September 2014 Hooliganism Column from The Irish American News




Mike Houlihan


I’ll be in heaven next month. Just for a preview.

It’s the annual Skinny & Houli pilgrimage to the holy ground, Ireland! Somebody said, “Ireland is where the hand of God touches earth.” And I will give witness to that.

Last year on the Skinny & Houli trip as I sat in front of a pub, reveling in the fun being had by all, retired CFD Chief Mike Miller, stood outside the pub with me and said, “Well, you were right!”

He then quoted my column from August 2013, where I put the reader at the Pearly Gates and God offered reasons for the trip when He finally said, “Because life is short, kid.”

Mike Miller told me that clinched it for him. Guess what? Mike is back again this year for The Skinny & Houli Return to Ireland Tour. So is Brendan O’Brien, Dori Dillion, Denny Kearns, George & Barb Scully, and Froggie McGuire. And this time Froggie is bringing his girl friend Mary Ellen Duffy!

Those veterans of our shenanigans will be joined by more adventurous souls this year as we go north to Belfast, Derry, Donegal, and back to Dublin to hang out once again at the Fitzpatrick Castle. Yeah, everybody wants to go to heaven.

Can you blame them?

Now I know there will be naysayers shouting, “What do you know about heaven, Houli? What you need is a preview of hell!”

Well sorry to disappoint you negative thinkers but I’ve seen hell already and I don’t care to return.

It was many years ago. I was a young college bum in the company of fellow thespian, Rubenesque Rebecca Gould, who was babysitting her little brother Sheldon in her parent’s Lake Point Tower condo. Becky was blessed with a bountiful bosom that beckoned to me from across the room.

We commenced making out on the couch, and just as I was rounding first base, she burst into tears!

That wasn’t exactly the reaction I was hoping for and then I heard the flash of a Polaroid camera behind me and I looked up to discover little Shelly snickering as he held up a photo of me with my hand up his sister’s blouse.

“Ten bucks, shmuck, and you can take the photo with you!”

I wanted to strangle the lil devil but had images of his dad, Dr. Gould, having me arrested. So I paid up and bid Rebecca adieu. As I waited for the elevator in the hallway I heard her inside crying and arguing with Shelly and finally screaming at the top of her gigantic lungs, “You owe me five bucks!”

So yes I have had a glimpse of hell and her name was Becky Gould.

So remember, September is the final window to sign up for the Skinny & Houli Return to Ireland Tour in October, so if you wanna party with the big dogs, while the lovely Katie Grennan serenades us on her Irish fiddle all over the auld sod, call Cathy Featherstone at 847-542-1539 to book your passage. And remember, “Life is short kid.” so call Today!

I understand that not everybody can make it this year but you can come close to the experience by joining me for one or another of the following great events this month.

On Wednesday Sept. 10th we’ll be celebrating the 5th Anniversary of The Skinny & Houli Show at Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub. Join us and meet Irish Consul General Aidan Cronin, our special guest that night on the show, starting at 6PM. Gifts are not required but certainly encouraged!

Wed. Sept 17th hope to see you all at The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame dinner at Hawthorne Racecourse when Minnie Minoso will be honored along with about twenty sports legends including our old pal from Mayo, boxing coach Marty McGarry, who will be picking up a “Lifetime Achievement Award”. More info at

And don’t forget Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day on Friday night Sept 19 at Plumber’s Hall, 1340 West Washington, Chicago. for more info.

This is a fundraiser for the Chicago parade and the second annual celebration put together by Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne. Forty bucks at the door includes food, beer, wine and soda with live music from “Hey Jimmy” and The Shannon Rovers. I will be there with my friend John Linehan selling our books, so hope to see you there. Last year was a blast!

Finally on Friday Sept 26 & Sunday Sept. 28, please join me in welcoming filmmakers Dave and Colin Farrell to The Gene Siskel Film Centre for the Chicago premiere of their dazzling documentary “A Terrible Beauty” based on the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland. This terrific film should be seen by every Irish-American seeking enlightenment. Hope to see you there!

So this month offers us a variety of heavens. And if that doesn’t float your boat, try finding Becky Gould in the phone book, just for the hell of it!



