April 2016 Column from The Irish American News

A cultural warrior leaving Texas.

A cultural warrior leaving Texas.

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

I had one beer on St. Patrick’s Day.

Unusual I know.

But I’d been guzzling gallons before it and by Paddy’s day itself I was hobbling around like a cripple with a cane. I was wounded. Why wouldn’t I be? In Chicago St. Patrick’s Day starts the day after Christmas for cripes sake! It’s nuts.

It started for me on Saturday March 5th as I boarded a plane for Austin, Texas where The Lone Star Shamrocks would be screening my film OUR IRISH COUSINS on Monday night. The Lone Star Shamrocks were the brainchild of my old pal Dennis Kearns, who had started the organization many years ago when he moved to Austin and began hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party for all the rednecks with Irish blood.

We’ve been pals since first grade and I was looking forward to meeting the Lone Star Shamrocks and knew there would be shenanigans involved but got thrown a curve as soon as my lovely wife dropped me at O’Hare.

I grabbed my bags and turned to find a red cap and my knee blew out. Ouch!

I’d been having some mild muscle pain for the last week after an ill advised return to power walking but this was the zammo! I staggered at the departure area as my wife drove away and I realized I could barely walk. Feck it, I’m still going.

I requested a wheel chair when I checked in and then wondered why I had never done this before. The guy pushing me through the airport was great, and I was brought to the front of every line and zipped through TSA without removing my shoes or trousers.

I duked him a double sawbuck, gimped the ramp to the plane, plopped into my upgraded first class seat and started drinking. Sure it was painful to walk but Conor McGregor was fighting that night and he was my inspiration for the weekend.

Dennis picked me up at the airport and whisked me back to his palatial hacienda, which included a very private apartment upstairs for my visit so he and his wife Jane could hide from me later. Luckily he’d had knee problems of his own in the past and lent me a snappy cane and knee brace to wear.  Managing the stairs was rough but I learned to navigate them once I learned where they kept the 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey!

While they were at mass I tripped over a large cardboard box in the foyer on my way back from the bar. I looked inside and discovered it was the 5,000 flyers promoting the screening I had shipped to Dennis a month earlier to get the word out about the Texas premiere of my film. It looked like there were only about 4, 850 left in the box!

“More feckin’ whiskey!”, I screamed as their dog Blanca looked at me in puzzlement.

The next two days were a blur of self-medicating through the pain. We went bar-hopping on Sunday as I hobbled up Congress Street on the cane and wound up in CBoys Heart and Soul dive bar serenaded by a three foot tall chanteuse in a cowboy hat backed by a handful of bearded pluckers singing about “Texas in my heart”. Of course it was “Terri and The Tagalongs”.

We played “chickenshit bingo” all afternoon, which is a game of chance involving a live chicken placed in a 3×3 foot cage with numbers on its floor. If the chicken dumps on your number, you win! I was havin’ a good ol’ time!

Until I found out about Conor McGregor tapping out the night before.

Still he handled defeat with class and I was going to do the same. I returned to to the hacienda after a long day of boozing and Tex Mex food and after I dropped the big one, I slept til the next day. I’m sure Los Alamos has nothing on Dennis and Jane’s upstairs bathroom after my visit.

On Monday night The Lone Star Shamrocks were sorta MIA for the film premiere. Probably not a great idea for me to come to Austin the week before SXSW to premiere a film. But it was my Paddy’s day kickoff and among the audience was Ann Soule and Austin’s own version of The Flood Brothers, Matt and Mike Flood, both Chicago Expatriates, who now live and work in Austin. We had some laughs and started plotting the rebirth of The Lone Star Shamrocks for my next cultural expedition.

If you’re reading this in Austin, get in touch at lonestarshamrocks@gmail.com,  and we will make sure you’re invited for our next cultural event.

I can walk with both legs again and look forward to stepping back in the arena a wiser man, and just like Conor McGregor, this cultural warrior shall return. I had too much fun not to go back!

Irish American News column March 2016

Lattner leads the parade

photo by Dean Battaglia

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

He flirted with Marilyn Monroe.

Graced the cover of Time Magazine.

And went to early morning mass every day.

