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!

 

 

With Apologies to Finley Peter Dunne

The other night in a dream I was visited by the ghost of my ancient Irish mythological grandfather, Ferocious Frank O’Hooligan.
Frank was a Chicago cop, born in Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland back in 1939. Ferocious Frank O’Hooligan, was the seventh son of Finbar and Mary O’Hooligan. The family emigrated to Chicago in 1946 where Finbar opened a tavern on 79th Street, not far from Sheehy’s Funeral Home and Riley’s Trick Shop.
As a seventh son of a seventh son, Frank O’Hooligan was also blessed with the ancient Druid powers bestowed on the few favored of our race. Those powers came in handy at critical moments in his life.

Ferocious Frank was always a good man for a pint.

Once in 1963 while waiting in line to cash out his Christmas club account at the bank at 71st and Jeffrey, a pair of masked bandits entered with shotguns and demanded everyone empty their pockets and screamed for the tellers to hand over all the cash.
Frank used his Druid powers to magically turn the bad guys into braying donkeys and the guns dropped from their scrambling hooves as the alarm was sounded.
Stunned witnesses couldn’t remember exactly what happened that day but all were thankful that the off-duty Irish rookie cop had saved the day.
In my dream, Ferocious Frank appeared to me on the next stool at the Cork & Kerry Irish Pub in Bridgeport as we quaffed pints. He called me by my nickname as we discussed our beloved city of Chicago.
“Mr. Hooley! What’s this Lightfoot fella up to with the police?” he barked.
I told him, she’s not a fella, but just a diminutive lady with a little man’s complex.
Frank was upset, “Word is that this Mayor Lightfoot called the cops of Chicago, “cowards”
Well, many of the coppers have no faith in her Superintendent of Police, David Brown, and have voiced their feelings about him, and she said they are “cowards” according to the Sun-Times.
O’Hooligan scoffed, “Is she daft?”
Well, yeah kinda.
“How in the hell did she get elected?”
It’s a long story grandpa.
“And what’s all this blather about ‘defunding the police’”?
Yeah, it’s happening across the country, progressives want to replace the police with social workers to solve crime.
Ferocious Frank laughed, “Social workers? Do youse call a social worker when somebody is raping your daughter? Or stickin’ a gun in your face to hijack your car? And who the hell are these ‘progressives’ yer talkin’ about?”
Good government types who are hellbent on destroying the status quo, up is down, black is white, women are men, and men are eunuchs, and we’re all racists. We call them ‘goo-goos’!
“Goo-Goos is it? Dirty stinkin’ blagguards is more like it!”
Yeah, things are outta control, they’ve issued no days off for the cops, making them work round the clock, and when they do make a pinch, the scumbag walks out of the station five minutes later, on his own recognizance.
Murders and shootings are at an all-time high in the city, the violence is so bad in The Loop, and folks are so scared, it’s like a ghost town. Roving gangs of whacked out marauders have been descending on the stores and cleaning ‘em out of fur coats, clothes, tv sets, looting is practically legal.
“Bejazus! What does Mayor Napoleon say about ‘dat?”
She says the stores should have hired their own private security guards.
“It’s a nightmare! My Chicago has given way to the tossers and blagguards! This would never be happening if Mayor Richard J.Daley was still running things!”
Yeah, a couple ‘shoot to kill’ orders might straighten the whole mess out. But he’s dead and we are stuck with this little tyrant who thinks everything is just jake. The Loop is a cesspool, almost empty because of all the violence.
“But why Mr. Hooley? Why piss off the police? Those are the LAST guys any mayor should want to fight with, they’re the only line that stands against the evil feens of this world!”
Things are different now grandpa, we’re living in a world gone mad.
“Ah bejazus Mr. Hooley, yer startin’ to depress me with all this talk of ‘defund the police’, goo-goos, and your murderin’ midget mayor!”
Say I meant to ask you grandpa, do you ever see Mayor Daley up there in heaven?
“Uh ho, did I say I went to heaven, me boyo?”
I just assumed.
“Assume your sister!”
Well grandpa, there is one ray of sunshine in Chicago lately.

