Don’t Get Raunered!

Stop this weasel on election day! Take a Republican ballot and vote Jeanne Ives!

Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of a firestorm and wonder which way to turn.

I’m excited about the candidacy of Jeanne Ives for Governor in the upcoming Republican primary on March 20th. She’s the only pro-life candidate in the race and is bringing a breath of honesty and grace to the millionaire pinball machine that make up our only other options. That’s why I organized a little party on March 5th at Reilly’s Daughter called “Irish for Ives”.

Last week I was invited to a luncheon at the Union League Club to meet Jeanne once again. My last visit to the Union League Club was about ten years ago when I was interviewed for membership.

I didn’t make the cut, somebody blackballed me. To quote from my book, Hooliganism: I’m not naïve enough to think I haven’t made enemies over the years. I’m an outspoken chronicler of hypocrisy and absurdity and I take pride in that. But which of my attributes can take the blame for my blackballing?

 I discussed this with my lovely wife and she reeled off a litany of my character traits that could have led to my ostracism. “Well, maybe it was because you always paid your bill late at the CAA. They could have said you’re a deadbeat…or a lush…or maybe it was… your fatness…you’re very crude…your clothes don’t fit…or the way you eat like a slob…or…” That’s quite enough, I said, I get the picture.

 Long story short, those anti-Catholic poseurs didn’t want me in their club. And yet there I was last week looking over my shoulder for those patrician fakers.

I got there early because I wanted to distribute some postcards and posters for the Irish for Ives event. At the coat check counter I encountered the same disdain as I had years earlier. “You can’t leave any literature here sir.”

I gathered up my stuff in umbrage and turned to my left to discover my old friend Rusty O’Toole checking his coat. He glanced at my posters incredulously, “Houli, are you a Republican?”

I am, and proud of it, been a Republican since 1985 when my old pal George Ryan helped me get a job after busting out in Gotham. It was easy, there was no initiation ceremony and no interview and they have never tried to blackball me like those jerks at The Union League Club.

But Rusty O’Toole was offended. If I wanted to waste another breath talking to him I would have told him how the Democratic party abandoned me when they embraced abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, transsexualism, and the suppression of Christianity in our schools, institutions, and supposedly free press.

But I really didn’t have time to debate this tool. His third cousin was once Attorney General and Rusty had been playing off that connection for over thirty years.

I asked the concierge the location of our event and headed to the elevator. Once again Rusty O’Toole approached me with his Union League pals, “What would your ancestors say if they knew you’d become a Republican?”

“Feck off!” I said, and headed for another elevator. Rusty was now playing the “Irish card”, and it really ticked me off.

What would my ancestors say? I thought about that. Well my ancestors were all Catholic when they came to this country. This was long before legalized abortion and the church has consistently denounced it as the very personification of evil. It was then, and still is considered the taking of a human life, murder.

Generations of Irish Americans have voted Democratic ever since the famine days, and when the progressive wing of the party took over in the late 1970’s, they kept right on doing it. I blame the Kennedys. Teddy sold his soul to the devil.

That night I had a dream. My great, great grandfather, Ferocious Frank O’Hooligan, from Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland, slid onto the stool next to me at the bar. He’s been in heaven for over a century and wanted to know how I was doing.

It was my connection to Frank that the Irish government considered when granting me citizenship a few years ago and I thanked him for that. His son, Frank Jr., was an Iron Worker in Chicago who fell to his death from a building in 1915, leaving my father an orphan at 11. My dad toughed it out with his two older policeman brothers, went on to great success, married my mom and fathered six sons and one girl, of which I am the youngest.

I had plenty to tell Ferocious Frank, but the words of Rusty O’Toole haunted me, “What will you say to your ancestors?”

So I ordered us both a pint and a shot of Irish whiskey and blurted it out, “Grandpa, I’ve been a Republican since 1985.”

He sipped his drink and smiled, “We don’t have politics in heaven, that’s why they call it heaven.”

I explained our “motley insurgency” to elect Jeanne Ives, and why I always take a Republican ballot by going over some of the sordid history of our country: the secularization of our society, the promotion of deviant lifestyles over the rest, the surrender to government in solving every problem, how our unions were infected with this disease and embraced it, forcing members to choose between the state or their religious beliefs, career politicians who lined their pockets while pretending to help the poor, political correctness destroying comedy for a generation, a mainstream media trying to shape the will of the American people with “fake news”, and…well you know the story.

Grandpa’s jaw was practically hitting the floor. “Rusty O’Toole, did you say? I knew his ancestors. I think somebody pissed in his gene pool! They took inbreeding to new heights. His family tree looks like a telephone pole.”

So what should I do, Grandpa?

“It’s obvious, lad. Jeanne Ives is our last chance! The only other candidates are left wing wacko billionaires! You’ve got to encourage all your friends to cross over, take a Republican ballot in the primary and vote for her before it’s too late!”

But he has tons of dough, Grandpa! He’s spreading lies about her in mailings and on TV and radio, some people are actually starting to believe Rauner’s bullshit!

Ferocious Frank O’Hooligan, drained his glass and slammed it on the bar.

“Don’t get Raunered! All he’s got is a checkbook, all Jeanne has is the truth. Who do you trust?”

