Little Papeet can't jump

Octogenarian rap enthusiast roils Roger Williams University
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  July 18, 2007

L’affaire Papitto is one of those stories so stupid and ridiculous that no one could have made it up. Saturday’s front-page BeloJo story indicated that Ralph R. Papitto, who is known (around Casa Diablo, anyway) as “Papeet,” the founder of Nortek and longtime chairman of the board of trustees at Roger Williams University, had been pretty much running the RWU board as a personal fiefdom for years.

Considering how it was comprised of Papeet’s doctor, Papeet’s CPA, Papeet’s successor at Nortek, etc., the board’s juice seemed to flow directly to Papeet.

Under Ralphie, various board by-laws, such as six-year limits on service, and a requirement for at least two alumni board members, were ignored, and a weak committee structure prevailed, for what can be the only reason: so that Papeet could remain in full control.  

And what does a real American board of directors do when its chair blurts out something really embarrassing and stupid? Why, run out and hire a PR firm, and then start treading water, no matter how ridiculous the in-house spin!

RWU’s board of directors showed that it knows how the world works. It immediately called the RDW Group and its ace spin-meister, Mike Doyle, to handle matters. While Mike knows his stuff, it’s sort of tough when you’re dealing with a homegrown genius like Papeet.

Papeet decided to have a public phone conversation with John “The Journalist” DePetro, to explain how a racial slur “just slipped out.” DePetro, reportedly, did not roll off his chair in uncontrolled laughter when Papeet explained that he had “never, never, never” previously used the n-word. Going even further into the realm of the surreal, Papeet, an 80-year-old white man, claimed that the first time he heard this “was on television, in rap music or something.”

Sure, that makes perfect sense. A wealthy 80-year-old white guy who lived through the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, who undoubtedly hung out with lots of other rich white men (like those he put on the RWU board, which he controlled), never heard the word “nigger” until he chanced upon it while enjoying some rap music on TV, a standard entertainment choice for wealthy white octogenarians.

You must pardon your superior correspondents. We have to go and change our clothes, having just moistened our trousers from laughing at Papeet’s explanation.

Papeet never had better friends than RWU board members Dr. Barbara Roberts (Papeet’s cardiologist, and the one who got the ball rolling by going to the Other Paper), Sally Lapides and Joseph Caramadre, who all tried to save him from himself and allow him to slither out the back door. But noooo! Papeet’s story necessitates that you believe Dr. Roberts is lying for no apparent reason. Is there anyone over the age of five with more than a double-digit IQ who buys into Papeet’s story.

While we wouldn’t want to question the wisdom of Papeet having a sit-down with John De¬Petro (apparently, Paris Hilton wasn’t available to discuss the nuances of 12-step programs), we’re still curious about the names of his favorite rap artists, particularly whether he favors old school fave-raves Public Enemy or some of the newer thugs on the block.

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