Irish American News Letter to The Editor July 2019.

Dear Editor:

Have to tell you how shocked I was to see your “We Get Letters” section on page 3 of the recent June issue of the Irish American News. The writer, Judy Deever, applauded the IAN and the Irish American Hall of Fame committee for their fairness and good sense, but then went out of her way to trash myself and a couple of other columnists with this bon mot, “Sure, writers like Boyle, Brady and Houli are not always pleasant reading….”

Judy…Judy…Judy! While I’m flattered to be included in their company, Judy, it appears that you haven’t been paying attention. Perhaps if you could drag yourself away from the Rachel Maddow show you would realize that I haven’t written regularly for the IAN for over three years!

While I’m proud of my twenty-year tenure as a columnist in the IAN with my “Hooliganism” column, I stopped writing it in 2016. I haven’t written for IAN since, other than occasional promo pieces on my radio shows, film festival, or trips to Ireland, which my old friend Cliff Carlson has been kind enough to run in the paper.

I’m also proud Judy, of the fact that I obviously made such a lasting impression on you that you still feel my presence three years after I’ve left.

I had a lot of fun with Hooliganism, and it spawned two published anthologies you can purchase online if you’d like to re-read my brilliant yarns Judy. But please be careful, I wouldn’t want to trigger you darling.

Actually there’s been quite a bit of conjecture in the Irish American community as to why I no longer write for the paper. So I’d like to put that to rest.

Many folks thought I was fired for my “offensive and politically incorrect” humor, but that’s nonsense of course. How can you be fired from a gig that doesn’t pay?

I will forever be grateful to Cliff Carlson for giving me an opportunity to indulge my whimsy and entertain myself and hopefully some readers from 1996-2016.

The fact is, I got busy.  In 2014 I founded a public charity dedicated to Irish and Irish American culture and found myself busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. It was tough keeping up with all that culture.

That’s also about the time I became aware of a disease in our culture: misandry. This disease manifests itself in a nihilistic, secular world view, hell bent on destroying the sacred, the spiritual, and even the silly. They want to take the magic away. And much of the laughter as well. They just can’t understand normal thinking!

We know these people as “Houli-haters”, and they’ve followed me throughout my career, casting aspersions and contempt in my wake. Rather than suffer their slings and arrows I chose to walk away, but still you haunt me, don’t you Judy Deever.

My cousin Meghan modeling her new “Houli-Hater” t-shirt.

So here’s my olive branch. My good friend Brian Harms recently designed a terrific new t-shirt specifically for all you Houli-haters out there. You can buy them online at brianharms.threadless.com Go the site, click mens or womens t-shirts, pick your color and size and you’re in business, Judy!

Here’s a photo of my cousin Meghan, modeling her shirt, which she just loves. And yes, ladies, we do carry the Houli-Hater t-shirts in Triple XXXL sizes for all you full figured gals! Order your shirts in pink to match your pussy hats!

Mike Houlihan

Chairman

Hibernian Media NFP

 

Tony Golden:Good Company

Tony Golden

What was the name of the Green Bay Packer running back that Chicago Bear George Connor creamed in Wrigley Field on a cold and grey Sunday in November of 1955?  Connor broke up the Packers flying wedge on a kickoff return and knocked that Packer into next week. They called it the “hit heard round the world”.  Who was that guy that George Connor knocked out?

That’s the kind of question that only Tony Golden could answer. He had an encyclopedic memory for sports trivia and other arcane Chicago folklore. As the Irish say, “He’s the kind of man you don’t meet every day.”

Houli, Tony Golden, Ed Kelly, and Charie Carey at Gene & Georgetti after lunch.

Tony and I and Charlie Carey and a rotating group of characters regularly hung out after lunch at Gene & Georgetti’s. Tony would regale us with long ago exploits of gridiron greatness, debauchery, and bravery in battle. He could make you laugh and make you cry.

