Priceless Memories From Chairman Guman, Plus: Stop The Presses, Finch And Caruso

The Democratic Town Committee threw its first party fundraiser Thursday night two months after Mario Testa reclaimed the chairmanship and it appears Mario hasn’t lost a step in his ability to raise lots of moolah. When all is counted the Dems will be $20,000 richer.

Mayor Bill Finch, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Comptroller Nancy Wyman, and a collection of usual suspects, party regulars and candidates including congressional seeker Jim Himes and state senate hopeful Anthony Musto jammed Testo’s Restaurant. City Attorney Mark Anastasi was the master of ceremonies for the event that honored the late party chairman John Guman, a political mentor to many in the room. Guman’s wife Dottie is a vice chair of the party.

When I was a young reporter Guman was a hoot to cover. His cigars and rhetoric lit up a room. He helped a lot of people, but boy could he be a consummate ball breaker when you weren’t on his side. And for a Democrat, he was as conservative as they come. His loyalty to Catholicism made sure of that. Dottie Guman, the Mother Goose of the party, took Finch under her wing when Finch was trying to find his place in the party. John Guman never thought a whole lot about Finch. Those were the days when Finch was a liberal’s liberal. He’s changed a bit on some positions. But John Guman believed Finch was disconnected from party pragmatism and bloated with self interest. Guman was also staunchly pro life. So when Finch showed up at the Gumans’ door looking for Dottie, it was not uncommon for John to shout, “Dorothy, the baby killer is here.”

That was John’s way of saying, “You bother me kid.” Guman was also a master at creating chaos. During the 1989 Democratic Town Committee convention to endorse a mayoral candidate, Guman, as chair, ran the meeting. The party was split in all directions in part because Mayor Tom Bucci lost control of his budget, and also had supported Chris Caruso for party chair in 1986, throwing Guman under the bus, to make peace with (the late) Richard Pinto for Bucci’s failure to deliver the City Council presidency to Carsuo. Bucci went back to Guman for help when his relationship with Caruso blew up. Even though Caruso was party chair, he could never get over Bucci not delivering the council presidency. Anyhoo, Guman was back in as chairman, and lo and behold Mario Testa was fighting with (the late) Mike Rizzitelli over control of the 133rd District, as a result of the death of district leader Paul Macciocca.

Mario and Rizzy are yapping at each other. From the podium Guman leans into the microphone, “Mr. Rizzitelli, are you calling Mr. Testa a liar?” More words exchanged. Rizzy dares Mario to take the argument outside. Mario doesn’t back down. Okay, Mario says. let’s settle it outside. Boom. Rizzy sucker-punches Mario in the head. Mario fires back. They embrace in a contorted mess. Mario has a lock on Rizzy’s nose. Rizzy has his finger stuck in Mario’s eyes. Chaos breaks out. It was madness. The scene was captured on film by the indomitable Cecil Young. I was there, and I also have Cecil’s footage! Priceless.

The Duking Dems

Mike “Eye Gouger” Rizzitelli, left, and Mario “Nose Breaker” Testa, center, at the Battle Royal, July 1989.

Anyway, thanks for the memories, John!

Hey, speaking of Caruso, this must have been a fun time! Finch and Caruso in the same room. See City Hall news release below:

May 22, 2008 – Mayor Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport) today was joined at the City Hall Annex by State Representative Christopher Caruso (D-Bridgeport) and local labor representatives in support of House Bill 5536, “An Act Establishing the Connecticut Healthcare Partnership.” The bill would allow municipalities, nonprofits and small businesses to voluntarily participate in the State employee health plan and could reduce costs to municipalities and increase benefits for employees of small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Governor M. Jodi Rell has recently threatened to veto this bill.

“This would be a giant step towards universal health care and we fully support it,” said Mayor Finch. “While the City of Bridgeport may not benefit directly, nonprofits and local small business could find it extremely beneficial.”

“Republicans purport to be champions of small businesses,” added Rep. Caruso. “By exercising her veto power on this bill, the Governor will put small businesses and their employees at a severe disadvantage. This is an opportunity to give people a choice, and it’s important particularly in cities in light of the onerous property tax system.”

Peter Thor, Director of Policy and Planning for AFSCME Council 4, said, “This bill is beneficial in numerous ways. Because the health care cost would be less expensive, small businesses and nonprofits would be able to retain and hire more employees. For municipalities, the bill could potentially save tax dollars for expensive health plans and alleviate pressures to reduce and cut community services. This bill should not be vetoed.”

Bridgeport Education Association President Gary Peluchette said, “It’s very simple. If small businesses survive, they add to the city’s tax base. A strong tax base helps public schools.”



