Only a true scholar of last-hurrah politics would have fully savored the irony of a few evenings ago as John V. Kenny, the most absolute political boss east of Richard J. Daley, stood outside a Bayonne, N.J. banquet hall, deferentially awaiting the arrival of the guest of honor, Representative Cornelius E. Gallagher.
Acolytes urged "J.V.K." - the"Little Guy," as he is fondly known in Hudson County Democratic circles - to go right on in and be seated at his place on the podium. Kenny resisted. "I am with Neil," he said icily, "and I want to march in with him."
Gallagher arrived and-together with Bayonne's mayor, three treeholders, two councilmen from Bayonne and two from Elizabeththey marched into the hall to the moist-eyed applause of some 500 Gallagher admirers who had paid six dollars each to be present at this occasion. To them, he was no ordinary congressman but a big winner, a man who - until recently at least - was a hot prospect to become Speaker of the House and a potential governor of New Jersey.
Two months had passed since publication in LIFE (Aug. 9) of details of Gallagher's close ties with another local celebrity, Joseph ("Joe Bayonne") Zicarelli, one of the most important international operators in Cosa Nostra - The Mob. LIFE had said that Congressman Gallagher interceded for Zicarelli in matters involving police interference with Bayonne gambling operations; that telephone conversation between Gallagher and the gangster had been monitored by authorities; that Gallagher had used his influence on Zicarelli's behalf in matters involving business interests in the Dominican Republic and on attempts to certify an illegal cancer drug; and that federal authorities helieved a story told by a notorious Mob murderer that he, the mobster, had on Zicarelli's order removed the body of a small-time Bayonne loanshark from the basement of Gallagher's home.
These disclosures had produced an immediate and almost fratricidal disunity in Hudson County political ranks. In the transcripts of the Zicarelli-Gallagher phone calls, for example, there had been a mention by the congressman of "getting a hold of the little guy in Jersey City" and telling him to "reach out" for a police official who was getting too eager. Hudson County newspapers leaped to the assumption that Gallagher had been talking about John V. Kenny. J.V.K., reportedly furious with Gallagher, permitted his chief political aide to publicly threaten withdrawal of party support unless Gallagher immediately sued LIFE for libel.
Instead, Gallagher launched a wild, contradictory barrage of shirttails-afire statements - he didn't know Zicarelli; he'd talked with Zicarelli about getting the latter's son into medical school; Zicarelli had called him to tell him about Russian infiltration of Castro Cuba; LIFE was a malicious liar, and Hudson County Democrats who now were walking away from him were "political hypocrites."
As this issue goes to press, Congressman Gallagher has filed no legal action. But Kenny, his anger cooled and his shrewd sense of political reality apparently restored, is resolutely on record: "Gallagher's going to run, and I'm going to support him, and he's going to win."
If the Little Guy's cynical evaluation of the voters in his realm is accurate - and few of them, Democrats or Republicans, seem inclined to argue it - Cornelius Gallagher will return to Congress for another two years. His questionable record is therefore more than ever of immediate interest, and LIFE here sets down another chapter of it-in plenty of time for Representative Gallagher to respond before election.
This chapter is about Gallagher's relations with one of the slickest swindlers of the decade, Anthony De Angelis, villain of the Great Salad Oil Swindle. It was an astonishing involvement for a congressman of Gallagher's standing.