By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Explaining Dapper O’Neil

The Phoenix’s Peter Kadzis says farewell to former Boston city councilor Dapper O’Neil, who died earlier today.

Kadzis, who understands Boston’s neighborhood politics as well as anyone, manages the difficult task of explaining Dapper’s unique appeal while refraining from paying him tribute, writing that O’Neil “began his career as a political joke, and he ended it as a municipal embarrassment. But along the way, he won the affections of legions of blue-collar Bostonians by tirelessly defending their interests.”

Unlike, say, the late Jimmy Kelly, O’Neil did not grow in office. His nasty exterior masked a nasty interior. But I’m sure he was loyal to his friends and nice to his neighbors, and they’re entitled to miss him. No doubt Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who wrote a column about the ailing Tom Finneran today that was hateful even by Carr’s standards, is penning a tribute to the Dap even as we speak.


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  1. themofo

    I never had the, um, experience of meeting Dapper, but my favorite memory of him was listening to WBCN sometime in the early 1990s. In the middle of two songs comes his voice, sounding something like a cat choking down gravel:’This is Dapper O’Neil and your station sucks.’ Crass and hilarious all at once. Fer chrissakes, Dapper, you were memorable, although not much else.

  2. Not Whitey Bulger

    I can tell you from personal knowledge that Dapper’s sidewalk was always shoveled.

  3. bostonph

    I had the misfortune to meet Dapper on several occasions. He made Archie Bunker look slick. Truly one of the most bigoted small minded people I’ve ever met and completely unapologetic about it.

  4. Paul

    AT least you knew where you stood with Dapper. He shot from the hip and was correct most of the time! What’s wrong with wanting to keeps things as they are? We need more Dap’s!!!

  5. Anonymous

    I’m actually surprised that he was still alive.I know it isn’t in good taste to say ill of the dead, but I’ll merely recall the saying about “good riddance” and “bad rubbish.–raj

  6. Tony

    If anyone is interested, here is a piece I wrote about Dapper last night:

  7. Anonymous

    I met dapper only once. My friends and I walked to close to his limo parked at the Prudential Center, and he pulled a gun on us. I hope he’s wearing a short sleeved shirt. It’s going to be very hot where he’s going.

  8. Anonymous

    You can’t be a little bit pregnant Dan. Boston is Boston and Dapper represented a HUGE part of it. Ever gone out for a drink in Savin Hill? It’s tawdry for swells and self annointed “reality based” persons in Metrowest or other Outerwhitelandia locations to minimize their Bostonian Brethren by skewering someone who personified their centuries long personas.

  9. Anonymous

    Nice piece, Tony. The concept of intellectual honesty is a bit tough for some folks. If Dapper were as transparently phony as some of his detractors, Don Muhammed would have told him to stick it where the sun don’t shine. For every person who never interacted with him, but nonetheless chooses this time to denigrate the man, there are plenty of folks like me, for whom he performed mitzvahs. Sleep well, Dap.

  10. Rich

    We made this odd video with dapper about 15 years ago (based around outtakes from a pharmacy commercial.) Rich Sullivan

  11. bostonph

    anon9:38,I don’t see anyone here denigrating Dap who didn’t interact with him. No one is purely evil and I’m sure Dap did help people. It’s ironic, though, that Tony brings up Dapper’s efforts to save Fenway Park. People like Dapper are precisely why athletes didn’t want to come to Boston then.

  12. jan

    I walked behind him at the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. He stuck out his walking cane at the pictures as he walked by and either gave his assent (that one is ok) or shook his head at the ‘filth.’ It was sort of funny. Many of the pictures that he was willing to approve of were actually quite graphic (sort of O’Keefe-like flowers that were graphic representations of the female body).He really didn’t get it at all.RIP Dapper.

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