And then he was gone. Maybe I can get him to show up at Reilly’s Daughter on Monday, March 5th for IRISH FOR IVES. Please join us, the craic will be mighty!

August 2016 Irish American News Column

Doctor Aidan MacCarthy from A Doctor's Sword

Doctor Aidan MacCarthy

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

 

“May you live in interesting times…” is an old apocryphal Chinese curse.

Looking around lately, you’d think we all might be on the wrong end of that curse. The world seems to be spinning faster and faster into a terrifying gyre of violence, racism, false prophets, mendacity and infanticide. And that’s just from the Democratic candidate!

But is this the end of western civilization? Or is it just the beginning of the end? The world keeps on turning and the best we can do is to hang on and pray to Almighty God for the best.

Yes, the world can be a very scary place, but it has always been so. Look back to World War II and the “greatest generation” and you wonder how they survived the horrors of that time and the emotional and physical terror of man’s inhumanity to man. What was the source of their obvious fortitude in those “interesting times?”

Faith, of course.

On Saturday night October 1st, The 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley will screen A DOCTOR’S SWORD, the terrific film about an Irish doctor who survived just about every major horror of WWII.

Dr. Aidan MacCarthy was his name and this extraordinary film will leave you emotionally spent and so very proud to be Irish.

Tara Brady of the Irish Times said about the film. “The doctor was Aidan MacCarthy, one of a family of 10 children from Castletownbere, Co Cork. From his youth, MacCarthy proved a capable fellow: a champion swimmer and the recipient of a Muster senior medal for rugby, he graduated from Clongowes, then UCC, before departing for London in search of work.

Having signed up with the Royal Air Force, he survived the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the fall of Singapore and four years in a Japanese POW camp on a diet of maggot and rice soup.

From there he was transported to Nagasaki – he was one of only 38 people out of 780 prisoners to make it after the cargo ship on which they were travelling was torpedoed – where he witnessed the atomic bombing of that city.

His efforts during World War II did not go unrecognised: he received a George Medal for pulling five men from the wreckage of an RAF bomber, an OBE and a Papal Medal. But being part of a more reticent generation, he seldom spoke of his experiences, or about the ancestral Japanese sword that still hangs in the family bar in Castletownbere

A Doctor’s Sword follows his daughter Nicola as she journeys to Japan to discover more about its original owner. It’s a tricky piece of detective work: some 60 years have elapsed since the blade came into her late father’s possession.

Director Gary Lennon makes terrific use of Aidan MacCarthy’s own testimony (recorded for an RTÉ radio documentary that aired just days after his death in 1995), archive footage and Ronan Coyle’s imaginative animation to recount the extraordinary events of the doctor’s life.

Even before the film closes in on Isao Kusuno, the 2nd lieutenant who previously owned the sword, we’re embroiled in a gripping saga, guided by Aidan MacCarthy’s calm, matter-of-fact narration; as capable as ever.”.

A DOCTOR’S SWORD was an emotional experience for me to watch and I am thrilled to be able to present this film to our audience at the Siskel Film Center on Saturday, October 1st at 8PM. The line that clinched it for me is when the BBC interviewer asks Dr. MacCarthy how he survived, “Well, it’s a combination really of my Irish Catholic heritage, my family background, and lots and lots of luck.”

Please join us in Chicago Sept. 30 through Oct. 2nd,  at The Siskel Film Center, for the 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley, where you can meet the producer Bob Jackson and other filmmakers premiering their movies that weekend.

The Second Annual Irish American Movie Hooley is sponsored by 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, The Emerald Loop, IAN, Hilton Chicago, Kitty O’Shea’s, and McCann’s Irish Oatmeal. For more information and updates about the schedule, go to moviehooley.org.

See you at the movies.

February 2016 Irish American News column

nun surprised-1

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

Frank O’Hooligan learned the “value of enemies” in a most enlightening way, when he was a fifth grader at Little Flower many years ago.

Many of you are familiar with the heroic exploits of Ferocious Frank O’Hooligan, son of Finbar Hooligan from Kilrush, County Clare. The stories of Ferocious Frank have been passed down in Southside Irish families for generations.

But a recent encounter reminded me of the lesson Frank learned in his 79th Street neighborhood oh so long ago.

Young Frankie was a tough tyke but had yet to come into his Druid powers at this age. His father Finbar feared that bestowing the magic on his son too early would foster exploitation of enchantment. Finbar instead chose to enlighten his son with the wisdom of generations of O’Hooligan giants.

Back in the old neighborhood, the O’Hooligans were generally respected but like the Montagues and Capulets, or the Hatfields and McCoys’, there had always been bad blood between the O’Hooligans and the Ztupalino family. Back in fifth grade Frankie’s mortal enemy was Zeke Ztupalino, a wiry little Italian lad who Frankie could pulverize physically but Zeke was very resourceful in pushing Frankie’s buttons.

Zeke would constantly make loud fart noises in class whenever Sister Mary Philomena had her back turned and Frankie would get blamed and dealt a crack, much to Zeke’s delight.

