Richmond City Council lost its funny bone long ago. Sure, there may be awkward moments and unintentionally humorous ramblings. But rooftop exorcisms of the demons in City Hall? Gone, as far as we know.
"I've brought it down!" Council President G. Manoli Loupassi says. "Sometimes it's funny in a sad sort of way," he reflects, and there are still characters. But, he adds, "This is serious business."
Perhaps Loupassi's partly to blame. It was one of the subjects people were pondering over sushi, spring rolls and wine last week at a house on Hanover Avenue, around the corner from Metro Grill.
About 100 people are here on a chilly Friday night to roast "The Loup" and raise money for the City of Richmond Republican Committee.
Loupassi, a Republican, wants to jump from City Hall to the state capitol. He's going after Delegate Katherine B. Waddell in the 68th District. So far, Loupassi says, he's banked about $130,000 from a summer fundraiser and hopes to have $200,000 to $250,000 by January.
For now, he's smiling, dutifully standing under a backyard tent in a light gray suit, listening to people make fun of him or at least try to.
As far as Tom Benedetti's concerned, no one's letting loose on The Loup. So Benedetti urges more fire in the zings: "This is by far the nicest roast I've ever been to," he says.
No mention of the time Loupassi fell asleep in a budget meeting. Or his sometimes off-the-wall quotes during Council meetings. Then again, as roaster Bart Chucker notes, "He says what he thinks."
There Chucker's recounting of a Style Street Talk about Loupassi, an attorney, defending a man caught performing a sexual act in his car in Loupassi's district. The headline was "brutal," Chucker recalls: "Loupassi Defends Masturbator." A few seconds after seeing the story, Chucker says, his cell phone rang. It was Loupassi: "Dude, I'm having a bad day."
Benedetti complains about Loupassi's political advice to him during his 2004 run for the 2nd District City Council seat (Bill Pantele won). Then he puts on an admirable Loupassi impression. Another roaster calls it "the pout."
Benedetti demonstrates. He squints his eyes slightly, mimics angling Loupassi's level-straight eyebrows inward and gazes. He speaks in a higher, hoarse voice, punctuating syllables like a hammer hitting a raw chicken breast.
At Council meetings, Benedetti says, it means: "I'm intent. I'm paying attention. This is serious." If that weren't enough for Loupassi to prove he's listening to citizens, Benedetti says, he might add: "Well I think that's a great idea ... that we would have a 'National Elbow Day' in Richmond."
Positive reinforcement. Lukewarm commitment. Political gold.
Despite Benedetti's pleas, the roast doesn't get much hotter. Then again, you can't be too reckless before an election. The Bart Chucker Band plays, and people mingle: City Council candidate Bruce Tyler, Steve Baril, Jay Ipson, pop-ins by Sen. Ryan McDougle and Delegate Chris Saxman, and a bevy of 20- and 30-ish Republicans.
And there's Loupassi's mother, who says what any good mother would say: "I don't have anything bad to say." S