Regrets, I’ve had a few

I’m celebrating my 75th birthday next Saturday Dec. 16th.  So let me pause to reflect on my wonderful life indeed and wonder how in the world I’m still alive.

Knock wood, no disease despite a profligate lifestyle and unconscious disregard for the feelings of others.

I’ve been very lucky, yes I will count my blessings, including:

My wife, the lovely Mary Carney, the most gorgeous gal on Broadway when we met in New York almost fifty years ago in a production of Shakespeare’s ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. My twin sons Bill and Paddy, continue to amaze me and make me laugh. My grandkids Charlotte and. Mikey, love them to pieces.

And of course my friends, who have been pals with me through thick and thin. Yeats said, “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

However, I also give thanks for all the Houli-haters in my world, and there are plenty, some I don’t even know about I’m sure.

Most of you know the “Houli-haters” club as that group of ugly, fat chicks who are repulsed by my talent, good looks, and unfailing optimism. And all I can say girls is “Mea culpa, chubettes.”

And while the Houli-haters club is not exclusively female, it might as well be ‘cuz you HH members of the opposite sex are just left wing weenies pretending to be men.

If it weren’t for you I would have croaked a long time ago I’m sure. But your unceasing hatred of me is actually what keeps me going, fuels my ferocious wit and brings me to my knees in church in repentance of my many sins.  So thanks!

So, in no particular order, I’d like to say thanks and beg your pardon.

To the many drunk Mt. Greenwood folks who came to my Hibernian radio show one night a couple of summers ago in the beer garden of the Cork n’ Kerry, when we featured the brother of a fallen female Chicago police officer on the show. Sure I was shocked when the crowd turned ugly and went batshit when you did not get  your “free” pizza and proceeded to get in my face, video tape me and my crew eating OUR pizza, spread all kinds of BS stories of my actions that night, called our sponsors to dump our show, and basically ran us out of the pub that night with your misplaced aggression and vilified our show on Facebook the next morning with your lies in an incident that will forever be known as “Pizza-Gate”, I can only say thanks. That evening will always be one of the high points of my career!

To the kind folks at the Siskel Film Center, where I founded our Annual Irish American Movie Hooley, (the only Irish American film festival in the world), I particularly want to thank your transexual  box office manager, who came to meet me at the loading dock that afternoon when I was dropping off programs for our big weekend. I’ve got my car parked in the alley off State Street and this guy, (he had to be about six feet, 250lbs), comes out with a hand truck wearing a fecking dress! I burst out laughing and immediately thought of Milton Berle.  But Uncle Milty was appalled at my mirth and the next thing I know he/she has alerted the powers-that-be at the Art Institute and Siskel brass to what an insensitive lout I am and next thing I know they are threatening to shut down my film festival cuz I laughed at a man in a dress!

To the costume designer of Sam Shepard’s play TOOTH OF CRIME at Goodman theatre in 1974 who insisted that the satin pants designed for my character of “Galactic Jack”  must be worn “commando”, thanks. I’ll never forget squatting on the stage on opening night in the middle of my act and the seam of those same satin pants split right up the middle and my family jewels plopped right into view as the audience snickered row by row as my testicles made their Chicago professional theatrical debut.

Oh I’m sure there are other regrets I can’t recall but it’s the bumps in the road that make life interesting and yes, they keep me going.

So next weekend I’m inviting everybody to celebrate with me on Sat. Dec. 16th at Barney Callaghan’s Irish Pub, 10618 S. Western from 4-8PM, where we will once again celebrate our Irish culture with Balladeer Liam Durkin, international sensation Irish fiddler Cathryn Cowell, Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society of the Chicago Police Dept., Irish dancers Michalene Donnelly, Maggie Olk, Jack Bullington and Tadgh Spillane as well as other shenanigans, a free Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey raffle and surprise guests!

Houli-haters please stay home.

For the rest, please join us, all proceeds benefit Hibernian Media, and your suggested tax-deductible donation of fifty bucks will get you in, but we’ll take whatever we can get.

You’ll meet some Chicago All-Stars and I’ll keep my pants on, promise!

Thanks and God bless!

There will be pizza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 March 2015

Judge Houli at St. Jarlath'sHooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

 

Billy Lawless, I owe ya.