The O’Hooligan family was known in the parish as a cop family while most of the Ztupallino family had embraced a life of crime. Zeke’s father was the custodian for the school and moonlighted as the Alderman’s driver. His mother Sophie was very religious and did the laundry for all the nuns in the convent.

Zeke also had an older sister, Zelda, who had “blossomed early” in high school and hung out behind the bowling alley with sleazy greasers smoking cigs and igniting impure thoughts in Frankie’ O’Hooligan’s brain.

The Ztupalinos not withstanding, in fifth grade at Little Flower, Frankie O’Hooligan’s real nemesis was that nun, Sister Mary Philomena.

Her breath smelled like Auschwitz and she was a begrudger’s begrudger, seizing every opportunity to belittle and badger young Frankie O’Hooligan as he entered the cusp of puberty. His homework would be personally examined every morning by this skinny harridan as she grasped his ear with her bony fingers and befouled the air with her putrid gasps of pedagoguery.

The nasty nun was also regularly busting the chops of young Zeke Ztupalino as she made disparaging remarks about his family of “garlic chompers”. Frankie often complained to his dad about the nun and Finbar wasn’t too crazy about her either as she regularly called the house to complain about the kids. Somehow in passing young Frank had told his da how Sister Philomena also regularly tormented Zeke Ztupalino.

As Finbar imbibed from a fresh pint in the kitchen he dropped this pearl of wisdom on his son Frank’s ears, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

With those words in the back of his head, Frankie remarked to Zeke the next day, “Don’tcha just hate that witch Philomena? What would you like to do to her?”

Without missing a beat Zeke confessed to Frankie, “I’d like to put a tarantula in her underwear!”

Frankie said, “I don’t know where to get a tarantula…but my old man has this powder from the farm inIreland that made our dog spend almost the whole day trying to bite off his red thing. We finally had to hose him off behind the house.”

Zeke’s eyes widened. A plot was hatched, the powder delivered, and applied to the pair of panties with Sister Philomena’s name sewn into them in the nuns’ clean laundry basket in Ztupalino’s basement.

The lads became the most attentive students in the class on Monday as they watched the nun and waited.

Sister had been playing volleyball with the girls at recess when she returned to the classroom looking flushed. Frankie and Zeke studied her face while the kids read aloud from their geography books.

Philomena slowly began to squirm in her seat and a small drop of sweat appeared just below her wimple and danced its way down her skeletal face. A faint smile crossed her lips which leisurely gave way to befuddlement and finally a look of complete horror as she rose from her chair and started doing a quick time jig. Before you knew it Philomena was on her feet shimmying in front of her desk as the kids burst out laughing. She started moaning and then shrieking and then raced out of the room, running down the hall screaming.

They never saw her again. A substitute teacher arrived the following day and finished the school year and the kids loved her.

Frankie overheard his mother talking to his da in the kitchen. “Didja hear about that poor nun Sister Philomena over at the school? They’re sayin’ she couldn’t handle the children and had a nervous breakdown!”

Finbar remarked, “Ah sure that wan was wrapped too tight altogether anyway, right Frankie?”

Frankie winked at his da, “Sure she woulda made a great dancer!”

Wisdom had been passed on, the value of enemies.

January 2016 Irish American News Column

lipstick-on-a-pig-2a

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

I’ve nominated myself for the Irish American Hall of Fame several times over the last five or six years, but they never call me.

Bob McNamara put me on the nominating committee years ago and I figured that’s the only way I’d get invited is to keep throwing my name in the ring. The Awards dinner is mucho expensive so I’ve never been to that.

But today I’ve decided I no longer want anything to do with this dog show.

I got my nomination form via email yesterday and I was looking over the candidates and could easily understand why I never got the nod, what with Spencer Tracy, Nolan Ryan, and many other illustrious luminaries in contention. Frank McCourt and Father Andrew Greely were also on the ballot and I made a mental note of avoiding those two dead fakers.

I scanned the rest of the names and was suddenly brought short and shocked by the name “Margaret Sanger”, listed under “public service”. WTF?

That’s got to be a joke I thought as I checked for her bio. Sure enough there were instructions that read, Candidate bios can be viewed by clicking the link under the category name on the ballet form.” (sic)

I clicked the link under the ballot thinking maybe this Margaret Sanger was a ballerina, not the she-devil who founded Planned Parenthood.

But nope, there she was with lots of platitudes in her bio about “women’s rights” but nothing about her role as probably the most malicious and immoral woman in civilized history.

You won’t find it in her “Irish American Hall of Fame” bio but Margaret Sanger was the patron saint of eugenics and a fierce advocate for the murder of babies. Back in the twenties, the lovely Margaret famously said, “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

Isn’t that nice? Sure, let’s put her in the Hall of Fame.

Referring to immigrants, blacks, and poor people, Margaret called them, “human weeds,’ ‘reckless breeders,’ ‘spawning… human beings who never should have been born.”

Sanger shaped the eugenics movement in America and beyond in the 1930s and 1940s. Her views and those of her peers in the movement contributed to compulsory sterilization laws in 30 U.S. states that resulted in more than 60,000 sterilizations of vulnerable people, including people she considered “feeble-minded,” “idiots” and “morons.”

