Posted: May 6, 2013
GRIMACES FROM THE GRIDIRON
By Celia Cohen
What a knowledgeable -- or maybe know-it-all? -- crowd it was at the Gridiron this year.
All it took to get the biggest laugh of the evening was a photo, looming large on each of the two giant screens flanking the stage, of Pastabilities.
That would be the Wilmington restaurant where Dave Grimaldi, the chief aide in New Castle County, rumbled his way last month into the ranks of Dave Tiberi and "Hammerin' Hank" Milligan as one of Delaware's most famous fighters. Yikes.
The Gridiron, more formally known as the First State Gridiron Dinner & Show, brought 500 people on Saturday to the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington for the annual political roast in song, skit and video.
Delaware, where everybody in politics seems to know everybody else, likes to laugh at itself. Not be a laughingstock. So much has gone wrong, though, there was plenty of fodder for both.
How bad is it in the nation's corporate capital? So bad that the legislature is even trying to do away with capital punishment.
Naturally there was much ado about nothing, because "nothing" is what the state got from Fisker, the mirage of a car company that was supposed to save the old General Motors assembly plant at Boxwood Road.
Not even Jack Markell, as the Democratic governor who encouraged Fisker, could resist saying something about this pileup. The governor is always asked to offer a monologue at the Gridiron, and this year, after Markell got some buzz for giving a rhyming toast at the White House as the chair of the National Governors Association, he went to verse here, too:
I thought Fisker had the chops to build a brand new car.
I guess I should not apply to be the next White House auto czar.
There was also a news bulletin about AstraZeneca: "Not only have they reduced their footprint in Delaware and their number of employees, they've also changed their name and slogan to AbraCadabra, now you see us, now you don't."
Periodically during the evening, headlines were flashed on the giant screens:
Grimaldi and Freebery -- who says lightning can't strike twice?
Markell to visit Delaware, may stay overnight
University of Delaware to admit Delawareans this year
About the only way Delaware could feel good about itself was to compare itself to New Jersey. So the Gridiron players sang "We Got a Boardwalk," a takeoff of "Under the Boardwalk," the pop song from The Drifters:
Oh when the rains beat down, and the wind ripped off some roofs,
And then the storm changed its course, and we were lucky, here's the proof.
We got a boardwalk, down by the sea.
Take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to us, from New Jersey.
It seemed like Delaware could do little but wait for a gallant chevalier, some Sir Lancelot, to save the state. What? C'est Beau? (It is Beau?) A song about Beau Biden was borrowed from Lancelot's entrance, famously sung by Robert Goulet, in the musical "Camelot":
Delaware! Delaware! From far Iraq I heard your call.
Delaware! Delaware! And here I am to give my all.
I know in my soul what you expect of me,
And all that and more I shall be. . . .
C'est moi! C'est moi! So adm'rably fit! A Delaware story unbound,
And here I stand with valor in place,
Exceptionally brave, one damn handsome face,
The best candidate around. . . .
C'est moi! C'est moi! The voters have chose to keep the dynasty so,
And here I stand, as pure as a prayer,
Incredibly clean, with virtue to spare,
Successor to VP Joe! C'est moi!
The best the Gridiron could give, or perhaps the worst, was reserved for The Mayor, for Dennis Porter Williams, the Democrat in his first year in the office.
There was a video skit in which Williams persuades Matt Denn, the Democratic lieutenant governor with aspirations, he could get ahead by making himself into a fellow "bad-ass," so Denn gets a security detail, outfitted in the obligatory dark glasses, and turns it loose to intimidate legislators and frighten little children, including his own.
Williams has been knocked not just for assigning himself police protection so expansive that it might make Joe Biden blush, but for giving bigger salaries to a chosen few insiders and for . . . well, let Lynda Maloney tell it.
As always, Maloney sang her own version of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from the musical "Evita." This year she trained just devastating lyrics on The Mayor, not the least because Maloney, the undisputed first lady of the Gridiron, was also once the first lady of Wilmington in the 1970s when Tom Maloney, who died way too soon at 58 in 2000, was its stylish Democratic mayor.
Maloney's words were not so much satire, not so much humor, but a cri de coeur, a cry from the heart. She sang:
Don't cry for me, Mr. Mayor,
I'm not just any taxpayer.
I've lived the problems, I know the score.
I knew someone who had your job before.
And as for fortune, OK it's not,
But it seems like your employees you forgot.
For four years they've had no salary increase.
When you choose three top positions to grease,
Let me paraphrase,
A raise is a raise is a raise. . . .
Have I said too much?
Although there is more I can say to you,
Please know I love your city,
And I know you do, too.
In the Gridiron tradition, the last word goes to the governor. As Markell closed his remarks in verse, he said what really needed to be said:
All of us are neighbors.
There are so many folks that care,
And that's why I conclude tonight with
God bless Delaware.