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.

 

 

 

October 2014 Column from the Irish American News

 Hooliganism

by

Mike Houihan

 

Deep in slumber I thought I heard the voice of Henry McGlade, the guy who does the entertainment report on Sean Ginnelly’s Good Morning Ireland show, reporting on the shock and awe of people in Ireland when they discovered that the new Rose of Tralee had come out as a lesbian.

I gotta be dreaming, I thought to myself.

Then I heard McGlade’s excited voice break into his best rendition of Bill Zwecker when he reported the following.

The Hollywood Reporter brings us this exclusive! International film star and Academy Award winner Daniel Day Lewis has signed a multi-million dollar contract to play the coveted role of Irish diplomat Aidan Cronin in the film adaptation of the NY Times best-selling non-fiction paperback book for the last 52 weeks, “The Ambassador”.

“The Ambassador” has been a runaway hit since its debut, written by investigative reporter Izzy Cusack. It’s a potboiler about espionage and terrorist activity in Chicago in the summer of 2013. The terrorist plot was thwarted by the intrepid deeds of Irish Consul General Cronin and the book lifts the veil on the shadowy world of international intrigue that bubbled over in the Irish community of Chicago that summer.

Hollywood hopes to turn “The Ambassador” into an Irish James Bond style blockbuster next year. The story has enough twists and turns to excite audiences globally.

As most of us know by now, the terrorists had been plotting to poison a shipment of Guinness to Chicago that summer. Tracking down the suspects and making sure “the black stuff” was potable for drinking involved a labyrinthine society of Irish and irish-American Chicagoans.

Key to the investigation was the role played by an undercover agent of Interpol, a man from Clare, who posed as a mild-mannered retired all Ireland football and hurling champion named P.J. O’Dea.

PJ would call the office of the Consul General on a regular basis and speak with embassy administrator Pat Neary, with what seemed like Chicago political minutia and gossip, but was actually a highly clandestine code to set up an elaborate wire tap system designed to snuff out one of the prime suspects, an Irish accordion player named Joe Cullen.

The investigation ultimately cleared Cullen but the book went to great lengths cracking the code of PJ and Pat Neary’s conversations, including the cryptic remark O’Dea shouted into the phone as he concluded each coded conversation, hanging up the phone, “Let me speak to Marie!”

It was later discovered that the poisoning plot was triggered by rumors, panic and paranoia triggered by a pious pledge of a boycott of Guinness by an Irish-American radio personality named “Houli”, who was angered by Guinness pulling sponsorship of the Boston and New York St. Patrick’s Day parades and he labeled them “anti-Catholic”. Houli held to the boycott for six months but later acquiesced when Cardinal Dolan accepted the Grand Marshall post in the NYC parade and radio host Sean Ginnelly offered to buy him a pint one night just weeks before Houli was heading to Ireland, conveniently enough.

MGM also announced additional casting of the film, including Brendan Gleeson in the role of publican and immigration champion Billy Lawless, Finoula Flanagan as Pat Neary, Jim Carrey as Joe Cullen, Michael Fassbender as Vice-Consul Nick Michael, Olivia Wilde as Maedhbh Cronin, and the late Irish character actor Cyril Cusack as radio personality Skinny Sheahan.

Wait, what? And that’s when I woke up!

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April 2014 Column from The Irish American News

Houlihan_Book_StickerHooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

Local police are concerned that three venues in the Chicagoland area will not be able to contain the fans expected to turn out for the book launch of “More Hooliganism Stories” this month.

Frenzied female fans of Irish American News columnist Mike Houlihan are expected to mob the entrance to three Irish pubs in the next few weeks.

Houlihan is scheduled to appear at the pubs to promote his latest book, the sequel to his immensely popular debut tome “Hooliganism”, which enraptured readers and critics alike. Said Houlihan, “We were going to call it “Son of Hooliganism” but that sounded too much like a Godzilla movie, and besides I’ve already got two sons and their lives are already miserable enough thanks to me!”

The new book features Houlihan’s columns from the last six years as well as a foreword written by former 19th Ward Alderman and Cook County Sheriff Mike Sheahan. In the foreword, Sheahan makes allusions to the crime of “Hooliganism” which led to the imprisonment of feminist rock punk group “Pussy Riot” in Russia.

