St. Patrick’s Day 2022

The other night Saint Patrick was snoozing in heaven after falling asleep watching the TV show “The First 48” when the GOD PHONE next to his couch began insistently buzzing off its hook.

St. Patrick stirred from his slumber and eyeballed the red phone, which hadn’t rung in many years. He mumbled to himself, “Uh oh, something huge must be happening in Ireland!”

He picked up the receiver and faked alertness, “Helloooo!”

He heard the voice of Our Lord Jesus Christ bellow into his ear, “Pat, get over to my office immediately! We gotta talk!”

“Yes Lord, I will be there in a jiffy!”

God sounded angry and let him know it. “Don’t give me this jiffy crap, I want to see you NOW!”

Patrick hustled off the couch and made his way down the hallway to God’s office. His mind was racing, trying to guess what it was all about. Ireland has had many troubles over the years and just lately, within the last half century anyway, had joined the “woke” culture and been gradually turning away from the Catholic Church and electing some very strange leaders. On top of that the whole world has been upended with this goofy pandemic and this guy Putin was itching to blow up everything.

He bolted into God’s outer office and smiled at the gorgeous receptionist. “He’s waiting for you Patrick, so go right in.”

God had his back to him as he gazed out the heavenly window, “Have a seat Pat. We have a situation we need to discuss.”

What is it, Lord? Is it Belfast? Dublin? Trouble in the Dáil Éireann, Oireachtas or Stormont?

God spun around in his chair and dropped a copy of the Chicago Tribune on his desk as his eyes met Patrick’s. “It’s on the southside of Chicago!”

Patrick sat down gingerly and picked up the paper. “Well, there are plenty of Irish on the south side, lots of Southside Irish Catholics. But come on Lord, the Tribune?  You already know everything, why be reading that malarkey?”

God folded his hands under his chin and peered at Patrick. “Just read the story, about Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, read what it says.”

Patrick took out his reading glasses and started scanning the page, mumbling as he read along until he finally said, “A lawsuit against the city by a former Park District attorney alleges that Mayor Lori Lightfoot berated staff in obscene terms over Columbus statue, told them “My dick is bigger than yours and the Italians, I have the biggest dick in Chicago.”

God grinned at Patrick. “Ain’t that something?”

He then leaned forward and asked, “And what exactly is happening in Chicago next week?”

Patrick gulped. “Oh eh, The St. Patrick’s Day Parade?”

God chuckled, “Yes keep going, what else, more specifically?”

Patrick squeaked out his answer, “The Southside Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade…which has been canceled the last two years…is returning on Western Avenue Sunday March 13th.”

Jesus laughed, “Jackpot! So, you have the mayor of Chicago claiming to have the “biggest dick in Chicago” marching in a parade through the 19th Ward, a very heavily Irish neighborhood, as you well know, and what do you think those southside hooligans are going to do when she walks her big swingin’ schwanz down Western Avenue?”

Patrick burst out laughing. “Lord that sound like a party to me!”

Jesus laughed with him, “Gee, do you think there might be some ‘shenanigans’ by the crowd at the parade that day? Maybe some signs calling her out? Some cat calls, hoots, and hollers and as your Irish like to say, “great craic” when big dick Lori strolls the avenue.”

Both now were rolling with laughter as God stood up and walked to the bar in his office. He smiled at Patrick, “The Irish are the greatest race I’ve ever created and this weekend we’re going to celebrate with music, dancing, and the great culture of the Irish, especially on the southside of Chicago, where all my favorite people come from as we laugh and cheer for this total doofus of a mayor. Pat, how about a pint?”

They clinked their glasses and laughed as Jesus said, ‘Slainte! To the Southside Irish of Chicago!”

St. Patrick took a big gulp of his porter and laughed, “We gotta invite Columbus to this too!

 

 

Nothing better than an Irish audience

Houli in Ireland 2021

I’ve been traveling to Ireland every year consecutively since 2013, and just returned last month from my 10th trip back into the arms of Kathleen ni Houlihan.