“Ah that’s better me bucko, tell me something good is happenin’ now in my windy city, what is it?”

Chicago’s 2022 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen Kelley Leyden CPD.

The Queen of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is a young Irish American cop, a darlin’ young female police officer named Kelley Leyden.
“Now that’s worth comin’ up here to hear. Good to see the Plumbers Local 130 is still doing good things for our city. God bless her, long may she reign!

Break out the Bobble-heads!

Rob Holt, AKA “Cane Guy”

Chicago White Sox Director of Public Relations, Sheena Quinn, hit a home run this week with the announcement of their latest bobble head, “Cane-Guy”. This is the best news since the announcement of Minnie Minoso finally being inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Cane-Guy” is Northbrook’s Rob Holt, the rabid septuagenarian White Sox fan who put the zammo on the Houston Astros pitchers in the later innings of the Sox only win in the ALDS play-offs last October. Our Sox were down 3-1 when “Cane-guy” went to work, hexing 16 batters to strike out and delivering a final 12-6 triumph for our Southsiders.

With a “something wicked this way comes” expression, Holt cast his spell; waving his cane eerily like the wizard he is from his front row seats behind home plate. It worked, if only for that one game but Holt and the TV cameras had created a sensation.

“Cane-guy” became the talk of the town, a beloved bewitcher caught on camera electrifying the crowd and earning the Sox a victory that night. Holt was invited back for the next game but alas the magic could not last, and the Astros went on to later lose the World Series to Atlanta in five games.

Some “scientists” have claimed that Cane guy needs to work on his aim, insisting the fates misinterpreted Cane Guy’s evil eye and transported it to the Travis Scott audience at Astro World last November 5th, resulting in a mass stampede that killed eight audience members and effectively ended Scott’s career as a rapper.

Bringing “Cane-Guy” back as a bobble head is brilliant PR amid our winter malaise, especially since the White Sox convention has been canceled due to Covid.

Sure hope Cane guy is back next season but let’s keep an eye out for other bobble head opportunities.

We didn’t have bobble head dolls for kids when I was a lad. Oh, sure we had GI Joe and J Fred Muggs but when this precocious pre-teenager asked for an anatomically correct Barbie doll, mom smacked me in the mouth.

My seven-year-old grandson Mikey isn’t so much into bobble heads as he is into action figures, with a decidedly horror film bent. This Christmas he assembled a rogue’s gallery of these characters including Chucky, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger from Friday the 13th, and Ghostface from Scream.

I first learned of his propensity for horror characters one day when Mikey and I were picking up some cheap milk at Aldi and the fat weirdo behind us in line had a “Pennywise” t-shirt and a creepy pedophile grin for my grandson when Mikey recognized the character on his shirt. Yikes.

Those action figure collectibles run about forty bucks a piece so we’re trying to wean the kid off Horror movie heroes.

With our city murder rate climbing daily and the bubbling cauldron of violence, poverty, Covid mania, and media hysteria, maybe it’s time for a Mayor Lori Lightfoot Bobble head doll.

A Lori Lightfoot bobble head in Chicago could cause quite a profitable little niche for our city treasury in this time of need. Of course, our politicians would be jumping on that to grease the wheels for bobble head contracts, just like the red-light cameras we’ve grown to hate, spewing indictments all along the way.

A Lightfoot bobble head in your rear window could be the perfect signal to anybody thinking about pulling you over, whether cops or car jackers.

I know the Lori Lightfoot bobblehead would be the perfect gift for my friend, FOP President John Catanzara. He’d be sticking pins in that for sure.

But of all the future bobble head inspirations I guess the best would have to be the 2021 Jusslie Smollet bobble head. Kids could have fun staging the fake racial hate crime, and maybe even bring in brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo as they pretend to jump Jussie on Lower Wacker and throw a noose around his scrawny neck.

Action figure Jussie.

We could even create a Kim Foxx bobble head to come in at the end to try and get him off!