You can do your own research on this malevolent witch but I’m thinking the real “morons” are the folks at the Irish American Hall of Fame who nominated Margaret Sanger.

Here’s one more little bon mot, just for all our Irish American Catholics who might consider honoring Margaret Sanger at their annual Hall of Fame dinner. Sanger said, “THE MOST serious evil of our times is that of encouraging the bringing into the world of large families. The most immoral practice of the day is breeding too many children.”

It seems to me that somebody at the Irish American Hall of Fame has an “agenda” they’d like to advance through this organization. Honoring Irish Americans who have made great contributions to our society is laudable, but honoring those who have worked to destroy our traditional Catholic values seems specious at best.

It’s particularly alarming with the recent release of a series of undercover videos capturing Planned Parenthood officials gleefully discussing the wholesale merchandising of baby body parts recovered from their busy abortion mills.

Maybe they’ll be serving those for dessert at the Hall of Fame dinner. Your $200 per plate dinner offers you cocktails of baby’s blood on the rocks with baby brains h’ordeuvres, served on golden trays delivered to your table by effeminate Irish waiters wearing green ass-less chaps. Won’t that be a fitting tribute to Hall of Famer Margaret Sanger?

Evidently Ms. Sanger won’t even be sending in a videotaped acceptance speech for the dinner because she’s going to be very busy that weekend in hell.

I understand that next year’s Hall of Fame could be nominating Richard Speck, (or as his Irish ancestors knew him, Richard O’Speck), for his contribution to helping nurses back in the sixties.

Happy New Year everybody!

December 2015 column from The Irish American News

Willie Quinn, Houli, Abigail, Dennis Kearns, and Mary Quinn in Inishcuttle, Kilmeena, County Mayo, IRE

Willie Quinn, Houli, Abigail, Dennis Kearns, and Mary Quinn in Inishcuttle, Kilmeena, County Mayo, IRE

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

The spirit speaks louder in Ireland.

Every trip to Eire reminds me that the spirits are leading me back. Like embracing a woman who tells you, yes, you are loved and cared for and all will be well. Kathleen ni’ Houlihan is her name and we’ve been carrying on this mad affair for the last 67 years but it’s just started to get passionate in the last half dozen.

I reported for this year’s “Druid’s Call” at O’Hare on October 1st. My brother on this journey was my old pal Dennis A. Kearns, both of us wisecracking our way through life since first grade when Sister Therese Marie went batshit on him as he stood at the blackboard and pissed his pants, green corduroys if memory serves me right. I’d witnessed Dennis’s aplomb and subversive humor during this horrifying experience and we’ve been pals ever since, meeting at least annually to compare notes on the comic absurdity of getting older.

We’ve danced with the spirits of this island before and we did it again this October.

We were in search of the usual: the Celtic connection that can strike like a thunderbolt or ease onto you like a favorite blanket.

We prepared for our séance with plenty of drinking, on the plane, on the train from Dublin to Galway and then in Headford in the home of our Irish cousins, Mike Monaghan and his wife Cindy. Mike and Cindy and their son Kevin, and Mike’s brother Joe entertained us as we adjusted to being “home.”

We went on a piss-up through the pubs of Headford and traded crummy jokes all along the way. Theirs were better. “Didja hear about the midget who got married? The lads had to put him up to it!”

On Sunday Padraic Walsh drove us to the Ballynahinch Castle in Connemara. Walking through the woods by the castle at dusk, we met an Irish lady, Mary Rooney, who had been visiting the Castle with her husband every October for the last 26 years. She was beguiling. As we parted ways with her we suddenly heard the sound of a tin whistle in the midst of this forest. I’d been talking to Dennis about my late brother Danny, who had died just a couple years back as we came upon the guy playing the whistle. His tune was crystal clear and the melody wafted through the gentle wind over the salmon stream. He was mythological in his look and we complimented him on the music.

“Oh, I’m just practicing. “

Well keep it up, you sound great!

We walked down towards the stream in search of the Salmon of Wisdom and Puck started playing again. I know that song! I know that melody! What is it? Danny Boy!

I turned to Denny, “Do you hear what he’s playing?”

The thunderbolt!

I felt the spirit and my heart leapt. My brother Danny was suddenly there with us in Ireland. Just saying hello.

The next morning my old friend Michael Quinlan picked us up at the castle for a trip to Mayo. We were on a mission to discover whatever we could about James Ambrose Kearns, Denny’s grandfather who had left Ireland for Chicago and would later become Alderman of one of the Southside wards. In Chicago he was known as “Weeping Jim Kearns” because he made a habit of attending every wake in his ward.

All we had to go on was his birth certificate from 1871. Weeping Jim had emigrated to Chicago when he was about 9 years old, with his mother Catherine Quinn and his father James Kearns Sr. The birth certificate gave Kilmeena, Inishscuttle, County Mayo as his birthplace.

We knew Kilmeena was just outside Westport so we just started driving around looking for it and finally found a little road that we followed and discovered the tiny town. We found the church, St. Brendan’s, where Weeping Jim had been baptized and sent Dennis in to say a prayer for his grandfather.

School was just getting out next-door and mothers were arriving to pick up their kids. We chatted with a few ladies who asked what we were up to and we told them the story of Weeping Jim Kearns.