Anthony, “Tony” Golden died last week at the age of 90 surrounded by his wife Kay, and sons Kevin, Terry, and Tim. He’d received the last rites from Father Tom Hurley and was ready to pack it in. He lived every minute of those ninety years to the hilt, defiantly and with gusto.

He was born a policeman’s son on the south side of Chicago in 1929. His parents had both emigrated from Swinford, County Mayo Ireland and young Tony attended St. Justin grammar school and Harper HS, graduating in 1947, before playing football at Butler University. He got into the construction business, building homes and remodeling for about thirty years before setting up his own specialty promotional business, Golden Incentives.

He met his wife Kay at “The Store” down on Rush Street. Her father, an Irish patriot also from Mayo, had opened a tavern on Diversey just off Halsted. She was every Irishman’s dream, a pretty gal whose dad owned a saloon.

Kay and Tony got married in 1965, 54 years ago.

A legendary sportsman, Tony was the first race director of the Chicago Marathon, founded by his good friend Lee Flaherty. Tony ran over 42 marathons, including Chicago, Boston, and New York on several occasions. He told me    he and Notre Dame great Buddy Ruel had hopped in a taxi after the Boston race and Buddy got into it with a huge Italian cab driver after making a crack about his ancestry. Tony held the door while Buddy cleaned the cabbie’s clock.

In 1969 Tony and Mike Lind commandeered a horse named “Lady” and her carriage, from in front of a Rush Street tavern around 4AM and trotted over to Buckingham Fountain for a nightcap with “Lady”, while cops issued an all-points bulletin for the horse thieves. It was in all the papers the next day, but the lads were never caught.

Tony and his pal, Bogie the cop, had been entertaining Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle one night and the Mick wanted to drive Bogie’s squad car, which he did while speeding down a Chicago expressway with sirens blaring.

Tony finally quit the booze and hadn’t had a drop for over 40 years when he died. But he still loved to tell his stories and we relished listening, with names and dates he never forgot.

He took me under his wing over twenty years ago and introduced me to many Chicago legends, guys like Committeeman Ed Kelly of the Fighting 47th Ward and General Superintendent of The Chicago Park District. Ed ran his annual “Giant Awards” dinner at the White Eagle on Milwaukee Avenue and Tony always held a seat for freeloaders like me at his table. He helped found the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame with his childhood pal George Connor.

When I was shooting my film “Tapioca” in 2006, I played a sleazy used car salesman and we needed a little old lady to play the foil in the opening scene. Tony recruited his 100-year-old mother in law. I don’t think he told Mrs. Kelly what she was in for, because the look on her face when my character went off on her was priceless. I told Tony later that I might have shocked her, and he told me, “Are you kiddin’? She owned a tavern for fifty years, she’s been around the block, twice!”

Tony Golden circled that block dozens of times himself, peeling back the history of Chicago with each story. He knew all the big shoulders of this toddling town. He had an institutional memory cuz he was there.

Sure gonna miss those lunches with Tony. We’re hoping you can all make it to his final send off at Old St. Pat’s, 700 West Adams in Chicago, on Friday May 3rd, starting at 9AM, with funeral mass at 10.

And oh yeah, who was the Green Bay Packer laid out by George Connor that November day at Wrigley Field?

Charlie Carey and I were on the phone last week when we heard the news of Tony’s passing and Charlie said to me, “Man I was gonna call him this weekend, we were trying to figure out who was the guy who took “the hit heard round the world” and I couldn’t remember…. oh wait a minute, it just came to me, Veryl Switzer! Thank you Tony!”

I looked it up. Veryl Switzer admitted that when he was hit by George Connor on a kickoff return, it almost took his head off. Connor’s resounding tackle of Green Bay’s Veryl Switzer on a kick return in Wrigley Field will live forever in Bears lore. Switzer’s helmet flew one way, the ball another, and Bears linebacker Bill George recovered the fumble for a touchdown.

Thanks Tony, for the memories. Say hello to Veryl Switzer if he’s up there.