That’s not exactly what I said to myself when they called me to ask if I would be a judge for the St. Jarlath’s “Dancing for Our Stars” contest out at Gaelic Park last month.

The gal on the phone told me Billy Lawless suggested me as a judge. Billy has been very kind to me over the years so I said, “Sure I will. Is Billy doing it too?”

“Billy had a prior commitment.” Yeah sure he did, so he threw me into the mix instead. Thanks Billy.

I’ve glanced at the TV show “Dancing With the Stars” while channel surfing and it makes my thumb itch watching supposed, “stars” like Rob Kardashian and Kelly Osbourne attempting to tango. Sure I like cheese on my pizza but not piped into my living room.

So I gritted my teeth and thought of ways to try and get out of it. The lovely Mary told me, “You can’t. You made a commitment! And what about Billy Lawless?”

Yes it was so nice of him to “volunteer” me.

I did some research and discovered the St. Jarlath’s Youth GAA is a Gaelic football and hurling club for boys and girls ages 5-18.  They have been in existence since 1977.  Every year they travel to a different city with approximately 10-15 teams to compete in a National Tournament against teams around the U.S. and Canada.  Most of the money raised helps offset the costs of traveling to this tournament, and equipment purchased, jerseys, pizza parties, a Christmas party and other fun events for the kids.

Good for them, but still the idea of a Mario Lopez marathon made me wary.

But that night at Gaelic Park I’m shooting the breeze with my fellow judges and another judge walks in with a drink in each hand. Things are looking up. How do I get one of those?

Downstairs in the dancers waiting room with the sandwiches.

Booze and sandwiches, all of a sudden I’m starting to feel like Arthur Murray.

Are the dancers nervous?

Guy laughs and says, “How could they be nervous with two bottles of whiskey in front of ‘em.”

Fast forward to me sitting on the dais and somebody is bringing me unlimited pints while I look out on a crowd of hundreds of Irish folks laughing, cheering, and ready to have a great time. Okay I just might be in heaven.

We had 8 couples competing. Most had never met until put together for the contest. They practiced two nights a week for 3 months!  Winners are chosen by 60% of the judges score and 40% of the audience votes.  The audience votes can be done on-line or the night of the contest and each vote costs a buck.

So the judges don’t really have the final say because votes can be bought. I like this; I think it’s called Chicagoland!

Speaking of which, during a break I headed into the head and one wise guy sez to me, “Uh oh, one them judges! Hey I got a hundred dollar bill in my pocket, will it help my friend?”

Give it to me and let’s find out.

The beauty of the night was the sheer moxie of the contestants who got out on that dance floor and entertained us with their panache as they worked out the choreography to the music. The program book had bios on each of the couples dancing and at least two guys claimed to have studied at the Polekatz School of Dancing. Polekatz is also coincidentally the name of the topless strip club nearby.

Halfway through the evening I’m enjoying the fun with the audience as the dancers are putting it all out there for charity and I get a text from Skinny in Florida on my phone. “Vote for Maureen Lawless”.

Sure enough the couple dancing at that moment was a gal named Maureen, or so I thought. I gave them a “10” and then got the elbow from judge Siobhainn O’Connor next to me. “Have another Guinness dopey, that’s not Maureen Lawless.”

Ooops. Well they deserved a ten anyway. As a matter of fact I think all the dancers deserved tens and that’s the way I voted for the rest of the night. Hey, “tens for everybody!”

Looking back on the evening it was just one huge blur of laughs and pure entertainment. I can’t even remember who won, but I know that the crowd had an absolute blast that night, myself included.

On my way home, I stopped at White Castle on 147th Street for a late supper. As I gazed out the window chuckling to myself about the evening I almost spit my slider across the table when I noticed the sign lit up outside While Castle, “Don’t Forget to Make Reservations for Valentine’s Day!”

What a night, thanks to you Maureen Gill and all the folks who put the St. Jarlath’s Dancing For Our Stars event together.

Billy Lawless, I guess I do owe ya.

 

 

 

September 2013 Irish American News Column

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Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

Cartographers in ancient times, having no knowledge or research into the frontiers on the other side of the ocean, would label those sections of their maps as “terra incognita”, i.e., unknown territory.