She never disappoints.

Usually I’m lucky enough to have between a dozen and forty companions on these journeys but Covid kissed all that goodbye. Most people were too spooked to hit the airports and be humiliated and interrogated like spies as we crossed over international waters. But our small but mighty crew leapt at the opportunity to joust with Vax Nazis, bureaucrats, and hotel security.

We survived and now live to tell the tales.

 

The lovely and vivacious fiddler Katie Grennan joined us along with her paramour, Irish music guru John Williams. Without them, we were a crew of Magnificent Seven including Haggerty brothers Ricardo and Billy, Walking Eagle Peckham, retired CFD “Chief” Mike Miller, Robert “Moon” Mullins, former military intelligence agent flown in from Dallas, Dennis A. Kearns, grandson of “Weeping Jim Kearns” the father of the Chicago flag and the star of our film, who arrived last from Austin Texas by way of Heathrow, and me.

It was a wild group of old geezers drinking like they were headed to the electric chair and whenever there was a lull in the pub-crawling, Katie and John would introduce their instruments, take center stage and with electrifying trad music just blow the roof off the joint. Memories were made. Much credit to Derry Cronin of Specialized Travel for helping us make this pilgrimage.

The expedition had begun auspiciously when Chief Miller and I met up at O’Hare airport, the requisite four hours early, to ensure that our “papers would be in order”. Now we know what it was like in the late thirties entering Berlin. Once you get there it’s not that bad, but they’ve created so much paranoia about Covid and vaccinations passports, people locator forms, and PCR tests that you go into it fearing worse than the bowel prep for your last colonoscopy.

That kind of stress makes you want to start drinking. So, Mike and I breathed a sigh of relief as we got close to our gate and strolled into the British Airways Lounge and shouted to the scary lady at the desk, “Skinny Sheahan sent us!”

That was good enough for her as she invited us into the VIP Lounge. Mike cracked wise as we entered the room and the ladies in attendance treated us like dignitaries, thirsty dignitaries. We ordered up some drinks, (“keep ‘em comin’”), and lunch, and relaxed for our three-hour wait. Mike chuckled, “Looks like we’re on scholarship!”

Of course, we duked the sweet young ladies who helped us out all afternoon and then made our way to the plane feeling no pain. Great start to the journey.

We arrived the next morning at six AM to check into the Fitzpatrick Castle in Killiney. Mike and I were jet lagged and worn out and the gorgeous blonde at the Fitz asked what we would do if there were no rooms ready at that hour? “That’s okay, we’ll just sleep right here in the lobby!”

In a flash she handed us keys and welcomed us back to the Fitz. It sure helps to know the boss, and we threw Eithne Fitzpatrick’s name around and it was magic. My room was the size of Gately Stadium, a suite with a dining room table and breathtaking view of Dalkey’s Dublin Bay.  As I collapsed in the boudoir with adjoining bath I mused, “It just gets better and better.”

Woke up around 11AM and went down to the Fitz Castle lobby for waffles and bacon for breakfast. Havin’ a cuppa tea and enjoying the scenery when the Hags brothers show up with Moon Mullins and Walking Eagle Peckham, who is wearing General McArthur’s uniform hat, and a t-shirt that reads “Booty Hunter” across his ample bosom. This guy is a dead ringer for the late Professor Irwin Corey, looking like Santa Claus with white beard and man-bun. And he thinks he’s a chick magnet!

Ignoring him the best I can but it’s difficult when he is approaching waitresses and asking them “would you like to pet my weasel?” and producing a bagpiper’s sporran that looks like he found it in the alley next door.