Once again the book’s cover employs the deceptive photo of a much slimmer Houlihan from the year 2000 which triggers hot flashes and drives many women into menopause. The author has been heard to remark, “Yeah, that’s my First Holy Communion picture!”

Houlihan will perform excerpts from the book and reportedly will be telling some dirty jokes he learned from Betty Loren Maltese. Additional traffic precautions should be taken by anyone in the neighborhood of these venues on the following dates.

Wednesday April 9th, Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub, 400 North McClurg Court, Chicago.  7-9PM.

The book launch will take place immediately following the taping of the Skinny & Houli Show that night so get there early to avoid the horde of Hooliganism fans.

Thursday April 10th, Cork & Kerry Irish Pub, 10614 South Western Ave. Chicago.  7-9PM

Mob action details from the 22nd Police district will be on call to handle the swarm of Southside sluts who spurned the Hooligan in his younger days.

Friday, April 11th. The Claddagh Ring Pub, 2306 West Foster, Chicago. 7-9PM

A stones throw from the Hooligan’s birthplace, this venue could be the most dangerous of them all because of certain units of the AOH Ladies Auxiliary.

Members of Pussy Riot will not be in attendance at any of the “More Hooliganism” launches. Unconfirmed reports say they will be very busy on those evenings in Siberia.

“More Hooliganism” is also available online at www.mikehoulihan.com/store

 

***

Irish American News Column August 2013

Kathleen Keane w:pintHooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

Wanna know what heaven is like? Then come to Ireland with Skinny Sheahan and me this October.

Those of you who’ve been there know what I’m talking about. And those of you who’ve never been, well prepare to find the key to your soul.

Many of us are lucky enough to have ancestors who started in Ireland. This tiny island nation is where all our charm, beauty, poetry, and laughter began.

If you could meet your great great grandmother in the flesh, what would you say to her? Don’t worry about it because she would be doing most of the talking. Would you pass up the opportunity for her to take you in her arms and kiss you on both cheeks and then feed you and offer you a glass of something delightful?

I know you wouldn’t. So what are you waiting for? You could be dead soon and find yourself at the pearly gates and God will ask you, “Why didn’t you go to Ireland so you could touch the place from where your family started? Why did you keep putting it off? You could have gone with Skinny and Houli and a group of friends and had the time of your life, but no, you wanted to sit on your arse and watch the Bears stink up another season. You could have stayed in some of the Emerald Isle’s nicest hotels and traveled to Dublin, Galway, Ennis, Killarney in the Kingdom of Kerry, and back to Dublin again. But no, you wanted to stay in Chicago that week and watch your dog hump the futon in front of the TV. What is wrong with you?”

Then you’ll be sorry you didn’t go. And God will be very disappointed in you. He’ll tell you, “You must be daft! You had the opportunity to meet the ghosts of your ancestors, and Skinny and Houli’s pals Black Dave Cahill, Mike Monaghan, Jimmy Deenihan, the Irish Minister of Culture, and Niall “Botty” O’Callaghan, the former Mayor of Killarney, and tons of other wonderful Irish characters, and you didn’t go?”

What are you gonna tell Our Lord then? He might even add, “And the deal was great! $2499 included airfare, hotel, meals, everything…except booze!”

“Frankie Moran went to Ireland with the Skinny & Houli Show, that’s like having Irish comedian Pat Roche with you for the whole trip! And so did Dean Vallas, Mary Ann Wilson, Mike Miller, Brendan O’Brien, Mary Ann Moran, Skip Carey, Denny Kearns, and Froggie McGuire!”

You’ll start to sweat then when God says, “I’m not sure if heaven is the right place for you! You had the opportunity to experience a mystical, almost supernatural event and you passed because you wanted to wait and go “some day”. The nation of Ireland needed your help, 2013 was the Gathering and you opted not to go that year because that was the week of the wedding of your second cousin’s horrible daughter? Are you absolutely cracked?”

By then you will be on your knees and begging God to “Send me back and I will go to Ireland with Skinny and Houli for sure Lord! I know I was foolish, I know now I should have gone, please Lord, send me back so I can go the old country with the rest of the gang before I actually die!”

And the Lord might say, “I can do that, I can send you back to the beginning of August. But you have to call Cathy Featherstone at 847-542-1539 or email her at triseasonsgroups@gmail.com and you have to get your deposit to her immediately!”