*******

No Elephants in Our Irish Pub

Katie Grennan and John Williams in OUR IRISH PUB

Paddy my bartender used to love telling the story of the guy who came to his saloon every night and cried in his beers about how much he hated his job. Finally Paddy asked him, “Well what kind of work are you in pal?” Your man explained that he’d been working in the circus for the last several years following the elephants with his shovel and bucket and cleaning up their shite. Paddy finally asked, “Well why don’t you quit?” To which your man replied, “Are you kidding? And give up show biz?”

Those who have never worked in show biz might find that hard to believe. But there is much to be said for the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd. It gets in your blood, and before you know it you’re calling it “culture”.

Defining culture has been tough for most folks over the last thousand years or so. My cultural epiphany came a few years ago at the Irish American Heritage Center listening to Irish President Michael D. Higgins give a speech before the reception.

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 music, song, dance, laughter and conversation. It’s the craic!

And what better place to celebrate our culture but in an Irish pub, with a pint in your hand and some music, singing, and even dancing to elevate our spirits?

Later this summer I’ll be shooting a special for Chicago Public Television with the very snobby title of “Our Irish Pub.”

We’ve been working on this show for the last few years, trying to get it right, and now we are right on the brink. Our host is the telegenic Irish fiddler Katie Grennan, currently on tour with the great Irish band, Gaelic Storm.

Katie takes us on a tour of three pubs to meet a variety of musicians sharing the history and music of each pub along the way. The craic will be mighty!

We’d love to have you join us on this adventure! We need our friends to help with small donations to help us reach our goal and finance the production. We’re almost there so please get on board. You can learn more about the show, watch clips and sizzle reels and get information on each of our pubs online at OUR IRISH PUB.

Please join us as together we celebrate our culture in OUR IRISH PUB.

And we promise there won’t be an elephant in sight. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

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!

Houli’s 69th Birthday!

Censored Photo of Baby Houli getting a bath!

Today is my 69th birthday! These days a proclamation like that could get me into trouble. But it’s legit, I was born on December 16, 1948.

Soixante-neuf is how it’s pronounced in French, and the mere mention of that number has triggered wry smiles and raised eyebrows going all the way back to the Kama Sutra.

But I won’t dwell on that, not much anyway. It’s just another reminder that I’m an old fart, albeit an old fart with a helluva lot of going on. I did come across that old baby picture you see above of “Baby Houli”. Yeah, that was taken when the gal next door, Fiona, used to come over and help my mom with the kids. She used to give me a lot of special attention as the youngest of the seven kids.

My brothers tell me Fiona came over a lot and that I was her favorite…especially at bath time!

But enough of that ribaldry, I’d just like to say that I’m proud of my 69 years so far, in spite of the fact that I look like Santa Claus after he shaved. I’ve been married to a saint for almost 40 years, have two great sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two rambunctious grandchildren who I love more than anything.  As a writer, actor, producer, journalist, radio personality, film festival founder, and flim-flam man I’m also doing okay with a career in show biz of almost 50 years.

Some folks say I’m shameless and it’s true. I’m a shameless self-promoter, but I’ve had to survive on my wits alone, unlike certain friends in the 19th Ward with three government pensions. You know who you are!

And while we’re on the subject of self-promotion, I feel compelled to plug my upcoming book signings of NOTHIN’S ON THE SQUARE. I’ll be at The Curragh Irish Pub this Sunday Dec. 17th from 4-7PM at 6705 N. Northwest Hwy in Edison Park, also at Fitzgerald’s Sidebar, 6615 Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn on Thursday night Dec. 21st from 9-11PM with the band “Over the Side”, and for you last minute shoppers I’ll be at Mollie’s Public House 31 Forest in Riverside on Saturday, Dec. 23rd from 4-7PM. Would love to see you all and share Christmas cheer.

Speaking of Christmas, here’s my message for all of you. The other night on the street in Berwyn, (where I am the Baron), I was stopped by a Christmas angel and she asked me for dough, but I said no.