The piece de resistance would be to bring in Cane Guy at the end to zap them all with his White Sox Mojo.

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. “

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!

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

 

Tony Golden:Good Company

Tony Golden

What was the name of the Green Bay Packer running back that Chicago Bear George Connor creamed in Wrigley Field on a cold and grey Sunday in November of 1955?  Connor broke up the Packers flying wedge on a kickoff return and knocked that Packer into next week. They called it the “hit heard round the world”.  Who was that guy that George Connor knocked out?

That’s the kind of question that only Tony Golden could answer. He had an encyclopedic memory for sports trivia and other arcane Chicago folklore. As the Irish say, “He’s the kind of man you don’t meet every day.”

Houli, Tony Golden, Ed Kelly, and Charie Carey at Gene & Georgetti after lunch.

Tony and I and Charlie Carey and a rotating group of characters regularly hung out after lunch at Gene & Georgetti’s. Tony would regale us with long ago exploits of gridiron greatness, debauchery, and bravery in battle. He could make you laugh and make you cry.

Anthony, “Tony” Golden died last week at the age of 90 surrounded by his wife Kay, and sons Kevin, Terry, and Tim. He’d received the last rites from Father Tom Hurley and was ready to pack it in. He lived every minute of those ninety years to the hilt, defiantly and with gusto.

He was born a policeman’s son on the south side of Chicago in 1929. His parents had both emigrated from Swinford, County Mayo Ireland and young Tony attended St. Justin grammar school and Harper HS, graduating in 1947, before playing football at Butler University. He got into the construction business, building homes and remodeling for about thirty years before setting up his own specialty promotional business, Golden Incentives.

He met his wife Kay at “The Store” down on Rush Street. Her father, an Irish patriot also from Mayo, had opened a tavern on Diversey just off Halsted. She was every Irishman’s dream, a pretty gal whose dad owned a saloon.

Kay and Tony got married in 1965, 54 years ago.

A legendary sportsman, Tony was the first race director of the Chicago Marathon, founded by his good friend Lee Flaherty. Tony ran over 42 marathons, including Chicago, Boston, and New York on several occasions. He told me    he and Notre Dame great Buddy Ruel had hopped in a taxi after the Boston race and Buddy got into it with a huge Italian cab driver after making a crack about his ancestry. Tony held the door while Buddy cleaned the cabbie’s clock.

In 1969 Tony and Mike Lind commandeered a horse named “Lady” and her carriage, from in front of a Rush Street tavern around 4AM and trotted over to Buckingham Fountain for a nightcap with “Lady”, while cops issued an all-points bulletin for the horse thieves. It was in all the papers the next day, but the lads were never caught.

Tony and his pal, Bogie the cop, had been entertaining Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle one night and the Mick wanted to drive Bogie’s squad car, which he did while speeding down a Chicago expressway with sirens blaring.

Tony finally quit the booze and hadn’t had a drop for over 40 years when he died. But he still loved to tell his stories and we relished listening, with names and dates he never forgot.

He took me under his wing over twenty years ago and introduced me to many Chicago legends, guys like Committeeman Ed Kelly of the Fighting 47th Ward and General Superintendent of The Chicago Park District. Ed ran his annual “Giant Awards” dinner at the White Eagle on Milwaukee Avenue and Tony always held a seat for freeloaders like me at his table. He helped found the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame with his childhood pal George Connor.

When I was shooting my film “Tapioca” in 2006, I played a sleazy used car salesman and we needed a little old lady to play the foil in the opening scene. Tony recruited his 100-year-old mother in law. I don’t think he told Mrs. Kelly what she was in for, because the look on her face when my character went off on her was priceless. I told Tony later that I might have shocked her, and he told me, “Are you kiddin’? She owned a tavern for fifty years, she’s been around the block, twice!”

Tony Golden circled that block dozens of times himself, peeling back the history of Chicago with each story. He knew all the big shoulders of this toddling town. He had an institutional memory cuz he was there.

Sure gonna miss those lunches with Tony. We’re hoping you can all make it to his final send off at Old St. Pat’s, 700 West Adams in Chicago, on Friday May 3rd, starting at 9AM, with funeral mass at 10.