“And what was his mother’s name?”

Catherine Quinn.

“Sure Willie Quinn is just above there in his car, picking up his grand daughter.”

The lightening bolt again!

Denny and I walked over to Willie’s car and knocked on the window. Willie had just undergone surgery and chemo for tongue cancer and I thought he had the thickest brogue I’d ever heard until he explained his trouble speaking. His granddaughter Abigail arrived, the sweetest child with red hair and freckles about nine years old. Willie turned out to be one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met. He explained that “Inishscuttle” is the island where he was born and said he would take us there. He got in his car and said, “Follow me!”

And so we did, and Willie took us into his home and we met his wife Mary and he broke out the whiskey for a toast with his long lost cousin Dennis Kearns from Austin, Texas by way of Chicago.

As Willie passed the bottle around he said, “God bless the givers and the willing takers!”

We all felt the spirit of Weeping Jim Kearns right there in Willie’s home and now it was Dennis’ turn to weep as his emotions took over and he proclaimed his everlasting gratitude for his ancestors and their Catholic faith.

The spirit speaks louder in Ireland.

Irish American News Column April 2015

Chuy St. RitaHooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

After watching the mayoral race for the last six weeks, I wish St. Patrick could jump forward in a time machine and rid us of the reptiles in Chicago politics.

He wasn’t the most articulate dude in the bunch, but I think Dr. Willie Wilson got it right when he called an opponent, “an old snake in a new skin.”

On Tuesday April 7th Chicago will make a decision between the “devil we know” and Jesus Chuy Garcia.

How do you feel after four years of watching a generation of young black men murder each other, as well as innocent kids, just standing on the corner? How do you feel about the school closings and teacher strikes and crooked crime stats? Rigged red light cameras and soaring water bills?

Do you think it’s going to get any better? Are you scared? You should be.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.”

Maybe it’s time to saddle up, like the Saint Patrick’s battalion in the Mexican American War of 1846-48, Los San Patricios. They were mostly Irishmen who had fled the famine in Ireland, came to America and suffered anti-Catholic bigotry in the US Army. They heard the bells of the Angelus calling them to fight for Mexico and they defected. They heard the words of their leader, John Riley, when he told them, “A more hospitable and friendly people than the Mexican there exists not on the face of the earth…especially to an Irishman.”

I met Chuy Garcia on Super Bowl Sunday as he hit fourteen bars in a record-breaking blizzard, campaigning up and down Western Avenue. He proudly wore his St. Rita Mustang hoodie and wherever we went Chicago Irish men and women warmly welcomed him.

I’m a pretty good judge of character. I can spot a phony at fifty yards and my BS detector is a finely tuned instrument of discernment. This guy is an honest and honorable hombre.

Chuy wants what’s best for Chicago, not the ruling class.

Skeptics may scoff but I like to think of the words of the late, great Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

History says, don’t hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that further shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracle

And cures and healing wells.

Sure it’s a long shot, but in a fight like this, my money is always gonna be on the guy named Jesus. Please vote for Chuy Garcia on Tuesday April 7th.

Irish American News column February 2015

Tom Fitzgibbon
Hooliganism

by

Mike Houlihan

I thought he was a gangster when I first met him. It was back in the eighties one night at Lino’s on Ontario Street after a long night of drinking. Tom Fitzgibbon sat at the bar with his French cuffs and moustache and bought me a drink. He had a heavy New York accent and I had just moved back to Chicago from New York after twelve years of trodding the boards on Broadway.

We started shooting the biscuit at the bar, talking about Gotham and proud to learn we were both Irish. Tommy Fitz offered me a ride home to Elmwood Park and I took it.

Over the years we’d bump into each other in saloons and political events. I found out he was a union big shot and he always greeted me with a grin and bought me a drink. I’m always on the lookout for philanthropists and Tom’s name went on my list as a potential patron of the arts.

And that’s way it went for the next twenty-five years. Then one afternoon I ran into Tommy at Gene & Geogetti’s and he told me, “I keep getting your notes about your productions, keep sending ‘em.”

I handed him a brochure for my film “Our Irish Cousins”, and said, “Here’s the latest!”

Two days later I got a check in the mail for several hundred bucks. I sent Tom a rough cut DVD of the film and he called me on the phone. “Your movie made me cry.”

He told me of his personal trips to Ireland and his sons asking him on the ferry crossing the Shannon River, “Why are you crying Dad?”

A couple days later I got another check, this one had a lot of zeros on it. We couldn’t have finished the film without his help so you want to keep a guy like that close.

We became good friends. He and his wife Yvonne invited me everywhere and when my new book came out last spring they bought tons of copies and gifted them to all their friends. I learned he’d had great success in his life and terrible tragedy as well. Two of his sons died of cancer in the prime of their young adult lives.

I learned he was a sentimental ol’ Irishman, just like me.

He said to me once, “You’re the only person who calls me ‘Tommy’.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that, maybe he didn’t like it, but my brother’s name was Tommy so it just felt natural for me. It was like he was my older Irish gangster brother from New Yawk.

Tommy died on New Year’s Day.