I overslept after a raucous first night dinner with Dennis et al at the Castle and chastised all along the way the next morning on the road to Galway, where we would spend the next three nights gettin’ after it. We hit Kilbeggan Distillery on the way and caught up with Katie and John on Friday night

The Magnificent 7 (left to right) Billy Haggerty, Houli, Ricardo Haggerty, Dennis Kearns, Walking Eagle Peckham, Chief Mike Miller, and Bob “Moon” Mullins

Saturday night was spent at “Moran’s on the Weir” in Kilcolgan just outside Galway in a private room where we feasted on oysters, prawns, and Chief Miller described the dinner conversation as a “nitwits convention”. He was right but we all settled down when Katie and John put on a concert that soothed the savages by candlelight as we supped and sipped.

Mass on Sunday at Galway Cathedral and then back to meet with my old pal Aodh Ó Coileáin, filmmaker and resident genius, for a quick catch up before embarking for our cruise on Killary Fjord.

On Monday we left for Westport and the Irish premiere of our film IN SEARCH OF WEEPING JIM, ostensibly the actual reason for this trip. I asked the hotel concierge to call me a cab. She called Mary O’Toole who picked me up and Mary chatted me up on the way. I told her my film was premiering that night at the Town Hall Theatre and she says, “Oh I wanted to go to that, but have to work.” Then insisted on not charging me for the ride! Yes, the Irish are great people, especially Mary O’Toole.

It turned out to be a magical night with over a hundred folks in attendance, many of them featured in the film that we shot over several years in Kilmeena and the tiny island of Inishcuttle in County Mayo.  The Irish audience embraced the film, because of course it was about them and they got ALL the jokes. Very special occasion.

Sitting in the back row of the theatre I was touched when footage of Inishcuttle came on the screen as The Saw Doctors broke into “The Green and Red of Mayo” and the audience started singing along.  I broke for the bar in the lobby, but it was closed, when I ran into theatre manager Rosaleen Heraty who asked me, “Mike, do you like whiskey?”

Rosaleen opened a bottle of Grainne O’Malley’s, the pirate queen. “Believe in Grace” it said on the bottle, and I most certainly did that night.

That grace was evident in Mary O’Toole and the lovely audience ….and Matt Molloy himself of The Chieftains as we filmed an on-the-fly episode of OUR IRISH PUB with Katie Grennan, John Williams, Matt Molloy and his son Peter Molloy, jammin’ the trad tunes late into the evening.

It was epic as I turned to Walking Eagle, who was romancing a pair of old Irish witches lookin’ to party, and caught him on camera telling the ladies, “I’ve got more women than I can shake my dick at!” Bizarro World in Westport.

Ordering two at a time is so much easier.

That’s when I decided to make the Irish exit and head back to the hotel. Billy Haggerty guided my stumbling old fella self as he extolled the film to our cab driver, who I asked, “Do you know Mary O’Toole?”

“Of course, I do!”, he chuckled, “She’s, my sister!”

Or something like that. At that point the peak of the party had been hit and the next day we jumped back into our bus for the ride back to Killiney for our final night at the Fitz.

Once again, I was in Room 427, making me feel right at home for one more night. The Magnificent Seven assembled for our final dinner of this adventure.  It had been a Jim dandy exhibition of Irish roguery for the last week and as our waitress came to our table to interrupt our nitwits’ powwow, she turned to Walking Eagle, and her mask could not mask her extreme sarcasm through her lilting brogue aa she said, “Did’ja you bring your weasel?”

She may be the only human on this earth who could shut up Walking Eagle Peckham. He just sorta dribbled into his beard while we all laughed.

It was time to go now. We’d all be heading out of Dublin in no time on different flights and would all be dragging our asses home.

So, I’m sitting on the flight back home and the gorgeous Aer Lingus gal sez to me, “Would you like a drink?”

Her name was Eimear and I told of her my friend, fiddler, and singer Eimear Arkins, and that she should listen to her music or some bs like that and then I asked, “You don’t happen to have any of that Grainne O’Malley the Pirate Queen Irish whiskey, do you?”

And she smiled and said, “Do you believe in Grace?”

I said, “I do indeed, and her name was Mary O’Toole. “

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

 

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!

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!

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.

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.

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 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!