Mike Courtney, musician and owner of The Twisted Shamrock, invited me to join him and his band for a last minute bash to sell my book and share the stage with them at Fitzgerald’s this coming week. It would be another opportunity to pick up a few bucks so I leapt at it.

So Mike and I were standing in front of my building in Berwyn, as I gave him some posters for the gig. Caught up in our animated conversation we suddenly felt the presence of another in our midst on that cold December night.

A young woman stood just a few feet from us in the night looking cold. She looked tired and scared and was bundled up in a parka and pajama bottoms. “Can I help you?”, I asked, and then she went into her pitch, just got out of the hospital, got bad news, etc. could either of us spare a couple bucks? It was a familiar spiel and at first seemed like a scam so we declined.

But as she walked away I looked at her again and remembered that it was Christmas. The blessed mother was probably just about her age on a cold December night over two thousand years ago, and had been turned away with her husband Joseph as they searched for a place to give birth to the baby Jesus. As she drifted off into the darkness I immediately regretted not helping her. Later at home in bed I was haunted by her face and wished I could take that moment back. I said a prayer for that kid and vowed to help every panhandler I saw in the future. The next day I thought of her as one after another unfortunate souls hit me up in the car at streetlights all along Ogden Avenue. I handed over plenty of cash but the image of that young lady continues to haunt me.

So let’s never forget the message of every Christmas season and the good news Jesus brought with him when he told us to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and clothe the naked.

It’s a time of rejoicing, so reach into your pocket and spread the cheer to all who need it and especially remember “Baby Houli” when you clothe the naked!

Merry Christmas everybody!

-30-

Houli’s new book is on the street!

Hi everybody, it’s been awhile since I posted anything. Actually almost a year! But now I am back! Yeah, with a vengeance, ha ha. Wanted to let everybody know my new book, NOTHIN’S ON THE SQUARE, 82 Days on the Mayoral Campaign Trail, Making History in Chicago 2015, is now out and ready to read. You can get the book on Amazon, or do yourself a favor and go to http://abbeyfealepress.com and get a signed copy shipped by priority mail to you and yours. Here’s a little teaser, from the book.

PROLOGUE

I think I was in fifth or sixth grade, like 1959, when I met Mayor Richard J. Daley. I was standing by the side door of Christ the King Catholic Church on 93rd Street between Hamilton and Hoyne on the South Side of Chicago. I was with my crew of guys, loitering outside before nine o’clock Sunday mass started, spitting hockers over the bushes, hands in pockets, being wise guys, corner boys. A black car pulled up on 93rd Street and three men got out wearing suits and hats.

We gazed at them as if they were just a couple more parents heading to mass and then we were stunned by the presence of the Mayor of Chicago. To our young eyes he might as well have been e Lord God Almighty himself in our midst.

We were frozen with fear and looked at each other with our eyes bugging out. The  Mare doffed his hat as he skipped up the three steps to the doors and one of his guys held the door for him. I blurted out, “Hey Mare, how’s it goin’?”

“Hi ya fellas.”
Huge grins broke out on our faces as we all answered Hizzoner. “Hi Mayor!”
“Hiya Mayor Daley!”
“ Thanks for coming to our parish!”
“We’re White Sox fans!”
He gave a little wave as he walked through the door and all of us started going nuts, incredulous at what had just happened on the steps of CK, our parish.

His name was revered in all our homes. Our parents loved him. And so did we. He was an Irish Catholic from the South Side of Chicago. Richard J. Daley was one of us.

I was living in New York City when he died, but my world still stopped when I heard the news.

I missed the whole Mike Bilandic tenure and the Jane Byrne circus while living on the East Coast, but heard enough about her from my brother, Danny, who was sort of in her cabinet.

I had moved back to Chicago during the reign of Mayor Harold Washington, a colorful and folksy mayor who I enjoyed watching, until he died on Thanksgiving weekend of 1987. Eugene Sawyer served a couple of unremarkable years as Mayor but he never looked the part.