  1. Gossip Of The Rialto!

    Bridgeport Herald’s coming together of Finch and Caruso.
    Vision reprising roles of “Laurel & Hardy” or “The Odd Couple”.

    The late but always punctual John Guman ruled with an Iron Fist and a Velvet Glove.

    Fashionistas are describing Auden Grogins as “High Waisted ” and Bob Keeley as “Well Rounded”.

    Get well wishes to sun cat.

    Fond farewells to Brian Hariskevich and Steve Sedensky.

    Don’t forget to thank a Vet this weekend and a have a safe holiday.


  2. Last nights fund raiser was well attended by 370 people. There were 40 people unable to get seating. This was a great cross section of democrats. People came in from all over the state and from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This had to be a real eye opener for some.
    The mayor received a luke warm reception and gave a fairly good speech about John Guman.
    Mayor did not bother to speak to Mario, boy you talk about thick headed. It had to give the mayor pause to see all of the money people in one room.
    I wonder what Roach and Robles had to say when they were off by themselves. Interesting.
    Low and behold Hector Diaz was in attendance, next time Roach won’t slight him and will ensure his attendance. This was a great time to people watch

  3. Lennie,
    Reading your piece about John Guman brought back memories to Connecticut’s first presidential primary back in 1976. I being a tried and true liberal was supporting Mo Udall. By the time that Connecticut’s primary rolled around John Guman was in Jimmy Carter’s corner as was most of the establishment.
    The primary process was utter chaos. There was no state law concerning primaries so they were run under party rules. The voting machines were not used so voting was by paper ballots. And back then there was no such thing as cell phone. Occasionally well financed campaigns had walkie-talkies but most of the time communications was spread by runners.
    I got word of problems at Beardsley School and took a ride over. The Udall supporter was out in front in tears. I went in and saw John Guman and friends inside the polling place. John was quite comfortable with his feet up on the table where the ballot box sat and with his cigar in hand.
    I went outside and told the volunteer just to keep on handing out the literature but my guess is that we were going to lose Beardsley School.
    And although John and I would disagree on political philosophy, he always understood how and when to bring the party together after some bitter battles, like Mario and Rizzy.

  4. Lennie please show us that memorable moment caught on tape. I served with Rizzitelly and He still had that cocky attitude. Hector A. Diaz used Rizzitelly’s influence to get Anderson Ayala as the replacement of Alberto Negron when he resigned. Normally the respective district leader and City Councilmen picked the replacement but, the rules changed in my case. Michelle Retamar was the replacement of our choice and when I realised that there was resistance from the council, Americo Santiago and I sat with Mario to discuss the Issue. Mario stated that Rizzitelly had the votes for Diaz’s pick and he would not get involved. So Mario was still scared of Rizzitelly. Let us see the video, as a matter of fact I’m calling Cecil Young, he is a Republican you know.

  5. Hi Joel

    Clarification. My post refers to the old man. Your reference is to his son. By the way, good luck in November. Joel has the GOP endorsement. Could it be Speedy versus Cougar in November? Ah, wishful thinking.

  6. Lennie

    I remember having a conversation with John Guman not long after Tom Bucci dumped him from the Town Chairmanship in favor of Chris Caruso. When the discussion turned to the Mayor, Guman leaned back, put up his fleet, and slowly declared “I may work with the #@!$% again…but I will never ever TRUST him.

    Wonder how many folks are feeling the same way about the current Mayor.

  7. Buzz wuz last night that Charles “Don” Clemons is now facing a primary … from a man named Bill Stewart … bring back memories Mr. Grimaldi?

  8. Lennie,
    Wasn’t it your old pal Jim Callahan who snapped that shot of the Duking Dems?

    Where’s he at these days? Haven’t seen him since Jimmy Clark’s funeral.

  9. Yup, Bob Fredericks has a mighty memory. That was a funny moment. Mario and Rizzy are barking at each other, Callahan, editor of The Bridgeport Light, picks up his camera, all hell breaks loose … click, click, click. They fell right into Callahan’s lens. We rejoiced in the dark room when we saw the shot. By the way, if anyone has a copy of my book Greater Bridgeport Italian Style the photo of Duking Dems is there. I gifted Mario the original print many years ago. As for Callahan, he’s doing okay, working for a small daily in West Chester, PA.

  10. Wow – $20,000??? Mario really knows how to make the big money for the party, he always did and he always will. If anybody can bring back peace to the party, he’s the one to do it. By the way, thank you Joel for the youtube videos a couple of days ago. So now you are a republican, how can you even think like them after being a democrat your whole life? How could you all of a sudden support a republican for president with the big mess Bush has given this country? Why would anyone want another republican to take over? Gas is $4.25 today, when is it going to stop? How are people going to feed their families with these prices, and you want to vote republican? God help us all, someone has to.


Leave a Reply