Debate raged about what was out there in the “terra incognita”? Monsters?  There might be dragons out there on the South Seas.

There’s been lots of talk of prejudice lately, an irrational dislike of those who aren’t exactly like us. Many in our community fear these groups, scoff at them, assuming those tribes have not evolved to the sophistication of the rest of us.

Here in Chicago, those fears can escalate to outright bigotry, as it did last July in an ugly exchange at The Irish American Heritage Center Irish Fest.

I was working a table selling my books and DVDs, like any other honest merchant of his trade. Chicago author John Linehan split the table with me and we drank beer and worked the room as fest goers cruised through. Linehan is from the south side, went to Leo and St. Justin Martyr grammar school. He’s written a great book “City Life: Coming of Age in Chicago”.   I highly recommend this very funny roman a’ clef of Linehan’s days as an Andy Frain usher all over Chicago in the seventies.

John and I huckstered at the people as they strolled by our table, hoping to lure them in and talk them into buying our books.  An aging bimbo picked up my book, “Hooliganism”, looked it over while John and I tossed out sweet nothings to her. She finally said, “Oh, it’s about Southside Irish!”

She spit out the words “Southside” with particular disdain, as if something fuzzy was in her mouth.  Her hands curdled around the book, a wicked twitch as she dropped it back on our table.  She sneered as she walked away “Euuwwuh South-side”.

John and I turned to each other aghast. Had this woman actually just dissed the South Side Irish? We were stunned by her blatant bigotry.

If only Al Sharpton were there to record this woman’s bile and help us make some money out of it.

Linehan and I were of course deeply wounded by this venom directed our way as native Southsiders.

In the interest of transparency I will disclose that I was born in Evanston, baptized at St. Margaret Mary parish, just a couple blocks from my folks two flat on Estes Avenue. So I have North Side Irish blood.

I’m not ashamed to admit it, proud to have those drops of blood in my character. I still have friends in my old parish, like Anne Marie Grogan, who my brothers tormented by hiding the baby, me, behind the shower curtain in the tub when she was babysitting.

But we moved to the south side when I was two years old, emigrated to Christ the King parish. And for the next twenty odd years I matriculated as a Southsider and earned my street cred as a member of the Mt. Carmel Caravan. So it ain’t like I’m a Cub fan or anything.

So yes, I am deeply hurt when some old Milwaukee Avenue skank dares to besmirch the reputation of the great South Side. Sadly, this is the not my first encounter with this ugly prejudice.

But being Southside Irish has served me well in life and enabled me to tell many people in high places to “feck off!”

I’m happy to confirm to those flat-earthers, that of course there are “dragons” there and I’ve drank with many of them. And while we have our geniuses, surgeons, inventors, and even playwrights, we also have our monsters and thank God for them. It wouldn’t be the south side without ‘em.

So let me offer this olive branch to the rest of our community. We on the South Side love you. We are all part of a big family and when we come together to work or play, all of Chicago’s Irish together can work wonders. That’s what’s out there for those who dare to sail into the terra incognita.

So be like Ponce de Leon, Magellan, and Bob Hope! Explore and you just might find the Fountain of Youth

The great gathering of all Chicago Irish was evident a few years ago when the Irish community of Chicago came together to help Natasha McShane, the young Irish girl who was brutally attacked by a villain with a baseball bat as she and her friend walked home. The trial is starting soon for Natasha’s attacker and let’s pray that JUSTICE BE DONE.

That justice might include, not prison, but releasing the criminal who did this to the entire Chicagoland Irish community. Then the world could watch us work together in harmony.

The West Side Irish could get some of their best city workers together to introduce the bat wielder to the marvels of a Streets and San steamroller.

The Northside Irish could have some of their gorgeous women castrate the hombre on a Saturday night in front of Vaughn’s.

And we Southsiders would love the opportunity to bring this devil to Gaelic Park where we could all remove his head and kick it about like an aul’ football.

I know the entire Irish community would be as one as we greet him in unison, “Welcome to Terra Incognita Amigo!”

You can take the kid out of the Southside, but you’ll never take the Southside out of the kid.