John Joseph Lattner. Sure you know him as 1953 Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Lattner. But of course he was much more than that.

One of the great pleasures of my life was interviewing Johnny for my St. Patrick’s Day Diary in the Sun-Times back in 2003. He’s also featured in my film, “Our Irish Cousins”, leading the parade with the banner of St. Patrick. He’d been leading Chicago’s Irish since 1965.

Johnny died February 13th, a few months after his 83rd birthday.

Like everybody who ever met Johnny, I never forgot him. And unbelievably, he never forgot me. He welcomed everybody into his world, like an old friend who knew you when.

Back when I lived in St. Luke parish, I would kneel just a couple pews behind Johnny at 6:30AM mass. He always reached back to put the kneeler down on the pew behind him, to give his legs room to stretch. I looked forward to shaking his hand for the “sign of peace” and hearing him say “Hiya Mike.”

He always seemed glad to see me.

Terry Hanson posted news of Johnny’s death early that morning.

I rummaged around and discovered the old audio tape from our interview. Started listening to it and knew I had struck gold.

My sons Bill and Paddy had both tended bar and waited on Johnny for years at Kevil’s in Forest Park. They told me, “He was terrific, a great tipper.”

John would know about that, having owned a saloon himself.

Paddy and I went to his wake at Fenwick, lucky to be late because thousands had streamed through before us to pay respects. We ran into Charlie and Linda Carey in the crowd and exchanged Lattner stories. Everybody has one.

Got to the funeral at St. Vincent’s and it was packed, not a seat in the church, except for the one Mark Vanecko saved for me. It was a magnificent send-off to a favorite son of Chicago put on by the Friars, Johnny’s eight kids, and 26 grandchildren.

And then last night I listened to the tape. Suddenly it was just me and Lattner, just shooting the bull as he unspooled the stories of his life, each one better than the other.

“I was born in Oak Park hospital…my dad wasn’t workin’…we lost the apartment in Forest Park and had to move to Chicago…St. Thomas Aquinas parish, in an apartment at Madison and Lavergne…my brother Bill had a restaurant in Forest Park, called ‘Two Bills’, it’s O’Sullivan’s now…met my wife Peg, she went to Trinity, a buddy of mine was dating her girlfriend…I said to him on my 16th birthday, I said, listen I’d like to get a date with that Peggy McAllister…we didn’t get married til ’58…Two T’s in Lattner, it’s Renttal spelled backwards…it’s German…they think I’m Irish! My mother was Irish, so I’m half Irish…my dad was a machinist and he moved here after World War One, got married to my mother…they had a little corner grocery store …right across from Garfield Park…and he used to repair slot machines…in those days the Marlboro Theater at Madison and Karlov used to telecast the Notre Dame games…all the West Side would go to the games, people used to say it was like goin’ to the Notre Dame game, it was great…my dad died in freshman year…”

Listening to his voice on the tape, just a kid from the West Side who’d never left really. He spoke with pride of all his kids. Still hanging out with his old pals at Healy’s, Doc Ryan’s, Kevils, loved the “Has-Been” luncheons at Hawthorne, and the Como Inn, listening to Ziggy Czarobski sing at the bar.

What’s your message for St. Patrick’s Day?

“Have a good time, it’s legitimately the only time a good Irishman can get a load on without feelin’ guilty.”

As I was leaving, I asked for his autograph, sign it to my sons Bill and Paddy. He wrote, “To a great set of twins, good luck!”

I wisecracked, that’s what I told Jayne Mansfield.

His face lit up. “I should tell ya the story about when I met Marilyn Monroe.

I was a sophomore; we were playing the University of Southern Cal out there.

We went over to RKO Studio after practice, Friday, and we met Marilyn, she was filming this picture called ‘Clash by Night’, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, they were all in it… for two hours we talked to her like I’m talking to you Mike, back and forth bs, she says I’ll drive you back, there were six of us, but before that she says do you want my autograph? We all would love it Marilyn. What should I say on it? uh to John, thanks for that wonderful night we had together, love and kisses, with her phone number, … She was a nice lady, just a nice lady.”

Not as nice as you John Lattner. God rest your lovely soul.

