Posted: May 3, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Gridiron was more like a sauna this year, not hot enough to sear, just to swelter.

It did have its cases of prickly heat, though. In keeping with the famous centerfold of Scott Brown, the surprising Republican senator from Massachusetts, there was a mock-up pin-up of Chris Coons, who would be a surprising Democratic senator from Delaware.

Except Brown was beefcake, and Coons was kind of Beefaroni.

There was also the moment revealing the way Delaware Park and the racetrack-and-slots cartel kept gambling from expanding elsewhere.

House Speaker Bob Gilligan last week had his annual colonoscopy. Doctors are a little concerned. They found two polyps and three Delaware Park executives.

Talk about an insider look. It was fitting, of course. Gridiron is nothing if not an insider look at Delaware politics.

Officially named the First State Gridiron Dinner & Show, the annual roast brought some 360 members of the state's political, legal and business elite in black-tie attire Saturday evening to the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington for satirical songs, skits and video.

The proceeds provide scholarships to journalism students. "Certainly one of my favorite causes," cracked Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, during his spiel that brought the event to its end. "Raising money for journalists."

This one was the 19th Gridiron, nowhere near reaching the hysterics from the days Tom Gordon and Sherry Freebery turned New Castle County into the "Little Shop of Horrors."

The kinder, gentler Gridiron might have been a reflection of the times. This little state has been so beaten up, rallying back from a budget deficit of $800 million, an economy broadsided by Chrysler, General Motors and Valero, and a wearying winter of snowstorms, maybe it did not deserve to be beaten up any more.

"Things are so bad that a picture is now only worth 200 words," Markell quipped. "So bad that my neighbors in Greenville are actually considering raising their own children."

So there was a video with Muppet-like puppets representing Mike Castle, the Republican congressman running for senator, and Chris Coons, the New Castle County executive running against him.

It could have been the theme of the show as the puppets sang "Side by Side." In a debate on stem cell research, they did not agree to disagree but disagreed to agree, bickering, "I'm behind it 100 percent/Me, too/But I'll do it first/But I'll do it better."

There was also the sly bipartisanship of a faux campaign ad for Castle. The treasurers listed in the tagline? Joe and Beau.

The show as always built toward a takeoff of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," sung by Lynda Maloney. She was introduced as the Gridiron diva, because she was an original force behind it along with Mayor Tom Maloney, her husband who died far too young at 58 in 2000.

Like the roast itself, Lynda Maloney spared Delaware and turned her lyrics to a villain farther afield.

Don't Cry for Me,

Securities & Exchange Commission,

The truth is, they lost their mission.

And I ask them, without malice,

Was their favorite 'Deep Throat'

Or 'Debbie Does Dallas'?

The governor gets the last word, delivering a closing monologue, and he nailed it. Markell needled, "I'm sure you share my sentiment when I say, I'm glad this night is over."