Power: Fumo, After the Fall

The most powerful politician in Philadelphia is heading to jail. In an exclusive interview, Vince Fumo talks about the agony of his trial, and why he still doesn’t know what he did that was so wrong.

Every Monday, when her shop was closed, Zinni visited the courthouse, where she was often photographed but never spoke. The hardest part of watching the trial, she says, was seeing “how misunderstood he was.”

Zinni just lost her father, Louis, a tailor, who died on May 9th, the day after Fumo’s 66th birthday. Now she’s praying for Vince. Whatever happens, she says it won’t be the end of the world: “He’ll take it like a man, and I will stand by him 100 percent. I love him dearly. … He’s the most charming man that I ever knew, except for my daddy.”


A FEW DAYS after he broiled T-bones, Vince Fumo sets some eggs to boil on his Viking range, then forgets about them. His housekeeper sticks her head in the study to tell Fumo not to worry; she turned off the stove.

Nicole Barrett is the same housekeeper who, at the trial, testified against Fumo under a grant of immunity. Barrett got jammed up by the feds for taking cash without paying taxes. She told jurors about Fumo’s love of Oreck vacuum cleaners. (Citizens’ Alliance purchased 19, including four stationed at Fumo’s mansion, one on every floor.)

But Fumo doesn’t hold a grudge against her; Barrett still cleans his house. “She’s a nice girl,” he shrugs. “She needs the money.”

 A piercing bark invades Fumo’s kitchen. It’s the beagle on the other side of Fumo’s mansion. Fumo’s son-in-law testified that the barking beagle drove Fumo so crazy, he wanted to poison the dog. (Fumo denied it.) That damn beagle’s still out there yapping.

Fumo laughs. He didn’t get much sleep the night before. For dinner, he made a fresh tomato sauce in a big pan, simmered with olive oil and garlic. His guests at the meal included Carolyn, son Vincent Jr., and Fumo’s new granddaughter, Lila Rose.

After dinner, Fumo’s granddaughter started crying and wouldn’t stop, so Carolyn took the baby for a long stroll around the neighborhood. That quieted Lila Rose, but everybody didn’t get to bed until 11:30. Lila Rose woke them all up at 3 a.m. — all except Fumo. So in the morning, “I had to change her diaper and give her a bottle,” Fumo says. “I hadn’t changed a diaper in years.”

He takes his guest downstairs to show off his underground shooting range. It’s a 40-foot-long concrete cavern with hanging targets. The back of the range is a steel-plated trap, so that bullets bounce around and fall harmlessly. Fumo, a gun nut, once owned a collection of more than 100 firearms, including some vintage tommy guns. But his days as a big shot are over. After the indictment, the accused felon voluntarily surrendered all his firearms to gun dealers. Now that he’s convicted, he says, “I can’t even own a gun.”