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 Nov. 2015

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

“It’s déjà vu all over again.

The O’Brien family is resurrecting Reilly’s Daughter Irish Pub in Oak Lawn at 111th and Pulaski, where they operated for 27 very successful years.Boz O’Brien tells me, “The day we signed the agreement was the day Yogi Berra died.”

Déjà vu indeed.

Long considered the most popular watering hole in Chicagoland for anybody coming of age in the final three decades of the last century, Reilly’s Daughter spawned a satellite pub in Midway airport in 2002. The family will continue to run that location as well as engaging the next generation of revelers with food and booze, as well as a celebration of their fabled traditions, charity events, live entertainment, and neighborhood advocacy for families all over the south side and Chicagoland.

Boz was 24 when he got his first liquor license. He has sold a lot of beer since then, rivers of it. Reilly’s once did 500 cases of Miller Lite a week. Terry Hayes, of Hayes Beer Distributors, tells me, “They were a great bar for us, always created a lot of excitement. They were our largest account by volume, our largest on-premise retailer in the 80’s and 90’s.”

Tip O’Neill stopped into Reilly’s on his travels through Chicago back in the day. Mayor Rich Daley was practically a regular and so was almost the entire ’85 Bears Super Bowl team. Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz did his TV show live from Reilly’s. Many of Chicago’s biggest labor leaders were once bouncers and bartenders at Reilly’s. A young Hawaiian fella named Barack Obama took a leak in the men’s room.

There are a zillion stories of raucous nights in this saloon that sits on the border of Chicago along Pulaski. Boz boasts, “We’ve got 400 parking spots and there’s a cemetery across the street and they never complained about the noise once.”

Boz’s son Brendan was born into this maelstrom. Brendan’s baptismal party was at Reilly’s and he’s been hanging around ever since.

One St. Patrick’s Day when Brendan was three, he somehow got lost in the crowd. The place was bumper to bumper and somebody lifts Brendan up over the mosh pit in the beer garden and shouts out “Pass him to Boz!”

Boz tells me, “He crowd surfed all the way to the bar and he had this big smile on his face as if it was the time of his life. So he’s always had a natural affinity for the business.”

Does he ever.

Boz says, “We had Christmas with Santa every year and Brendan would always force me to go up in the helicopter with him and Santa, but I was scared stiff of flying. You do stuff for your kid you wouldn’t do for yourself. So he was always here.”

When Brendan was 16 and finally got his driver’s license, he’d be working clean-up and was often pressed into service to drive guys home from the bar. “I loved it until I kept hearing the same story over and over again.”

Boz sez, “I always thought he was the only ten year old with 40 year old friends.”

“When I first came back last week and it was the first day we had the keys and … I just kept shaking my head, just can’t believe this, I was walking behind the bar like I did so many times and we were talking sports and politics and I felt like I was 30 years old again. And then I turned and glanced in the mirror… and I knew I wasn’t 30 years old anymore, not with that guy staring back at me.”

Maybe not, but the Irish Diaspora’s culture is preserved through tradition.

Brendan says, “So that’s it Houls, carrying the torch, father to son, growing up here my whole life, learning the business and being around him all the time working side by side.”

Talk with this father and son and you find yourself sharing their mutual pride of each other. The good vibe is contagious. These are professional publicans, good company, both of them.

Brendan is now 32 and has been running Midway’s Reilly’s Daughter. They’ve experienced a 47% growth spurt in revenue over the last five years according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Brendan is more experienced than Boz was when he started back in ’76.

They promise to bring back all the old traditions like the live turkey on Thanksgiving, the Irish Coffee and Soda Bread contests and hope to have Johnny Lattner’s Heisman Trophy on display for the Grand Opening.

Hundreds of folks have stopped by to reminisce while work goes on getting the joint ready for opening. So many, in fact, that they’ve had to lock the door. Boz laughs, “Everybody has been so gracious and excited to have us back. One guy called us,

‘Is this gonna be the original Reilly’s?’

Yes it is.

‘Who is this?’

Well I’m Boz O’Brien.

‘Wow, I thought you were dead!”

