September 2016 Irish American News Column

Mary Corcoran with 3 of her grand daughters on The Skinny & Houli Show.

Mary Corcoran with 3 of her grand daughters on The Skinny & Houli Show.

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

My pal Skinny Sheahan mocks me on the radio by telling folks “Houli has become a PI, a professional Irishman.”

But, I feel no shame in loving Ireland, the land of my ancestors, and I’m mighty proud to have founded Hibernian Transmedia NFP with my family, to promote and preserve Irish and Irish American culture. We’re currently producing three weekly Irish American radio programs, one of which stars Skinny on the air every week smooching Democrats butts.

Add to that a dozen or so projects in the works with Irish American film, music, and literature and I’m happy to have eejits like Skinny calling me a “PI” while scoffing at my endeavors, although I prefer the term “cultural warrior”.

I’ve certainly paid my dues over the last 40 odd years working with “American culture’’ until I finally decided that most modern American culture is crap, notwithstanding stellar talents like Kanye West and Miley Cyrus.

Irish culture saved me.

I think that’s because Irish culture is as old as the earth itself. Sure America has an interesting history, but Ireland is forever. And exploring our Irish culture is a never ending adventure when we can dive into recent stories like the Easter rebellion or go deep with stuff like St. Patrick’s dialogue in “The Wanderings of Oisin”.

Hibernian Transmedia is also involved with bringing Irish and Irish American filmmakers to Chicago with our 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley, running at the Siskel Film Center September 30th through October 2nd.

I’ve said before how visiting Ireland is a “preview of heaven” and you all have an opportunity to see Ireland as never before when Fís na Fuiseoige or The Lark’s View, makes its Chicago premiere at the 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley on Sunday October 2nd at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The film was shot extensively with drones across all four provinces and seasons in Ireland, and it marries the otherworldly Irish landscape with some of her greatest living poets speaking Irish.

And I say “her” because as we all know, Ireland is actually Kathleen Ni Houlihan.

Here’s what Film Ireland had to say: Fís na Fuiseoige, the directorial debut by west Kerry man Aodh Ó Coileáin brings to the fore the voluptuousness of the Irish language in both the history it carries, its connection to place and the differing understandings of life that it carries… Using the ever increasing quality of drone technology, Ó Coileáin offers us a slow contemplative picture of the Irish landscape seldom captured so evocatively before. With such stunning aerial cinematography, the timelessness of the Irish landscape is evoked as the camera reflects over places as diverse as the Iveragh Peninsula, the Donegal Gaeltacht, Glendalough amongst others. In each of these various locations, a contributor guides us through the connection of the strong links between the Irish language and place, a connection so strong that in ancient Ireland it even inspired its own literary tradition, ‘dinnseanchas’.

This literary tradition still exists on the fringes of Irish literary life as highlighted by the contributions by the Irish language poets in this documentary, who continue to pursue a knowledge of the land’s relationship with language. In their contributions, the Irish language is associated with a reverence to place itself that pays not only homage to the land but evokes a sense of this land as being timeless, as if its history is ever recurring.

Now what about this dinnseanchas in regards to the Southside Irish? Well there’s a connection there as well. The director, Aodh Ó Coileáin, also known as “Hughie” to some members of his family, spent several months in Mt. Greenwood at his Aunt Mary’s home back in the late eighties. Hugh was even a bartender at Gaelic Park in his salad days. No doubt Hugh experienced the unique sense of being “Southside Irish” and the personalities of our streets.

We were lucky enough to have Hugh’s aunt Mary on The Skinny & Houli Show last month, and we phoned Hugh around midnight in Ireland to talk up his film. Check out the podcast from Saturday August 20, 2016 at http://skinnyhouli.com

Take the opportunity to see Fís na Fuiseoige, or “The Lark’s View” on Sunday October 2nd at the Siskel Film Center. And you can meet Hughie there as well, he’s coming to Chicago with his wife and kids and after a weekend as a guest at the Hilton, they are all headed to Aunt Mary’s in Mt. Greenwood to get reacquainted with the dinnseanchas of the Southside of Chicago.

See this film, you will love it, and take the time to meet Hugh and his Aunt, Mary Corcoran, and their delightful family after the screening. Let’s all go for a pint at The Emerald Loop after the show!

Skinny’s buying!

Irish American News column September 2015

iamh_logo_72x66_pixelsHooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

Never let it be said that I don’t know how to throw a party.

Case in point-Back in the eighties I was living in New York, City visiting Chicago, and dropped by my late brother Danny’s law office. He introduced me to the office manager Monica Dwyer Fox. (She was already a fox before she married one.)

Monica looks at me incredulously and says to Dan, “This is your brother?”

Dan starts giving me the stink eye, “Yeah?”

Monica laughs and says, “I didn’t know you were related, this is the first guy I ever saw naked!”

Former seminarian Dan turned fifty shades of red and stared daggers at me.