January 2014 Column from The Irish American News

Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne

Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne



Mike Houlihan

It could be the most significant move in political history, echoing the vision of Winston Churchill in the darkest days of World War II.

Historians judge leaders by their intrepid actions in crisis, so let me be the first to recognize true leadership in our Irish American community of Chicago.

In a moment of inspired clarity, Local 130 Plumbers Union Business Manager Jim Coyne has moved up the date of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen Contest to Sunday, January 19th. a full month, at least, ahead of its date in previous years.

Like the moon in eclipse this change will create positive reverberations around the globe.

The most obvious, immediate benefit of this epic decision is the strategic capture of another month of each year’s calendar to celebrate our patron saint of Ireland.

From January 19th to March 17th is 76 days that could legitimately be devoted to the approaching holy day.  That’s more than 20% of the entire year! On top of that, every fourth year, our total days leap to 77!

And now as our star becomes affixed in the firmament, the rest of the planets divinely fall in line. The annual corned beef and cabbage fundraiser at Plumber’s Hall will be Thursday January 30th, a week later than in years past. The new Queen and her court and the Grand Marshall of the parade will all be there as our community kicks off the holy season together.

See what Coyne is doing folks? He is, like a prophet, proclaiming an extension of the celebratory festival of St. Patrick in the great city of Chicago.

I don’t know if Pope Francis was consulted about this but I have a feeling when he hears about this he will pick up the phone and call Coyne and tell him, “Holy Moly Jimmy! What a great honor for St. Patrick in Chicago!”

No doubt Coyne’s political director Mike Tierney played a role in brokering this deal. The Queen contest will take place on the Sunday before Dr. Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday. That way the college gals who want to compete can drop by Plumber’s Hall over the three-day weekend.

And what a stroke of genius to combine the start of the Irish holidays with tributes to the martyred civil rights leader Dr. King. The Irish and African American people have both known oppression at the hands of slave masters.

The reason you meet so many African Americans with Irish names is another connection between our races. After slavery was abolished many black children were orphaned and Irish nuns took them into the convent to care for them. Those orphan kids took the last names of the nuns who cared for them when they were children.  Generations later we’ve been blessed with characters like Eddie Murphy, Ella Fitzgerald, and Leroy Hooligan.

A great responsibility comes for all of us with this extension of the Paddy’s Day season. Let’s do our best to be proud to be Irish, but do it in such a way ‘sose our fellow man will be proud of us as well.

That means volunteering, helping out, donating, and getting involved with our community to show the world our brightest side. And it all starts with our Queen.

Deadline for entries is Friday January 10th!

“Any girl of Irish ancestry, never married 17-27 years old is eligible.”

It might say “any” girl but the Queen is never just any girl. She is “Chicago’s fairest colleen”; an ambassador of the Irish American community of our city for the next year and it takes guts for these gals to enter the fray.

Yes they’re gorgeous, but they’re also poised, proud, tough confident cookies who join the contest undaunted by the competition and embrace the spirit of the season of St. Patrick.

So throw your hats in the ring ladies and let’s the find the “fairest colleen” on Sunday Jan. 19th. Tell your daughter, granddaughter, sister, or niece to give it a try. It’s one of the great Irish traditions of Chicago and a memorable day for every lassie in the field that day.

The Queen and her court of four will be expected to attend civic, neighborhood, parish, and Irish events on behalf of the parade committee, including a traditional appearance on The Skinny & Houli Irish Radio Hour at Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub. This is historically the night that the Queen and her court taste their first alcoholic beverage. Not!

Go to to download your application and let’s show Jim Coyne he was inspired to kick off the start of the emerald season at Plumber’s Hall on Sunday, January 19th.

Drop by Plumbers Hall that afternoon at 1340 West Washington, grab a beer and a corned beef sandwich and cheer on your candidate as you watch the drama unfold for Her Majesty ‘da Queen’s coronation.

Many Irish and Irish American bachelors annually make the trek to Plumbers Hall for The Queen contest to look over the fillies making their debut. It’s also fun to watch even if you don’t have a horse in the race!

So let’s salute Local 130 Business Manager Jim Coyne for this great leap forward for all mankind. See you at Plumber’s Hall!


















March 2013 column from Irish American News

Photo courtesy of Dean Battaglia

Photo courtesy of Dean Battaglia




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!