by Art Chantry ( email@example.com)
today it was announced that the last great old-school “guvner of this here warshington state” passed away at the ripe ripe ripe old age of 101! albert d. rosellini was governor of our state from 1956 through 1964, arguably the most productive and important governorship in our state’s history.
the guy was the last and the greatest of the old school ‘good ol’ boy’ democrat power monger governors in this corner of the country. during his reign supreme as the executive bossman he was linked to organized crime and brokered favoritism and assorted cronies in the most despicable ways. he never missed a photo op and this image is a great case in point. elvis was in town to film “it happened at the world’s fair” and rosellini presented him (apparently) with a smoked ham leg. that’s the gov. with the chrome dome smiling for the camera on the left. on the far right is a satisfied col. tom parker.
his family restaurant catered to the most powerful politicians, union bosses and organized crime honchos in the region, virtually becoming the state political offices. the place was a virtual meeting hall for the cadre who ran this place for decades. i remember one time sitting in the huge plush bar at rosellini’s and watching senator warren g. magnusen (then the MOST powerful senator in the entire untied states) ream out a young staffer who did a no-no. maggie (as he was affectionatley called) was shaking a big fat cigar in that terrified kid’s face and shouting, “you’ll never work in the town again, boy!” man, that was pretty dang impressive. scary even.
but, all the sleazy old politicing and schmoozing aside, albert rosellini was the guy who ushered in the uw medical school, the floating bridges and even the seattle world’s fair of 1962. basically, he’s the guy who kick-started this town into becoming the city it is today. without his huckstering stewardship, we would still be a backwater shanty town.
i listened to an old radio interview with rosellini wherein the interviewer asked him a great question – “you partied with some of the most famous and most notorious people of the century. so, who did you enjoy the most? JFK? elvis? dave beck? the colacurcio family?…” to which rosellini answered (in his unbelievabely classic old school mobster-sounding voice), “well, that would have to be (newspaper baron) william randolph hurst. we spent the evening getting so completely plastered that he passed out he floor of the governor’s mansion. i couldn’t believe he was well enough the next day to deliver his scheduled speech, but he did it like a pro. amazing man.”
somehow, that sort of old world sleaze never gets tired and we miss it. i mean, when was the last time you heard any public official BRAG about getting into a drinking contest with one of the most powerful men in the world (at that time)? it’s crazy. but charming.
later in life, rossellini repeatedly ran for office, including two more attempts at the governorship. the public rejected him soundly again and again. things had changed, even though he had not. the old world was gone forever. later in life he was also revealed to be a “bagman” for the local mob family in a scandal nicknamed “strippergate’. but we never stopped loving the guy.