping out communist agents dovetailed conveniently with his crusade against the CIO as it tried to organize workers in Hudson County.
Who knows? Maybe I ended up writing this book because life just outside Ciudad Rizzo gave me an appreciation for the workings of political bosses.