It wasn’t a surprise, but it was. I opened the Sun-Times and there he was in the Irish scratch sheet. His photo ran alongside the obit, a tough guy to the very end, God bless him.

Over the next couple days I learned of Tommy’s benevolence to all kinds of folks in need of a helping hand or encouragement. They told me, “At just the right moment he was there.”

At the wake I ran into John Doerrer. He told me years ago he was in college tending bar at Faddy and Yerkies and Tom used to hang out there. He gave him a real job working for the union and John told me stories of the good old days.

One night after midnight, way after, Tommy dragged John over to Frank O’Neill’s pub on North Avenue, pounding on the door til Frank got out of bed and got them a final drink. John had to sleep on the floor of the bar he was so tired as he listened to Tommy and Frank O’Neill talk into the morning telling tales of Irish patriots.

Father Jack Clare gave a masterful eulogy at Tommy’s funeral. He told of the family gathering round when Jack gave Fitz the last rites. Tom was semi-concious through the prayers but finally when Jack said, “I forgive you of all the sins of your entire life.” he watched Tommy come alive, stretch out his hands behind his head, lean back with a smile and say, “Wow!”

“That’s faith”, said Father Jack, “and what a wonderful gift for a priest to witness.”

Alderman Ed Burke then took the pulpit at Old St. Pat’s. He told a story of a trip he and Tom had taken to London and on a visit to “Poets Corner” in Westminster Abbey they encountered a bust of Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon and this quote,

Life is mostly froth and bubble.

Two things stand likes stone.

Kindness in another’s trouble,

Courage in your own.

Well that was Tommy Fitzgibbon in a nutshell. His obit quoted his favorite Irish aphorism, “In order to have a friend, you have to be a friend.”

My old pal Tommy Finnegan from the Shannon Rovers played the farewell tune on his bagpipes after the mass. Then I mooched a ride from him back to LaSalle Street. “At just the right moment, he was there.”

The irony of a bagpiper named Tommy at Tommy’s funeral, yeah I know, mystical.

The great ones are going fast, gang. They are the stuff of Irish legends among us.

July 2014 Column from The Irish American News

Letters from the Chapel £1Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

In your quiet moments, your interior life, when you speak to… or pray to God, what do you say?

Prayers are not always a desperate plea for help, sometimes you’re just goin’ along and thanking God while asking for all the help He is prepared to give. One doesn’t have to be desperate to plead for help. “Lord please help me Jesus.” is about as close to a mantra I’ll ever have. And I repeat that continually just looking for a parkin’ space.

As prayers go, the human race has been blessed with a whole arsenal of prayers written by Irish saints and scholars.

So I’m always on the lookout for a good prayer, most of them work. Sure you can’t beat The Memorare, but each situation seems to beg for specific prayers. Hence the football term “The Hail Mary”!

What else you gonna call it?

I stopped by a chapel recently in a former Catholic hospital in Chicagoland. My grand daughter Charlotte, the four-year-old firecracker, had broken her arm on the monkey bars and we were all gathered at the hospital to hover over the little darling. Poor kid was scared too.

Thank the good Lord that’s all it was. I thought of that as I walked to the elevators to Charlotte’s room. Nothing sadder than a sick kid. I walked down the hall and passed the chapel, peeked in the door, and thought, “quick prayer for Charlotte”, and entered.

Unfortunately the chapel was very secular, it had been scrubbed of any Catholic influence, it seemed. A cross was visible in a corner, but no crucifix, and a podium, no altar really. Anyway, it kinda gave me the creeps.

I knelt down and tossed out a few requests and some thanks as I scanned the room. There was a light shining on a book that appeared to have prayers or pleas for help written in longhand on the notebook.

I leapt from my seat and started reading the prayers. Many were about “Dad” or whoever was currently in the hospital. Families of stroke victims, children in danger, the gamut.

I felt guilty reading the personal prayers of strangers, but read them I did, voraciously!

The Prayer Requests book was on a small pedestal and was actually only a loose-leaf three-ring, binder with hundreds of unlined pages to write on. Each page had a typed quote from Jesus, like “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Folks wrote their prayer requests like they were signing Jesus’ year book, some with flowers or little happy faces and some that were…well let’s take a look, shall we? The names are pseudonyms.

“5/19/14

Heavenly Father, I am asking you to look down on Reg Murphy. Right whatever it is that he is going through, please take it away from him Lord. Show him that you are able in all things. Lord I’m just asking you to touch him, right now Holy Father, take all the evil spirits away from him now Father, Lord. Show him that I really love him Father, and I really need him. Give him one more chance Lord. Let him see all things are your willing Lord, in Jesus name Amen.”

This leap of faith, this testimony touched me. I tried to imagine what was going on with Reg. Some illness? A tumor? Or was he in the mental ward, “take all the evil spirits away”. It was a mystery.

And that’s as it should be I guess. Lord knows what the problem is with Reg. He knows everything. That makes it so much easier when praying. It’s not like you have to put things in context for God, he figured you out a long time ago. You don’t even have to name names in your prayers. He knows.

But spying on the letters in the chapel suddenly made me feel guilty when I read the note below.