He is far from it and Brendan has learned from the master. “There’s a reason we were filled for 27 years, what he did and the things I’ve learned from him, keeping that going takes work. It’s the family atmosphere, it’s generational. The people he had as regulars, I want their kids, the descendants of the people who hung out here.”

Boz philosophizes with the words of Coach Lou Holtz advising a dying young man years ago, “The only time I’m afraid is when I’m unprepared. If you’re squared away with God and squared away with your family, you have nothing to be afraid of.”

The wisdom of Boz, “He couldn’t have said it any better if he were Thomas Aquinas.”

These wise men are aiming for the middle of November to open and Reilly’s will definitely be rockin’ by Thanksgiving.

Thomas Wolfe, you’re wrong. You can go home again.

Irish American News Column October 2015

Kevin Kennelly with his Mt. Carmel Caravan baseball teammates.

Kevin Kennelly with his Mt. Carmel Caravan baseball teammates.

 

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

It’s been almost 20 years since I started writing this column back in 1996. I’ve spewed a lot of blarney in this paper since then and loved every minute of it. But the other day I realized I finally have something of which to be very proud. Like many of the great moments in my life it goes back through my Irish heritage and my formative years at Mt. Carmel HS.

Back in September of 2011 I wrote a column about a young man, Kevin Kennelly Jr., who was killed in a 4th of July tragedy on the beach in Indiana. That column is still available online if you’re interested in doing a bit of detective work. Space won’t permit reprinting it here so please do have a look.

In a nutshell, Kevin’s parents asked me to write about their beloved 17-year-old son to help refute the false and nasty reportage of the incidents that led to his death. It was my great pleasure to call out two of my least favorite publications, the New York Times and Irish Central, neither of which I would ever dignify with the wiping of my fat Irish arse.

But those odious journals were powerful and nobody was standing up to their scandalous smears of this outstanding young man. So I took a shot at it with my own perspective and combined it with a statement by Kevin’s father about the circumstances of his death.

The repercussions of my column surprised me. I heard stories through back channels of the outrage of scoundrels at my column in the little ol’ Irish American News. Of course that made me happy, nothing I love more than pissing off phonies who would never dare to confront me.

Kevin Sr. and his wife Jean’s Irish roots run deep. Kevin is a 40-year member of Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 59 and the grandson of Ellis Island immigrants from Kerry and Clare. Jean is a descendant of Famine immigrants. Her mother was a Dunne and her family donated the land that Old St. Pat’s sits on. Her great uncle was the first pastor of that parish, Father Edward Dunne. Another great uncle was legendary newspaper columnist Finley Peter Dunne. According to his dad, Kevin Jr. loved the work of Finley Peter Dunne.

I was honored the other day when Kevin and Jean Kennelly graciously invited me to a ceremony at Mt. Carmel where they insured that Kevin Jr.’s legacy would live on. So once again here is a statement of Kevin Kennelly Sr. from that ceremony in late September of 2015.

We are here today on behalf of our family and most importantly, our son, Kevin Francis Kennelly.                    

On July 4, 2011, James Malecek killed our son with a single undeserving punch, after Kevin attempted to intercede in an ensuing altercation between Malecek and another teenage boy in Long Beach, IN.  

We filed this civil lawsuit back in 2012 for the sole purpose of vindicating and exonerating our son. Since the time of Kevin’s death, James Malecek continuously denied fault, instead claiming that he was acting in self-defense, blaming Kevin for the conflict which ensued that night on the beach. Today, after 4 years of litigation, James Malecek has finally retracted his claims of self-defense and admitted responsibility for our son’s death.

We turned to the civil justice system only after we felt that the criminal system failed us and more importantly, failed our son. We recently received the proceeds of a million dollar settlement in our civil case. Our legal battle was never about money. A civil case was our only means of countering 4 years of blaming the victim strategies, after Jake Malecek pled guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter, to avoid a trial, in the criminal case. After reading all of the testimony elicited through this litigation, it seems that the events of that night occurred exactly as detailed in Mike Houlihan’s article in the September 2011 edition of the Irish American News.