And oh yeah, who was the Green Bay Packer laid out by George Connor that November day at Wrigley Field?

Charlie Carey and I were on the phone last week when we heard the news of Tony’s passing and Charlie said to me, “Man I was gonna call him this weekend, we were trying to figure out who was the guy who took “the hit heard round the world” and I couldn’t remember…. oh wait a minute, it just came to me, Veryl Switzer! Thank you Tony!”

I looked it up. Veryl Switzer admitted that when he was hit by George Connor on a kickoff return, it almost took his head off. Connor’s resounding tackle of Green Bay’s Veryl Switzer on a kick return in Wrigley Field will live forever in Bears lore. Switzer’s helmet flew one way, the ball another, and Bears linebacker Bill George recovered the fumble for a touchdown.

Thanks Tony, for the memories. Say hello to Veryl Switzer if he’s up there.

*******

OUR IRISH PUB is so much more than booze.

Let’s say you quit drinking. It just wasn’t any good or fun for you anymore. Was it ever? But you had to stop. And celebrating St. Patrick’s Day gave you the heebie jeebies. You just couldn’t take it anymore. The crowds of micks marching. The inbred Irish chicks in their white sweaters and toothy grins nursing their mewling infants with a green plastic derby on their heads and a shawl to hide their boobs, they just make you want to run screaming from the pub.

I get it. I hear ya.

But you still loved being in an Irish Pub. Forget about the booze, an Irish pub still feels like home, with the smell of spilled porter, the soft glow of a fire, and above all, the music. Ah the music, live music with real live Irish musicians in an Irish pub. It’s enough to erase every bad dream of every St. Joseph’s day hangover you’ve ever had.

And if connecting with your heritage these days has been reduced to staying home on the high holy day and watching Sean Thornton and Mary Kate Danaher on Comcast, then I have news for you my friends!

What if you could visit a trio of Irish pubs with a gorgeous young blonde, who is also a world class fiddler, from the comfort of your living room without spilling a drop? What if she introduced you to some legendary Irish musicians playing their hearts out, singing, dancing, and having the craic? And it wouldn’t cost you a dime!

Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub is featured on OUR IRISH PUB.

Then let me tell you about OUR IRISH PUB, making its debut Sunday night March 31st on WTTW, Channel 11 at 11PM. Set your DVRs now!

OUR IRISH PUB is a television program created, produced, and developed by Hibernian Transmedia starring international Irish fiddler Katie Grennan, as she invites the audience to join her for a visit to three of her favorite Irish pubs in Chicago; Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub at 400 North McClurg Ct., Chief O’Neill’s Irish Pub at 3471 North Elston, and The Galway Arms, 2442 North Clark Street.

Katie Grennan has performed all over the world as a fiddler, step dancer, and most recently as a member of the electrifying Irish band Gaelic Storm. She tells the history of each pub along the way and joins all the musicians in a series of very lively Irish tunes.

The show features some of Chicago’s most prominent Irish musicians and performers, including Jimmy Moore, Siobhan and Brendan McKinney, Lexia Kennedy, Jimmy Keane, John Williams, Patrick Quinn, Laurence Nugent, Ian King, Francis “Francie” Campbell, with some bravura vocal performances by singers Paddy Homan, Catherine O’Connell, and Pat Broaders. Our Irish Pub is a musical feast for the ears and eyes as these local masters play some of their favorite, rousing, heart-pounding Irish tunes. Tune in on Sunday March 31st and you will find your toes tapping to the delightful music in OUR IRISH PUB.

The Galway Arms Irish Pub is featured on OUR IRISH PUB.

And if you’re tempted to crack open a pint of the dark stuff in the comfort of your own home, who’s to say you can’t have just the one? Enjoy OUR IRISH PUB this Sunday night on WTTW Channel 11 at 11PM. The show is also set for re-broadcast on Tuesday morning April 2nd at 4AM. Set your clocks! Watch it before you go out to vote!

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!