Yes Lord I will, send me back, please. I want to go to Ireland.

“Why, why do you want to go to Ireland with Skinny and Houli?”

Because I know it will be fun, romantic, memorable, and I will be laughing so hard and crying tears of joy to travel into the mystic that I will never forget it.

And then the Lord will tell you, “And because life is short kid, don’t forget that!”

Sure hope you can make it before you die. Ireland with Skinny & Houli, Oct. 17-24th. See you in heaven!

N.B.-As we went to press it was announced that international Irish singing sensation/fiddle player/flute player/and Irish dancer Kathleen Keane, (pictured above), will be joining the Skinny & Houli Ireland Tour as our musical guest! Kathleen will serenade us all as we explore the auld country! Don’t miss this preview of Heaven on earth!

March 2013 column from Irish American News

Photo courtesy of Dean Battaglia

Photo courtesy of Dean Battaglia

 

Hooliganism

By

Mike Houlihan

Believe it or not, some people don’t like St. Patrick’s Day.

Jewish New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had to apologize a few years back for making some wise cracks about “drunken Irish” on the holy day. And who can forget the late Princess Margaret’s comment back in 1979 when she told Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, “the Irish are pigs”, right after the IRA had blasted Lord Mountbatten’s ass to kingdom come.

But other than a few malcontents, we Irish are universally loved all over the world.

How could we not be? We’re the most brilliant, handsome, and joyful race on earth.

Everybody wants to be Irish; including a certain half-black, Hawaiian who claims roots in Moneygall, County Offally, known to many as BO.

Well who can blame him? Being Irish is hip, especially this month.

This is when the Irish Diaspora flexes her muscles and shows the world how ethnic pride is done. Those poofs in the “Gay Pride” parade got nothing on us and we don’t have to take off our clothes and simulate sodomy with the fire hydrants either.

Here in Chicago we celebrate our pride in being Irish all year round.  It’s why you’re reading this story right now you gorgeous people!

And our St. Patrick’s Day festivities began this year exactly two months before the holy day when a thousand rosy faces toasted new Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne at the annual Plumbers Hall St. Patrick’s Day Parade corned beef and cabbage fundraiser dinner.

Coyne has lined up Notre Dame Football Coach Brian Kelly as Grand Marshall of the Parade, kicking off on Columbus Drive on Saturday March 16th. There are also rumors that Fighting Irish football legend Manti Te’o’s girlfriend might make an appearance at the parade, so keep an eye on those Irish Faeries on the floats.

Chicago’s love affair with the Irish continued in February, once again at Plumber’s Hall, when 30 judges crowned Bridget Fitzgerald Queen of the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Her coronation was preceded by a magnificent speech by outgoing Queen Sara Marie Collins as she bid her subjects adieu.

As one of those judges I can attest to the validity of the election. In spite of Cook County’s reputation and the many text messages, emails, and jokes about bribes being flung my way, nobody was on the take.

How can we be so sure the election was legit? Because Skinny Sheahan was in Florida that day folks.

While Skinny was sun bathing his name was dragged through the mud by many at the fundraiser on Feb. 15th for the Southside Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Bourbon Street was packed with revelers but everybody kept asking me the whereabouts of my radio co-host from The Skinny & Houli Show. “Don’t worry”, I told them, “He’ll be back just in time to dunk his skinny little arse into Lake Michigan for the Special Olympics Polar Plunge!” That’s Sunday March 3rd so come on out to North Avenue Beach to watch him shiver for a great cause.

March Madness won’t be complete of course without the Southside Irish Parade on Sunday March 10th, which triumphantly returned last year after much hard work by Skinny and the SSIP Committee. Everybody is anticipating a very sober and family oriented celebration once again, especially since 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea’s issued his shoot-to-kill edict for anyone seen practicing hooliganism in the public way.

If you’re looking for even more culture this month check out “The Women of Ireland” at The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet on Thursday March 7th and my favorite Irish band, The Saw Doctors, at The Vic on March 22nd. Very proud to be associated with both shows.

And on Wednesday March 13th at 8:15PM, The European Union Film Festival will present the world premiere of OUR IRISH COUSINS at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 North State Street in Chicago. It could be the most significant Irish film of all time, so you ain’t gonna want to miss that!

