Across his chest, two corrugated rubber tubes. Pneumographs — to detect breathing irregularities. Wrapped around his upper arm, a Velcro cuff. A sphygmomanometer — to measure blood pressure. Beneath him, a motion-sensitive seat pad; wrapped around his ring and index fingers, black adhesive electrodes. He’s in a small room on the second floor of the Academy for Scientific Investigative Training, just off Rittenhouse Square, biting the nail on his left pinkie. Frank Rizzo is taking a lie-detector test.
Frank Rizzo Jr., that is.
While reporting a profile of the mayoral hopeful for Philadelphia's June issue, on newsstands this week, I encountered virtually no one who considers Franny a serious candidate. (One councilman went off the record to laugh at the prospect of a Rizzo campaign.) Rizzo may share a name with his late father, the implication goes, but he will never become his equal. And that broad inability to see him as anything other than the Bambino's boy is how we got to the Academy for Scientific Investigative Training one day last month.
In 1973, you see, Rizzo’s father, then mayor, famously took — and failed — a polygraph test. Democratic consultant Neil Oxman, for one, would like to see his son take one too. Oxman, one of this city's many Franny Rizzo skeptics, believes Rizzo's being used as a front candidate by an old political ally of his father's. So Oxman challenged him to prove the legitimacy of his campaign by taking his own lie-detector test, wagering $10,000 that he’d fail. Rizzo, in a surprise move, accepted the challenge: “One thing I’ll tell you, I don’t lie,” he said. “I would love to take $10,000 of Neil Oxman’s money.”
The opening scene at ASIT continues: The polygraph is being administered by Nathan Gordon, a solidly built man of impassive temperament and sterling reputation. Before beginning his examination, Gordon walks into the little room, sits down at a desk next to Franny’s chair, and asks him to close his eyes. Franny, sitting perfectly still, closes his eyes.
“Is today Sunday?” Gordon asks. “No,” Franny says. Today is Friday.
One for one.
To read the rest of the piece — polygraph results guaranteed! — pick up a copy of the June Philadelphia magazine. Comments on this post are closed to thwart spoilers.