“5/20/14

Lord I want a divorce! God please help me today. My husband Ike left me over three months ago after we had celebrated our one year anniversary. He is with another woman and we still married. He deserted me and is committing adultery. I want to get a divorce soon. He is smearing his dirty sin of adultery and lies in my face daily.”

And then she signed it, Hillary Clinton.

Sorry couldn’t resist that joke right there folks. She did sign her name but I won’t go there.

Anyway I feel bad for that lady on 5/20/14. It seems her prayer is written as if God is gonna say, “That’s not what he told me!” And do we really have to put dates on letters to Our Lord? Hey lady, He knows what time it is.

I picked up the pen and wrote in Jesus’ yearbook.

Lord, my protector and my salvation…

I don’t have to tell you what I need….

You know my situation.

Thanks for healing Charlotte and her arm..

I pray she will never come to any more harm

Please help Mrs. Murphy and her husband Reg…

Zap his evil spirits and talk him off the ledge.

That lady asking for a divorce from her husband Ike…

Needs to understand why he took a hike.

He done her wrong and Ike’s in a heap of trouble.

Only you Lord, can patch this up with them,

so please Help them out on the double!

As for me, sure Lotto would be nice..

But I know you’ve got more challenges ahead for me…

So please just give me the strength, patience, and wisdom…

To continue to roll the dice!

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June 2014 Hooliganism Column from The Irish American News

 

Cardinal Francis George with Irish President Michael D. Higgins and First Lady Sabina Higgins

Cardinal Francis George with Irish President Michael D. Higgins and First Lady Sabina Higgins

Hooliganism

by

Mike Houlihan

Snobs have given culture a bad name.

But culture is all around us in the simplest things. The roman orator Cicero first used the term, and it meant literally, “cultivation of the soul”.

I got a good look at our culture last month. Kudos to Consul General Aidan Cronin on the way he and his office handled the visit last week of Irish President Michael D. Higgins to Chicago.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Sunday night appearance by the President at The Irish American Heritage Center as well as the reception in his honor at the Drake Hotel on Monday night.

I was excited about meeting the President but also had an ulterior motive. As a filmmaker I’ve been trying to screen my film, “OUR IRISH COUSINS” in Ireland at one of their prestigious film festivals. I’m not naïve enough to think that you just submit your film and cross your fingers. I’m from Chicago, and I know that the best way to get into the club is to have your clout put in a good word for you. It goes back to the old adage of ward politics when precinct captains instructed those looking for a city job, “We don’t want nobody, nobody sent!”

So I’ve been soliciting my friends in Ireland to help me lobby for the film. The film has a strong message for the Diaspora to “come home” to Ireland and will increase tourism to the Emerald Isle. And I’ve got the reviews and newspaper clippings to prove it. An Irish premiere would raise the profile of “OUR IRISH COUSINS” considerably for the good of dear aul’ Ireland.

So who better to lobby for “OUR IRISH COUSINS” than the President of Ireland himself, Michael D. Higgins? I put together a plan to get the film into his hands while he was in Chicago last month.

My welcoming gift to Chicago for Michael D. included a DVD of the film with press clips and a letter entreating him, I’m asking you, Mr. President, to be our champion. Please join me in calling the Diaspora home to Ireland. And come home they will, to stimulate Irish tourism and ultimately benefit Kathleen Ni Houlihan.

I brought my welcoming gift with me on Sunday night to the Heritage Center. It was sold out and expectation was in the air as I grabbed a seat and tried to figure out how I was going to get the package into the President’s hands.

Musicians gathered on the stage and the Heritage Center choir sang in Irish from the balcony before he made his appearance. A nice touch I thought as I sat back and continued plotting my delivery. Then a group of young Irish dancers took the stage, and put on a rousing performance. The Trinity Irish Dancers had just returned from the World Irish Dance Championships with a gold medal. They were terrific and put on a hard shoe routine that rivaled Flatley’s best and I suddenly felt myself brimming over with pride for these Chicago kids showing the President of Ireland their moves.

When the President finally spoke he talked of Irish and Irish-American culture and how it unites us all. I’m paraphrasing but what hit home for me was when he said culture was a living, breathing thing, constantly changing and morphing into an ever evolving celebration of the society that creates it. And right there, at that moment I could feel it. We were all a part of it, our Irish culture: mystical, spiritual, and enveloping us all in the love we share in our communal heritage.

President Higgins liberated Irish culture for me that night and reminded all of us that it starts in the heart of our very being and should be celebrated with song, dance, laughter and conversation. It’s the craic!

A great thirst came upon me then and I left my seat to find refreshment and maybe a way backstage to deliver my gift. I roamed the hall of the IAHC and saw security everywhere and then happened upon a friendly face, Consul General Aidan Cronin himself. I’m sure he was slightly busy at that moment but I asked him anyway, “How can I get this into the President’s hands?”

Leave it with me; I’ll see that he gets it.

Jackpot! Now I could relax and have a pint.

Not taking anything to chance I put together an exact replica of the welcoming gift on Monday night for the reception at the Drake. It’s not that I doubted Aidan but I wanted to put my film directly in Michael D’s hands myself if the opportunity presented itself.

And it did.

