BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — President Ronald Reagan once remarked that he didn’t understand how politicians can function without being actors, because, he declared, they’ve got to deliver lines in the spotlight.
Local political figures were in the spotlight yesterday at the 11th annual St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon to benefit the Link House, a facility for helping North Shore residents achieve and sustain sobriety.
State Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport, hosted the all-for-a-good-cause roast, while banker Charlie Cullen provided clever tunes with amusing political analysis.
Mayor Donna Holaday was named “Irishman of the Year” for her aid in securing financial support to aid Link House, and newly elected state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, and state Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury, made their initial appearances.
Jibes focusing on local officials were hurled throughout the 90-minute event but no injuries were sustained, save for perhaps a few bruised egos.
Cullen, who heads the local Provident Bank, made light of local political events.
To the tune of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” he sang about Mayor Donna Holaday: “She’s safe and yet we wonder, who would run for this great job, Even Sullivan can’t beat her or the councilor known as Bob (Cronin); Still they threaten to oppose her and replace her city team, but they’re merely two court jesters, while she’s still our regal queen.”
About Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer, Cullen sang to the tune of “McNamara’s Band:” “My name is Thatcher Kezer, I continue to be sure, that lowering the tax rate, is a bogus city cure; Our schools our roads, our services, they are (second) to no one, (So what) if our tax rate, in the state is number one.”
One tune that Cullen played and Chamber of Commerce President Ann Ormond sang lead to was “Nefarious,” set to the tune of “Aquarius.” The song poked fun at the debate over an open waterfront and referenced the Committee for an Open Waterfront (COW).
A poster, with enlarged and doctored photograph, circulated that depicted James Shanley, former chairman of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, shepherding some (real) cows through Market Landing Park.
Also, a hand-lettered sign was carried through the laughing audience that declared, “Weed on the Waterfront,” but it wasn’t clear to exactly what this slogan referred.
Indeed, blown-up photos mounted on posters drew some of the most appreciative laughter.
An enlarged image of Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins was superimposed upon a papal photo of Pope Francis, and the idea of “Pope Frank” generated much glee.
Another poster showed Holaday in a regal outfit as if Queen of England; a photo of Ives’ face was superimposed on the cover of the recent “swimsuit” issue of Sports Illustrated making Ives look like a curvy model rather than a thoughtful legislator.
The abashed Ives joked that she couldn’t start speaking until the color of her cheeks returned to the normal shade after some serious blushing.
When state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, spoke, he brushed off the provocative nature of the glossy cover: “We see more skin on the top of Mike Costello’s head than we do on that model.”
Holaday aimed several jests at Dick Sullivan -- who has announced he will run against her in the fall election as well as councilors Cronin and Brian Derrivan, but she concluded her remarks by dedicating a traditional ethnic poem to her late mother, Helene “Irish” Demski.
Kezer sent zingers in the direction of Amesbury councilors James Kelcourse and Christian Scorzoni.
Between the gag lines, speakers recognized the 41 years of Link House, headed by Executive Director Nick Costello, Mike’s father. Others presenting included Neil Harrington, town manager of Salisbury, who provided a droll, amusing “anecdote” about the forgetfulness of Nick Costello.
It was reported that U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, generally a regular at the roast, was in Washington and could not attend.
While others laughed through the noon hour, it just could be that the congressman was relieved.