Still starved for Irish culture? Check out FREECRAIC.COM, and sate your desire for entertainment, gossip, and giggles this month and every month as we break the stories nobody else will talk about, but everybody wants to know.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and God Bless all you gorgeous people!

-30-

 

Paul Ryan the Real Deal in Irish Ancestry Campaign

Paul Ryan the Real Deal in Irish Ancestry Campaign.
By Mike Houlihan
Special to The Irish American News

Most Irish Americans are skeptical of President Obama’s supposed discovery of his Irish roots. That pint of Guinness he was seen hoisting in Ireland last year was no doubt his first. The real reason he made the trip to the tiny village of Moneygall was a craven attempt to cozy up to the Irish American vote.

We’re also not buying Vice-President Joe Biden’s claims to be “Irish Catholic”. This chuckling buffoon is no more Catholic than Ian Paisley, but he still clings to the oxymoronic label of “pro-choice Catholic” like his pals Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, and the late Teddy Kennedy. Actual Irish Catholics find an absurdity in the very idea of pro-choice Catholics. They may call themselves that, but the actual species does not exist. Ask the Pope.

The liberal media has done its best lately to malign the Irish Catholic credentials of Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. But according to Rick Barrett, retired DEA Agent and Chicago history detective, Ryan is the most Irish of the four candidates running, and his heritage and religion make him “the real deal”- an Irishman.

Barrett’s previous investigative research projects are celebrated in the Irish American community. His work is notable because of his discovery of Irish immigrants as historic figures and then championing these individuals as pioneers in law enforcement, including The Chicago Police Department’s Constable Jeremiah Sullivan, the first Irishman to become a policeman in America; Marie Connelly Owens, the first policewoman in the USA; and Constable James Quinn, the first Chicago Police Officer killed in the line of duty.

The son of legendary Chicago police Lieutenant “Junior” Barrett, of 48th & Wabash-Southside of Chicago fame, Rick Barrett has a history himself of conducting criminal investigations and evidentiary historical research that bloodhounds would envy.

Among Barrett’s discoveries is the heritage of VP Candidate Paul Ryan:

Ryan is fourth-generation Irish, with a paternal line going back to Ullard in County Kilkenny.

Ryan’s people were farmers. His great-great grandparents came from a small townland registered as Clohasty in the 1820’s, but now referred to as Cloghasty North. The townland itself was less than 110 acres.

James Ryan and Catherine Shea, Paul Ryan’s great-great grandparents, were married in the local Catholic parish of Graigeunamanagh.

Their first daughter, Ryan’s great-grand aunt, was born and baptized in the same parish in 1849, two years before the family emigrated.

So why is any of this important to the upcoming election? Because Irish Catholics tend to vote for their own. The best example of that is the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley getting the vote out for a young man named Jack Kennedy in 1960 and winning him the election.

Ryan’s Irish roots could help determine how the battleground state of Ohio votes in the upcoming election.

Barrett says, “There are many Irish Catholics residing in the state of Ohio. In fact, there are so many Irish Catholics living there that, years ago, the University of Notre Dame, home of the ‘Fighting Irish’, made an agreement with the Ohio State University to never schedule a regular season football game between the two universities. Why would that be? Because neither Notre Dame nor OSU wanted to divide the state’s Irish Catholics—a game between these two universities would divide Ohio with some cheering for the Irish Catholic ND, thereby dividing Ohioans. Two of Paul Ryan’s brothers, Stan and Tobin, graduated from Notre Dame while Paul chose to attend Miami University in Ohio.”

Paul Ryan’s Irish Catholic bona fides, as a Pro-Life candidate and with ancestors going back to Graiguenamanagh in County Kilkenny, could potentially sway Irish Catholic voters in Ohio to “stick with their own”, and very well swing the election to give the Republicans the victory on November 6th.

And that night in Boston might be when Paul Ryan stands before the cheering crowds of Irish Catholics and tells them, “There are only two kinds of people in this world ‘Irish and I-Wish”!

Mike Houlihan is a former Chicago Sun-Times Features Columnist, has been an Irish American News Columnist since 1996, and is the co-host of Chicago’s “Skinny & Houli Irish Hour” on the radio. More info at www.mikehoulihan.com