I met my pal Mike Joyce and his lovely wife Jamillah Ali for the reception and was immediately enveloped in more Irish culture, Chicago style. One after another I happily engaged with friends in the community who have helped me over the years, all gathered in the ballroom of the Drake. I got in the receiving line and met the President and his wife Sabina and put my gift in his hands! Cliff Carlson took a picture!

Later on I watched Cardinal Francis George make his way up to the line to shake the hand of Michael D. Here’s a guy who is undergoing chemo and is no doubt in terrible pain but made a special visit to meet the President of Ireland that night, to take part in our Irish culture.

“Cultivation of the soul”, indeed!

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June 2013 Hooliganism–The Irish American News

Unfortunately he's having a good year.

Unfortunately he’s having a good year.

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

On special assignment for the Irish American News I recently visited the devil.

It was hard to nail him down for an interview, the guy is as slippery as an eel, an electric feckin’ eel!

I was ushered to his suite by a short German guy with a Hitler moustache. Hey wait a minute! That was Hitler!

As I followed Adolph down the hall, I mused to myself, “Wow, Hitler is the butler in hell. He deserves something worse than that. How bad could it be, being the butler in hell?”

Just then a large naked Jewish lady stepped out of the shadows and slapped Hitler in the face with a very wet used diaper she had been wearing.

Old Adolph just took it in stride, pushed back by the force of the gooey diaper, but then just wiped some mocha slime from above his moustache and said, “Thank you Mrs. Finkelstein!”

He smiled at me as he softly vomited into his mouth and put his hand on the knob to the devil’s door. “His Excellency will see you now.”

I sneered at Der Fuehrer, “I hope Mrs. Finkelstein does that to you a lot.”

He clicked his heels, “She does, every one hundred and ninety-six seconds…or so.”

As the door closed behind me, a double batch of Depends slammed into his kisser.

I looked about the sumptuous room with a spotless onyx desk with little beams of light occasionally blinking thru the cracks.  You could hear the soft murmur of sinners trapped inside that desk. The huge panoramic window looked out on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I wondered why Beelzebub had chosen this view and then I heard a dark voice behind me.

“Futures clients.”

Old Scratch picked up the remote and started clicking around the world via the window to Vegas, Kuala Lumpur, Amsterdam, and Chicago; scenes of avarice, lust, and homicide in all his favorite places.

“Have a drink, Houli. I’ve got some Irish Whiskey or some Guinness, whatever you like.”

I was apprehensive, I’ve been slipped a Mickey before and if anybody was gonna do it, it would be this sick creep.

I think I’ll just stick to this bottle of water I brought with me, if you don’t mind, Lucifer.

“Please, call me Lou.”

Let’s not get too chummy; I’m here for your story, not to go dancing with you.

“We’re very patient down here Houls, we want to make you a future client.”

I whipped out my reporter notebook; glad that I brought the water because it was starting to feel really warm down here.

Okay, I guess most of us already know how you got started in the evil business, and how St. Michael kicked your ass down here for eternity.

“Well, of course that’s exactly the narrative that the haters, racists and bigots want you to believe. I think the truth lies a bit further down the road.”

Yeah sure Lou, right down the ol’ Hershey highway.

“You’re boring me…so what’s this interview all about, what’s your angle? Who do you write for again?”

The Irish American News

He laughed as he drained his drink- Baby’s Blood on the rocks. “Oh we’ve got plenty of your Irish cousins down here, don’t you worry about that.”

He picked up the remote and on the screen was the village of Moneygall when the President visited the town of his Irish roots.

“You know how you love watching ‘The Quiet Man”, Houli? Well this is my Quiet Man.

Whaddya mean?

“Barak, Barry, my man, the best client I’ve got. Evil Inc. is booming, thanks to him. Millions of babies murdered, Benghazi, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the IRS scandals, and spying on the AP reporters. He’s made evil cool again! This kid is the best thing that’s happened to me since Stalin.”

Yeah, maybe it’s time you slowed down, cuz right now it looks like the world is goin’ to hell.

“Well, duh! It’s only taken me two thousand years.”

Don’t count your chickens, Lou.

“Oh yeah? Watch me dismantle the Catholic Church over the next couple decades. And all it took was Obamacare and a couple dozen pedophile priests. Ireland is ready to legalize abortion, they are toast!”

I stood up, backtracked toward the door, and opened my water bottle; it was really getting hot down there.

“Come on Houls, it’s only your soul. I can have Lindsay Lohan here in five minutes!”

He picked up the remote and suddenly the picture got fuzzy and the sound went blippo screeching so loud the devil put his hands over his pointed ears.

What the hell is that?

“Damn, somebody is jamming my connection with prayers.”

Don’t you get it, devil boy. The tide is turning. The media is turning on your buddy Barry.  Even the mopes at MSNBC are having second thoughts, including moral zombies like Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris “The Tingler” Mathews.

I took a swig from my water bottle, flung open the door, and discovered Hitler over Mrs. Finkelstein’s knee as she spanked him. The devil was pissed now.

“You’re not going anywhere!”

I spit a mouthful of the water in his face.

“Ahhhh that’s holy water!”

That’s right Lou, adios sucker!

I leapt over Hitler and ran down the hallway and made it outta there just in time.  Something tells me it’s gonna be a very hot summer.