Skip to content

Bill Delahunt and his part in a legendary Capitol Hill crash pad quartet

Massachusetts Democrat’s bunking up led to domestic comedy amid the politics

Rep. Bill Delahunt pauses to consult notes as he questions witnesses during a 1998 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment charges against President Bill Clinton.
Rep. Bill Delahunt pauses to consult notes as he questions witnesses during a 1998 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment charges against President Bill Clinton. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call)

When former Rep. Bill Delahunt died last month, my first thought wasn’t his longtime public service that took him from the Quincy City Council to the Massachusetts House to seven terms in Congress, nor his closeness to the Kennedys, nor his acumen for international affairs. It was underwear.

That’s what happens when you are immortalized as one of the roommates in a slovenly congressional crash pad, a kind of real-life version of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” — except times two and everyone is Oscar, not Felix.

For years, Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat, shared a row house with its owner, former Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and two Senate Democrats who are now the top leaders in that chamber: Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. As depicted epically in January 2007 by Mark Leibovich, then at The New York Times, Delahunt “is the least prominent of the four but perhaps the funniest. More to the point, he is the only one willing to sleep in the living room with a close-up view of Mr. Schumer slumbering a few feet away in his boxers.”

Leibovich went on about underwear: “The four men were once host to a fund-raiser for Senator Barbara Boxer of California at their divey dwelling, raising $80,000. Given the prevailing attire in the place on many nights, guests were given pairs of custom-made ‘Barbara Boxer shorts.’”

Other outlets took notice, with ABC News boasting a couple of months later that it was landing the first cameras inside Miller’s abode to document what Durbin called the “filth and squalor” of the Capitol Hill “Animal House.” And there it was again, in the opening line of the network’s piece: “A pair of white jockey underwear sits on a bookshelf in the living room.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy talks with Rep. William Delahunt during the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama on the West Front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

The legend of the house grew, even past Delahunt’s retirement after the 2010 election. A comedy television series in 2013 on what was then a nascent Amazon Prime, “Alpha House,” might have borrowed some elements from the Miller house (as well as a more infamous, different row house on C Street that was connected to some GOP scandals). Miller retired after the 2014 election and eventually sold the house. Delahunt moved back to Quincy. Schumer and Durbin moved on.

At his funeral service on Saturday, Leibovich’s long-ago observation about Delahunt’s humor seemed to ring true. “Even in death, former Democratic congressman William D. Delahunt made a crowd laugh,” the Boston Globe reported.

According to the Globe, the Rev. Jack Ahern told the mourners about a conversation he had with Delahunt shortly before the congressman died on March 30 at the age of 82. The priest told him about a myth that those who die on Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, get a Jesus-led escort into heaven.

“It’s a free pass,” Ahern said he told Delahunt, adding that Delahunt replied, “I’ll take the free pass,” the Globe recounted.

With a sense of humor like that, maybe Delahunt is OK with being remembered for the underwear too.

Recent Stories

Latest Biden, Harris pitch to Black voters slams Trump in crucial battleground

House Ethics forms subpanel to probe Cuellar’s alleged bribery scheme

Alito rejects requests to step aside from Trump-related cases

Capitol Ink | Aerial assault

Auto parts suppliers fear a crash with shift to EVs

As summer interns descend on the Hill, this resource office is ready