We have decided to donate the proceeds to several institutions that were so important to Kevin and have been supportive of us since the day he was killed. Most of the money will go to Kevin’s beloved Mount Carmel high school, in the form of a $500,000 check we are delivering today. It will be used for renovations and additions to the campus, especially the main building behind us. It was built in 1924 and for 91 years young men have learned honor, respect and decency behind its doors.

We are also donating smaller amounts to a scholarship that was started in Kevin’s name and to St Barnabas School, Sacred Heart Shrine Church and St Rita High School, another fine institution, which Mr. O’Connor and many of Kevin’s friends attended.

We would like to thank our attorneys, Bryan O’Connor and Eileen O’Connor for their unwavering support, courage and commitment to us and our son. They believed in our fight to preserve Kevin’s good name and reputation and fought our battle with heartfelt empathy.

We continue to live each day with the loss of our son heavy on our hearts. We are forever grateful for the support our friends, family, and the Catholic Church have shown our family. We pray that closure of our legal battle will in some way help us heal.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.

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!

Irish American News column August 2015

Iraqi Worshippers Pray For Pope John Paul II

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

After twelve years of being a widow Angela Delaney felt like she was finally hitting her stride. Her late husband Tony had left her enough dough, not a fortune but enough where she didn’t have to work. That was important to her because if she had to work there wouldn’t be as much time for her to pray.

Tony had been killed crossing Western avenue after closing Ken’s one rainy night when an honor student from Lindblom wacked him with his 96 Buick. Tony never knew what him.

Angela had prayed about that night often, asking our Lord to go back in time and make sure Tony felt no pain. God can do that of course and for every rosary Angie offered up for Tony that Roadmaster picked up speed until it was only a blur out of the corner of Tony’s eye.

So Tony was at peace.

And so was Angie. Oh sure at first it was tough without Tony, but she started sleeping late and going to daily noon mass at Barnabas instead of the 6:30AM mass she and Tony used to hit every morning when he was alive. She would lead the rosary group before mass and then the Our Lady of Perpetual Help novena after mass and then of course adoration in the chapel adjacent to the church each day. She’d get home every day just in time to watch Jeopardy.

She would take a nap then till the early news came on and then she’d fix herself some dinner, tuna melt on an English muffin and half a cookie for dessert. She’d break out the cigs and beers around nine as she racked up rosary after rosary while watching Mother Angelica on EWTN and then would hit the hay around 3AM, unless the Pope was doing a mass live from the Vatican. She never missed those. Next day she would get up and do it all over again.

Angie was the leader of her rosary group every day and she doled out the decade assignments to the rosary regulars and joined them in prayer over their special intentions, i.e., Eloise’s sister with the mastoid, Rosemary’s husband Earl with the porn addiction, or almost anyone who had an alkie in the family that needed their prayers.

There was quite a bit of responsibility as rosary leader. You had to know which mysteries to say on each particular day, whether the five joyful mysteries, the five luminous mysteries, the five sorrowful mysteries or the five glorious mysteries. You had to dole out the decades to the faithful followers and welcome new people to the group.

Visitors often showed up to pray with the group but Angie usually waited a good six months for them to be there every day before assigning them a decade to lead.

Angie did not suffer fools well and she had that rosary group humming like a well-oiled machine and Father Foley had even complimented her on their precision at always finishing the rosary almost exactly three minutes before mass started.

And then one day an interloper showed up by the name of Kathy Boyle, an ex-nun who seemed to enjoy throwing her considerable weight around.

She had dyed red hair and a high-pitched nasal voice that had trouble pronouncing the letter R.

She kind of announced her presence one day as she flopped into a pew and shouted out, “The first Joyful Mystewy, the Wezuwection.”

Rosemary turned to Angie with a look of complete shock on her face as her jaw dropped at the pure effrontery of Kathy thinking she could just jump in and start leading the rosary. The rest of the group was equally shocked, particularly Harold the old Filipino guy who silently messed his pants that day

But Angie remained serene throughout and each time she tried to begin the next decade, Kathy Boyle would cut her off with a ridiculously shortened version of “Ave Mawia”, before tearing into the next mystery.

After mass, when Kathy left, the rest of the group all went to Angie and expressed their dismay at this usurpation. Angie just smiled, “Now, now, what would Our Lord say. We just have to be patient and it will all work out.”

