Long before we saw Rhode Island native DJ Pauly D dancing and fist-pumping on "Jersey Shore", another Ocean State resident was showcasing his moves in the media. Meet Tony Lepore, a Providence traffic cop who is a R.I. celebrity because he dances while on the job. In the middle of the street.
The legend of "The Providence Dancing Cop" dates back to the '60s. Lepore served in the Vietnam War. After returning to the United States, he joined the Providence Police Department. Fast forward to 1981, when the department moved Lepore from night duty to the day shift. The officer would take turns with two other cops directing traffic on the corner of Westminster and Dorrance Streets in downtown Providence. Lepore carried out the task in a traditional fashion, until 1984.
"I was watching 'Candid Camera' back in the '80s and I got an idea to do some dancing the next day," Lepore recalled to the Boston Globe. "But I had to watch out for my bosses; I didn't know if they were going to like it."
It didn't matter: Lepore was an instant hit with the public. "The Providence Dancing Cop" was born.
In 1988, Lepore retired with 17 years of service on the job. Then in 1992, he received a call from Mayor Buddy Cianci's office. The city wanted to gauge his interest in coming back to work for the Christmas season after the local paper ran a story about his whereabouts.
The 66-year-old is a staple in downtown Providence during this time of year. You would never know his age, though, by watching the officer dance. Lepore puts on quite the show – mimicking John Travolta's moves from "Saturday Night Fever" while signaling for cars to move and making sure no one jaywalks.
Lepore returns to patrol his corner for 10 days during the holidays. His current stretch started on Tuesday and will extend to Christmas Eve.