Then Daley’s son Richard M. Daley was elected in 1989 and served even longer than his dad, when he retired in 2011.

Chicago always felt right for me with a Daley on the Fifth Floor. Rich Daley certainly wasn’t anything like his old man, but he was still an Irish Catholic from the South Side.

Young Daley was a modern big city mayor, for better or worse. Shakman and a shitload of other crybabies had kinked up the old school pols that used to run this city, and many of them went to jail. But word was that Daley had cut a deal and the heir apparent was a short, cocky Clintonion, who would become Chicago’s First Jewish Mayor, Rahm Emanuel

He was not one of us.

***

Okay, pick up the book if you want to read what happens next! Here’s the back cover with some blurbs.

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!

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.

July 2016 Irish American News Column

Finbar Spillane & Kevin Baggott star in BENEATH DISHEVELED STARS

Finbar Spillane & Kevin Baggott star in BENEATH DISHEVELED STARS

Hooligansim

by

Mike Houlihan

 

“When I go see a movie, I want to feel like I’m peeking through a keyhole…just gimme the truth as best you can.”

So says first generation Irish American filmmaker and writer Kevin Baggott. The disciple of the late novelist Nelson Algren, is an “enigmatic cat”, much like his dead mentor.Kevin won the “Best Actor” Award at the Winter Film Fest in NYC last February, (for “Why Do You Smell Like the Ocean?”), and he’s premiering his film BENEATH DISHEVELED STARS to kick off the 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley on Sept. 30th in Chicago.

Baggott’s unique and funny odyssey, about an Irish American guy taking his mother’s ashes back to Ireland, is a tough adventure for this Brooklyn auteur, who plays the lead as well as directing this totally original story that walks a wobbly line between melancholy and zany. Baggott’s character, Bobby, a Brooklyn tenement super, has enough trouble surviving the wacky New York characters in his life, until he gets to Ireland and encounters Irish men and women of epic personalities and things quickly escalate to a mythical stage.

Starring with Kevin Baggott in “Beneath Disheveled Stars” are Nicole Roderick, Vic Martino, Danny Gilfeather, and Ireland’s own Colin Martin. The film also features a terrific original score by Estelle Bajou that transports the audience to Ireland as well as an Ireland of the mind.

Are they just “having some fun with the yank”, or are their motives more sinister? In the best spirit of indie film, Baggott is also the cinematographer of this haunting and comic road movie.

Baggott’s film is the cornerstone of a trio of Chicago premieres scheduled for the Hooley in the windy city this fall. The other two masterpieces are yet to be chosen, but will eventually join BENEATH DISHEVELED STARS on the marquee at the Gene Siskel Film Center, once again the home of the Annual Irish American Movie Hooley.

Kevin’s dad is from Galway and his mom from Cavan. He grew up in the Bronx, where his mother “used to beat me with the Irish Echo when I wouldn’t go to school.”

A street kid who could have easily wound up like Rocky Sullivan in the Cagney classic ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, Kevin yearned for NYU Film School, but “those bastards wouldn’t let me in.”

He wound up at CCNY, put together his first film on 16 millimeter in Coney Island, The Village Voice raved, festivals clammered, and Baggott’s revenge was sweet. “So they had me going down to NYU every year…to show their students the film.”

Shot in  West Cork in the village of Kilcrohane, Baggott recruited his crew of three for BENEATH DISHEVELD STARS: his wife and a kid from a local farm they hired to work sound, and himself.Without a script he made it up as he went along, meeting the people of the town and recruiting them as characters in the film. They turned out to be terrific actors and briliant improvisers. Kevin told me, “Oscar Wilde says the Irish talk their books away.”

“Everybody we asked, ‘we’re doing this movie, we don’t have any money, we can’t pay you anything, would you like to be in it?” The response that came back was, “Sure I can do that!”