Of course inside she was seething. Especially when Kathy showed up the next day and started in on the same routine. Kathy just kept coming every day for the next three weeks. Rosemary would always look at Angie with her eyes wide as if to say, “Good Lord please shut this fat slob up!”

It started to wear on Angie, she felt like she might be getting an ulcer and she wondered if she should find a new parish to say the rosary. Angie decided to pray for Kathy, perhaps a novena to our Lady to, at the very least, improve her diction.

And then one day Kathy wasn’t there and all the members of the rosary group looked to Angie and smiled as she announced, “The First Joyful Mystery, The Annunciation.”

Angie was back in her groove and all was well once again at the St. Barnabas rosary circle. A week later Rosemary turned to the group just as they finished the rosary and said, “Did you hear about Kathy Boyle?”

Nobody had even mentioned that name and they were anxious to hear the news. Rosemary leaned back in her pew, “Apparently she was hit by a car, a Buick Roadmaster. She never knew what hit her.”

Irish American News July 2015 Column

IAMIRELAND

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

The other night I glimpsed a revelation of Irish revolution through music and songs hundreds of years old. Seated in an ancient mansion along the lake I watched an Irishman stand in half-light to tell us the story of our nation.

With three musicians behind him, and a bodhrán in his grasp, he led us through the darkness along the path to freedom that Michael Collins spoke of so long ago.

Everybody in the room was spellbound by this seanachi peeling the onion on our legacy and culture as he took us back to 1798 and the birth of the Gaelic spirit fighting against oppression.

Many of us in the audience had heard the songs before, sure hadn’t we sung them ourselves as our grandparents taught us. But tonight the man in our midst gave us the back story of each of these Irish treasures and they took on a new and more fervent meaning for all us and by the end of the evening all the folks in the room were on their feet singing in full throated response to the fella leading us in “A Nation Once Again”.

We’d been intoxicated already with renditions of “Róisín Dubh”, “Skibbereen”, and “The West’s Awake” and a dozen more.

Rain splattered the roof above us and in the garden just outside the room we sat, lightning and thunder punctuated the tales of patriots, famine, and lovers in anguish over their native land.

I’ve been to Ireland several times but I never felt more Irish than the night Paddy Homan pierced the tempestuous night with his crystal clear tenor and sang the story of Ireland.

 I’d been invited by Paddy to the home of Devon and Yvonne Bruce for a preview of his new show “I Am Ireland”, which will premiere in Chicago at the Beverly Art Center on October 10th for one night only before embarking on a cross country tour to celebrate the Easter Rising Centennial.

See it.

In October you can watch Paddy deliver Robert Emmet’s speech from the dock on the eve of his execution.

Listen to Paddy Homan recreate Padraic Pearse’s oration at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa and you too will be “re-baptized in the Fenian faith.”

Watch this man from Cork as he performs a one-man show that takes us all back in time to hear Michael Collins talk of Thomas Davis and how he “spoke to the soul of a sleeping nation drunk with the water of forgetfullness.”

Feel the hair on the back of your neck curl as Paddy Homan tells the real story and then sings “The Rising of the Moon.”

If you have only one drop of Irish blood, see this show and you will feel that drop of blood replicating throughout your soul and stirring your heart to sing along with Paddy.

Paddy tells us, “In singing these songs, we make the spirit of that person, who in writing the song or story, come alive. So it’s not about the person singing it but the immortal story within this song. And so I think that all those years ago, as people fought, died, and starved; one abiding mode of survival were songs and stories. It was the people’s connection to their past, passed down from generation to generation, or to put it another way it was their mode of Social Media!”

When you see the show onstage you’ll have the advantage of full screen projections of the Irish heroes Paddy portrays, the brilliant Irish musicians and a professional lighting design to capture the dramatic arc of the evening. Although it will be tough to top the special effects of the claps of thunder and lightning provided by the man upstairs that night in Lake Forest.

This show, I AM IRELAND, is one we can all be proud of and claim as Chicago’s gift to the Irish Centennial celebrations in 2016.

For more information on the show and to check for upcoming dates go to http://www.paddyhoman.com/i-am-ireland

 

-30-