Richard The Driehaus

Richard the Driehaus

By Mike Houlihan, Special to The Irish American News 

He was my Hail Mary in a chaotic life of show biz risks taken while walking the tight rope over a pond of snapping gators.

I was tapioca in 2009 and driving a limo to survive. The bank was threatening foreclosure. I’d moved my office in the Loop into my basement, put my house up for sale, and stopped answering the phone at home to avoid those Indian guys who kept calling to talk to “Mr. Hooligoof”.

A Hells Angel repo man had banged on my door at 5AM screaming for me to “surrender” my 2002 Caddy. As I dropped a car full of cheap Germans and their concrete luggage at the hotel, one of them flipped me a finski with a big stupid grin on his kisser. I cursed them as I drove away. “I am too old for this crap!”

And then my cell phone rang. The Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust wanted to know if I would consider a “matching challenge grant” to finish my film, OUR IRISH COUSINS.

It wasn’t the first time Richard Driehaus had saved my ass, and it wouldn’t be the last, but the timing couldn’t have been better as I broke out my rosary in thanksgiving for the guy who gave me a reason to believe.

We first met in the year 2000 when I was looking for investors for my politically incorrect, south-side “noir comedy”, MICKEY FINN, at the Royal George Theatre. My old friend Roger Guerin introduced me to billionaire philanthropist Richard Driehaus, who dropped twenty grand into the play and showed up on opening night to party with us into the night. Critics cringed and the play closed quicker than a honeymoon gone wrong.

Richard took the tax write off, and remained a friend, inviting me to his annual 4th of July parties to hobnob at his estate in Lake Geneva with the hoity toity and the hoi polloi alike. Richard was a sophisticate without guile or pretension and his parties were spectacular events with plenty of free booze, music and beautiful people. I took my son Paddy with me one year and we woke up the next morning, hungover in our bargain basement overnight cabin and Paddy said, “The whole thing was like a dream!”

When I was writing the “Houli in ‘da Hood” column in The Sun-Times I interviewed Richard in May of 2005 and we compared notes on our southside Irish Catholic roots. He had started using his paper route money to invest in the stock market when he was 13 and the rest is history. He grew up in St. Margaret of Scotland, the next parish over from me, and had donated a million bucks to the nuns there when he made good.

Richard told me, “It’s important to give something back. There is good in doing good. Money is like fertilizer, if you let it all pile in one place, it stinks.”

His generosity is legend, and he never forgot the lessons he learned at St. Margaret’s, St. Ignatius, and DePaul. He also took a liking to playwrights, poets, and dreamers. I was lucky enough to be among that group.

Richard died suddenly last Tuesday, March 9th. He’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in heaven with his mom and dad, Saint Ignatius Loyola, William Blake, Father Danny Mallette, and Sister Henrika from oh so long ago at St. Margaret’s.

Back in September Richard invited me and my son Paddy to his home to talk about the future of Hibernian Media and our mission “telling stories to enlighten future generations while honoring our ancestors.”

Mike Houlihan, Richard Driehaus, and Paddy Houlihan.

He had just purchased a couple of hotels in Dublin and showed us pictures. But it wasn’t gold that made Richard happy, it was his love for his family. His good friend Marzena Mellin told me how he would light up after messages from his daughters Tereza, Caroline, and little Kate. He sure was beaming that day, showing us photos of Kate on his phone.

At his funeral mass Richard’s great niece Regina Rossi gave the eulogy, “He encouraged all of us to be a never fading star.” That he was.

Richard was proud to be a Southside Irish Catholic, “Everything goes back to the ‘hood, that’s where I came from.”

Remembering my old pal Richard H. Driehaus, Yeats said it best. “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

God rest his lovely soul.

 

CROCK OF GOLD; A FEW ROUNDS WITH SHANE MACGOWAN

Reviewed by Mike Houlihan, Special to The Irish American News & The Irish Echo

Christmas 2020 will hit in a few weeks and I can’t think of any Christmas song more perfect for this year of horror, death, and dystopian nightmares than “Fairy Tale of New York”, by Shane MacGowan of The Pogues and featuring the late Kirstie MacColl. The tune tells a haunting story with its lyrics of despair from the NYC drunk tank one Christmas eve and yet still manages to kindle the seasonal love and hope and promise of a new year. You’ll be singing the chorus yourselves sometime this season, you know you will. The song’s been called the best Christmas song of all time by various UK and Ireland polls and no doubt you’ve seen the video hundreds of times.

Here’s a link to the You Tube of this classic.

That video was my first introduction to Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, maybe the most unlikely male torch singer I’ve ever laid eyes on. Pretty, he ain’t.

But the guy is so damned committed to the music and the poetry and the craic, you can’t take your eyes off him. Soul, he has in abundance. And this holiday season we’re all about to be treated to a hilarious, and ultimately sad documentary film about this man who lit a stick of dynamite with a lifestyle and passion that appears to have finally taken its toll on his Irish body and soul.

The film is CROCK OF GOLD: A FEW ROUNDS WITH SHANE MACGOWAN, and it’s available through the Gene Siskel Film center VOD starting December 4th.

You might want to have a cocktail or two handy when you watch it. Filmmaker Julien Temple finds a variety of ways to tell the story of Shane MacGowan, including animation, historical and archived concert footage, old interviews, and a series of MacGowan’s friends, including Irish patriot Gerry Adams and film star Johnny Depp, probing him for details of his deliciously defiant life of performing traditional Irish music through drugs, sex, and rock and roll. I found myself laughing out loud at the comic absurdity of Shane’s antics until falling under the spell of his poetry and staring into the abyss by his side. It’s a wild ride.

Shane tells us God chose him as a little boy to be the one who saves Irish music, because of course, “God is Irish”. Being born on Christmas Day has its perks, “I was born lucky.”

The film takes you on the journey of Shane’s life over sixty years starting idyllically in Tipperary where he would visit relatives in the summers and started drinking and smoking at the age of six.

We follow him and his family growing up in London, meet his mom and dad, his sister, friends, and girlfriends, all through the prism of Shane’s wacked out psyche. There’s plenty of Irish mythology and poetry and pints and whiskey, acid, and heroin to keep things interesting.

The tragedy of Shane MscGowan is the tragedy of all the great Irish bards like Behan, Joyce, Flann O’Brien and plenty of others who dared to kiss the sky. We all ultimately share the same fate as Icarus. The film is packed with Irish history, politics, mythology, religion, and plenty of soul.

Gerry Adams reminds Shane of one of his own favorite lyrics from Fairy Tale of New York. “I could have been someone.” And of course, the retort, “Well so could anyone!”

Do yourself a favor and watch CROCK OF GOLD, A FEW ROUNDS WITH SHANE MACGOWAN. Just like Shane, it’s a masterpiece.

To order your screener go to Gene Siskel Film Center’s website at www.siskelfilmcenter.org. Video on Demand starts December 4, 2020.

YOU CAN WATCH THE TRAILER HERE!

Merry Christmas!