BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon had to change his script at the last minute when he drove over the Veterans Memorial Bridge yesterday morning for the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.
“I guess we’ll have to cancel plans to allow Salem seniors to come over to the Beverly Senior Center,” he told a standing-room-only crowd at state Rep. John Keenan’s green-tie event at Finz restaurant.
Hours earlier, the Salem City Council, following weeks of controversy, had taken a dramatic vote to fund a new senior center at Boston and Bridge streets.
There was a lot of topical humor — or attempts at humor — at an event that drew Gov. Deval Patrick; Congressman Stephen Lynch, a candidate to fill John Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat; and state Treasurer Steve Grossman, a likely candidate for governor.
Even newly elected Pope Francis was on the menu.
“The cardinals actually picked a pope quicker than the (Salem) City Council picked a replacement for Councilor Lovely,” Keenan quipped.
It was a reference, of course, to the council needing more than 300 ballots in January to fill a vacancy created when Joan Lovely was elected to the state Senate.
Lynn state Rep. Steve Walsh got some laughs when he said he followed this week’s papal conclave from start to finish and was shocked, after the first day of voting, to see Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll emerge from the Sistine Chapel.
“This woman will run for anything,” Walsh said.
“On day two, I was even more surprised to see Steve Grossman come out.”
When it was her turn to speak, Driscoll fired back at Walsh, the father of four young children, all preschoolers.
“Do they not have cable in Lynn?” she asked.
Keenan also took a shot at Walsh, presenting him with the book “Sex for Dummies.”
“It was embarrassing buying that book,” Keenan confessed.
The breakfast host, not known for his Irish wit, got a big laugh when he took a friendly shot at Peabody’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, presenting a jar of a green tobacco-like substance to state Rep. Ted Speliotis, who represents part of Peabody.
“This is actually parsley,” Keenan said, “although it may prove positive in one of our (state) labs.”
Beverly state Rep. Jerry Parisella offered his own version of an Irish blessing.
“May the road rise to meet you,” he told the largely Salem crowd, “although it took the state five years to complete the Bridge Street project.”
He directed the end of the blessing directly at Keenan: “May God hold you in the hollow of his hand and may you always turn in enough signatures,” a reference to Keenan’s most embarrassing moment in office, when he failed in 2010 to turn in enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Just before leaving, Lynch managed to take a swipe at the entire crowd when he recalled words of wisdom from his grandfather.
“He said St. Patrick’s Day should be spent in the company of saints and scholars — so, obviously, I have two more stops to make.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.