Seems my folks were away one night back in the sixties and word around the neighborhood was that “Houli is having a party”. Monica and her girlfriends come in the front door and yours truly is streaking around the party buck-naked and no it was not my birthday. The nude hello was a little stunt, (literally,) which I used to pull in my teenage years to break the ice and loosen up the crowd sometimes at parties.

Now remember this was fifty years ago and shenanigans like that were considered just harmless hooliganism then. Today of course I’d be arrested and sent to jail much like that Duggar kid was for coppin’ a feel from his sleeping sister.

My birthday suit now is very wrinkled and quite a bit larger to accommodate the several watermelons and barrels of beer I’ve consumed over the last fifty years, so it’s probably not the best ice breaker, but lemme tell ya back when I was a teenager I was an Adonis!

Lately I’ve been forced to learn some new tricks to entertain at parties and I’m throwing a party later this month that promises to be a doozy!

It’s the First Annual Irish American Movie Hooley on September 25-26-and 27th at The Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street in Chicago. Please join us for the only Irish American film festival in the world. We’re out to discover the next John Ford, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Cagney, or john Huston.

We’ll be premiering three terrific films with Irish American themes and this is our first year so come on out to the Hooley. After each screening we’ll all be heading around the corner over to The Emerald Loop on Wabash to celebrate the “hooley”.

You can read all about the films we’ve chosen elsewhere in The Irish American News or online or at http://hiberniantransmedia.org/movie-hooley/.

Please say hello when you get to the theatre, I’ll be there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I won’t be naked and you’ll be glad I’m not!

But we’ll still have plenty of laughs.

So.

Don’t miss the Hooley!

August 2014 Column from The Irish American News

A Terrible Beauty (Áille an Uafáis) - Cmdt. Ned Daly (Owen McDonnell) prepares to shoot a British Lancer

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

 

I played Captain Brennan in Sean O’Casey’s epic play THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS back in 1977 when I was a green actor with The Syracuse Stage Theatre company.

It was an epiphany for this young Irish-American lad who knew little of the history of Ireland. My knowledge at the time was limited to “The Quiet Man” and Clancy Brothers albums that my older brothers played continuously throughout the sixties.

Brennan was a Dublin chicken butcher and Captain in the Irish Citizen Army, a zealot with fervent dreams of patriotism in the midst of the Easter uprising of 1916. I poured myself into the play and consumed research of the rebellion in songs and stories.

On opening night I asked one of the fellas to take a photo of me in our dressing room, I wore “the full uniform of the Irish Citizen Army: green suit; slouch green hat caught up at one side by a small Red Hand badge; Sam Browne belt, with a revolver in the holster.” I sent the photograph to my mother back home in Chicago.

I had a vague remembrance of mom telling me about her father, my grandfather, Denis Cusack, (long dead before my birth but born in Ireland in 1869), and his being a staunch IRA man. My mother’s emotional response to the photo stoked my feverish performance of Captain Brennan and my rousing embrace of Irish nationalism. It didn’t hurt when I learned the significance of Cathleen ni Houlihan in Irish history.

I was blessed then to live in the world of O’Casey’s genius for eight shows a week as he weaved his story of the people in a 1916 Dublin tenement courageously dealing with the tragic events of Easter week.

That experience was a baptism into my life long search for my Hibernian heritage and a never-ending exploration of our culture. We’ve been blessed indeed with Irish blood, and let’s never forget that a lot of Irish blood was spilled fighting for the freedom of this island nation.

I watched a film recently that brought it all back home, “A Terrible Beauty”.

My friend Barbara Scharres at The Siskel Film Center invited me to take a look at a screener of the film, which she was considering for a September engagement at her theatre. I slid the DVD into my computer and was immediately plunged back into O’Casey’s world of THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS.

“A Terrible Beauty” is a dazzling docu-drama, which covers the six days of the Easter rebellion in 1916 Ireland through the eyes of the men and women who fought and died in that conflict. Yes, many were patriots, but others were just poor unfortunate souls caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The filmmakers, Dave Farrell and his sons Keith and Colin, are also interested in meeting folks with connections or oral history information, perhaps gleaned from relatives, on the events of that week. More info on this fascinating film and project can be found at www.1916film.com.

Please do visit the website for a look behind the scenes of “A Terrible Beauty”. As we quickly approach the centennial of the 1916 revolution, it’s good for our souls to take a look back and connect with our history and the lessons left behind for all of us. I’d love to share the experience of this film with you.

Please join us on Friday Sept. 26th at 8PM or Sunday Sept. 28th at 3PM for “A Terrible Beauty”. Like all great Irish stories you might shed a tear, share a laugh, or have your soul stirred by the spirit of our people.

Let’s show the Farrell family what a great Chicago fáilte is all about. Purchase your tickets now!  Hope to see you at The Siskel in September!

 

 7LdSy2A49c6HlrR4QgdeKR0FYFGhKnFkdHs_iRkyhmqw9uJ7CA0GbTo3L9fDBhaYdpiqhw=s85