The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tony Ravosa

The Man Behind the Mirror

I'm saddened to hear today of the death of Springfield's controversial attorney, businessman and political insider Tony Ravosa (above left with beloved downtown mailman Eddie Sheehan.) In poor health, Ravosa had faded from the scene in recent years, but back in his prime he was one of Springfield's best known and most colorful characters.

Not everything ever said about Ravosa was said in praise, especially in the pages of the Springfield Newspapers, where he had a bitter, long running feud with the paper's head David Starr. The feud dated back to the late 1970's, when Starr ousted Ravosa as the main player in the politically powerful special interest group Springfield Central. The two traded exquisite insults, with Ravosa accusing Starr of backing outside interests over local entrepreneurs like himself and his politically ambitious son, former City Councilor Anthony Ravosa Junior. Starr in turn never missed a chance to make Ravosa look bad in the press. It wasn't always clear who was in the right in that feud, with both sides scoring major hits against each other at various times, but their fiery exchanges never failed to entertain.

Many of Ravosa's exploits over the years, such as his bold business ventures, his tireless crusades on behalf of drunken drivers, and the mysterious attempt on his life by a never captured gunman will all no doubt be retold in the coming days as our Valley appraises the legacy of Tony Ravosa. The 1980's assassination attempt was especially colorful, occurring at the peak of the popularity of the Dallas TV show when the national catchphrase was "Who shot JR?" In Springfield, however, the phrase became "Who shot TR?" Ravosa himself claimed, unconvincingly, that he had accidentally shot himself.

Myself, I mostly remember him from the 1990's, when he used to sit in his ground floor office (below) facing on Court Square.

He was usually joined with a shifting gang of cronies, who would sit, sometimes accompanied by a bottle of wine, and look out the office window while discussing the world, the nation, the city and the scene passing by on Court Square. The odd thing was that the windows of that office were covered with reflective adhesive, which turned the windows into a mirror to anyone trying to look in.

Therefore, no passerby could see Ravosa and his friends watching them as they went past. Yet, it was sometimes possible, when the sun was right, to see Ravosa's hulking, shadowy figure moving behind the reflection, and therefore those who frequented Court Square on a daily basis, such as the homeless population, did become aware that there was someone watching from behind the mirrored glass. Drug dealers knew enough not to do transactions in front of that office. Of course most of the dealers and the homeless had no idea who Ravosa was.

They called him simply, "The man behind the mirror."

Despite all the controversies however, it was never in doubt that Tony Ravosa loved Springfield dearly. While others of his stature fled to the suburbs, he was one of the few who stayed, living and working in the heart of downtown to the bitter end. We are unlikely to see the likes of Tony Ravosa in Springfield again, and I believe we are poorer for it.

Tom Wesley, one of the two Republicans fighting to take down Richie Neal, got national attention the other day on CNN.

The novel The Wizard of Oz is 71 years old.

Today, if Dorothy were to encounter men with no brains, no hearts, and no courage, she wouldn't be in Oz.

She'd be in Congress.

I didn't attend the gay pride parade in Northampton on Saturday, but Laura Tisley Garcia did and took these pictures:

Let me be politically incorrect and point out the obvious - these events tend to attract more women than men.

It's the girls that like to get political, the boys just wanna have fun. Actually the political issue dominating the signage had more to do with immigration than homosexuality.

Here is Northampton artist Dann Vazquez with the late novelist (and Smith College instructor) Kurt Vonnegut in Northampton in the year 2000.

Vazquez, inspired by my recent photos of the Puritan statue in Springfield, sent me this photo of himself posing with the statue around 1985. Notice that Morgan the Robot is posing also.

The picture is interesting for at least two additional details: The photo predates the restoration of the statue, which had become a sickly green from exposure but is now a properly brown bronze. Also note to the right the absence of the big black fence that now encloses the Quadrangle.

Here is Trevor in Northampton.


Michaelann Bewsee said...

Wow, your post brings back memories! As I was reading, I was thinking, Well, at least Tony loved Springfield-- and there it is, the same thought near the end of your post!

Al Giordano said...

Tony was the source of many a scoop back in the day. In the late 80s/early 90s I would visit him at least once a week in that storefront office under the marquee where he posted a lot of great political shots across the bow.

He knew where the bodies were buried in the courthouse and at City Hall. He was a hugely important collaborator in bringing down DA Matty Ryan.

In general his enemies were a confederacy of dunces, many of whom later went to jail for corruption. I learned to arrive around lunchtime as there would usually be salami, provolone and other antipasti to nosh on (and on an Advocate salary one had to know where the free food was for the eatin'). I genuinely liked Tony.

If you see Tony Jr. please send my condolences.

Anonymous said...

Tony Ravosa was a larger than life figure in the 70's and 80's . I worked at the courthouse and Tony was always very kind to everyone . He had a generous spirit and nature and he really tried to put Springfield back on the map - I applaud him - he lived life fully !

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your photos of the Noho Pride parade, but just to take issue with your comments on the men/women ratio ... sure, women outnumber the men by a big margin in that event, but anywhere else (try Boston, for example), it's much more of a 50-50 split. Noho IS "Lesbianville USA"

And yes, while men tend more toward the party scene, don't discount the women. If you ever went to a Boston Pride gala (now a week-long event!), you'd see women having a whole lot of fun in a whole lot of places.

But you'd have to agree that Noho has changed a lot over the last 25 years. While it's still not quite like an episode of "The L Word" episode, it sure has loosened up from the days when drab separatists ruled the community. Much for the better, IMHO.

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