He shot for a month with “a camera the size of a box of cracker jacks” and then returned to NYC to film the beginning of the movie with his friends. It worked, it’s brilliant, and captures the Irish from a unique and funny perspective; that of a guy with “Ireland in his DNA” who’d been away too long.

BENEATH DISHEVELED STARS premiered at the Cork Film Festival in 2014 and the entire village of Kilcrohane turned up to see it, and loved it. “It’s nice hearing a lot of laughter.”

He’ll be hearing it again when the film makes its Chicago premiere at the 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley on September 30th at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Kevin gets diffident when asked what he hopes the audience will get out of BENEATH DISHEVELED STARS, and after a few hems and haws tells me, “I don’t know.” he said. “I hope they will all move back to Ireland!”

Please join us in Chicago Sept. 30 through Oct. 2nd for the 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley, where you can meet Kevin Baggott and other filmmakers premiering their movies-and of course, you’ll likely feel like moving back to Ireland yourself!

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.

June 2016 Column from The Irish American News

Charlotte Houlihan

Charlotte Houlihan

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

I’ll admit it. I’m a naturally nosey person.

Even as a kid I loved rummaging through my mom’s purse to see what was in there. Nor was I averse to copping a finnski out of her purse while she was asleep. That type of perfidy came back to haunt me one drunken night in college when I was caught rifling purses in the cloak room of a pub. I was promptly taken out in the back alley and pummeled.

In the words of my late mother, “The bitter lesson is best taught.”

So I’ve abstained from searching ladies’ wallets since then. Until last weekend.

I was hanging out with my favorite granddaughter Charlotte Houlihan and we had planned an afternoon of fun at the aptly named “Monkey Island” in Melrose Park. That turned out to be a nightmare for me and nirvana for Charlotte as she ran wild with hundreds of other kids screaming and squealing as they climbed all over the slides, bouncy houses, and assorted obstacles.

Like any sophisticated six-year-old, Charlotte had brought her purse with her in the car when I picked her up that day. The next day as I glanced in the back seat I noticed she had left it behind.

I eyeballed this little pocket purse with zipper and Dooney and Bourke logos all over it and my old instincts kicked in. Of course there wouldn’t be any money or makeup in it so what in the world would a six-year-old girl keep in her purse?

I took it upstairs, opened it up, and spread the contents on my kitchen table.

Inside were a half-eaten pack of Watermelon flavored gum, two sticks left.

Some chicklets as well, three pieces.

A tiny little doll figurine about an inch high.

One piece of a tiny pair of black and white dice, made by Bicycle, the playing card company.

A little purple treasure chest, from a doll house, empty.

A miniature plastic cupcake, also obviously from a doll house.

A dried flower, purple, probably a lilac.

Two quarters, two nickels, and a dime.

That doesn’t sound like much, but the purse was so small with all these things jammed into it, which gave the diminutive purse the appearance of bounty.

It seemed to me to be the perfect metaphor for Charlotte.

Yes, she is small and very young but packed with character. She is after all, a first grader who is going to be seven in August as she constantly reminds me.

The next day we went through the contents of her purse together, and yes she had a story for each item. Finally, she pulled a small rubber band bracelet from the purse that I had overlooked and asked me, “Did you see my key to heaven?”

The bracelet was one she had made herself from her supply of tiny colored rubber bands interwoven to create a braid and attached was a small liturgical looking key.

The key to heaven, she called it.key to heaven

Now I know Charlotte is familiar with the concept of heaven because we talk about it often. It’s where my mother and father are, along with my brothers, and many other relatives who have died. It’s also where Jesus lives and she knows that too.

I took a photo of Charlotte’s key to heaven on her wrist and told her I was going to write about her purse and all the wonderful items she keeps in it.

She seemed flattered, “Are you going to say, ‘my granddaughter Charlotte’s purse?’”

I am, and I’m also going to say that I think MY key to heaven is my little darling Charlotte.