Regrets, I’ve had a few

I’m celebrating my 75th birthday next Saturday Dec. 16th.  So let me pause to reflect on my wonderful life indeed and wonder how in the world I’m still alive.

Knock wood, no disease despite a profligate lifestyle and unconscious disregard for the feelings of others.

I’ve been very lucky, yes I will count my blessings, including:

My wife, the lovely Mary Carney, the most gorgeous gal on Broadway when we met in New York almost fifty years ago in a production of Shakespeare’s ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. My twin sons Bill and Paddy, continue to amaze me and make me laugh. My grandkids Charlotte and. Mikey, love them to pieces.

And of course my friends, who have been pals with me through thick and thin. Yeats said, “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

However, I also give thanks for all the Houli-haters in my world, and there are plenty, some I don’t even know about I’m sure.

Most of you know the “Houli-haters” club as that group of ugly, fat chicks who are repulsed by my talent, good looks, and unfailing optimism. And all I can say girls is “Mea culpa, chubettes.”

And while the Houli-haters club is not exclusively female, it might as well be ‘cuz you HH members of the opposite sex are just left wing weenies pretending to be men.

If it weren’t for you I would have croaked a long time ago I’m sure. But your unceasing hatred of me is actually what keeps me going, fuels my ferocious wit and brings me to my knees in church in repentance of my many sins.  So thanks!

So, in no particular order, I’d like to say thanks and beg your pardon.

To the many drunk Mt. Greenwood folks who came to my Hibernian radio show one night a couple of summers ago in the beer garden of the Cork n’ Kerry, when we featured the brother of a fallen female Chicago police officer on the show. Sure I was shocked when the crowd turned ugly and went batshit when you did not get  your “free” pizza and proceeded to get in my face, video tape me and my crew eating OUR pizza, spread all kinds of BS stories of my actions that night, called our sponsors to dump our show, and basically ran us out of the pub that night with your misplaced aggression and vilified our show on Facebook the next morning with your lies in an incident that will forever be known as “Pizza-Gate”, I can only say thanks. That evening will always be one of the high points of my career!

To the kind folks at the Siskel Film Center, where I founded our Annual Irish American Movie Hooley, (the only Irish American film festival in the world), I particularly want to thank your transexual  box office manager, who came to meet me at the loading dock that afternoon when I was dropping off programs for our big weekend. I’ve got my car parked in the alley off State Street and this guy, (he had to be about six feet, 250lbs), comes out with a hand truck wearing a fecking dress! I burst out laughing and immediately thought of Milton Berle.  But Uncle Milty was appalled at my mirth and the next thing I know he/she has alerted the powers-that-be at the Art Institute and Siskel brass to what an insensitive lout I am and next thing I know they are threatening to shut down my film festival cuz I laughed at a man in a dress!

To the costume designer of Sam Shepard’s play TOOTH OF CRIME at Goodman theatre in 1974 who insisted that the satin pants designed for my character of “Galactic Jack”  must be worn “commando”, thanks. I’ll never forget squatting on the stage on opening night in the middle of my act and the seam of those same satin pants split right up the middle and my family jewels plopped right into view as the audience snickered row by row as my testicles made their Chicago professional theatrical debut.

Oh I’m sure there are other regrets I can’t recall but it’s the bumps in the road that make life interesting and yes, they keep me going.

So next weekend I’m inviting everybody to celebrate with me on Sat. Dec. 16th at Barney Callaghan’s Irish Pub, 10618 S. Western from 4-8PM, where we will once again celebrate our Irish culture with Balladeer Liam Durkin, international sensation Irish fiddler Cathryn Cowell, Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society of the Chicago Police Dept., Irish dancers Michalene Donnelly, Maggie Olk, Jack Bullington and Tadgh Spillane as well as other shenanigans, a free Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey raffle and surprise guests!

Houli-haters please stay home.

For the rest, please join us, all proceeds benefit Hibernian Media, and your suggested tax-deductible donation of fifty bucks will get you in, but we’ll take whatever we can get.

You’ll meet some Chicago All-Stars and I’ll keep my pants on, promise!

Thanks and God bless!

There will be pizza.

















Irish American News Nov. 2015



Mike Houlihan

“It’s déjà vu all over again.

The O’Brien family is resurrecting Reilly’s Daughter Irish Pub in Oak Lawn at 111th and Pulaski, where they operated for 27 very successful years.Boz O’Brien tells me, “The day we signed the agreement was the day Yogi Berra died.”

Déjà vu indeed.

Long considered the most popular watering hole in Chicagoland for anybody coming of age in the final three decades of the last century, Reilly’s Daughter spawned a satellite pub in Midway airport in 2002. The family will continue to run that location as well as engaging the next generation of revelers with food and booze, as well as a celebration of their fabled traditions, charity events, live entertainment, and neighborhood advocacy for families all over the south side and Chicagoland.

Boz was 24 when he got his first liquor license. He has sold a lot of beer since then, rivers of it. Reilly’s once did 500 cases of Miller Lite a week. Terry Hayes, of Hayes Beer Distributors, tells me, “They were a great bar for us, always created a lot of excitement. They were our largest account by volume, our largest on-premise retailer in the 80’s and 90’s.”

Tip O’Neill stopped into Reilly’s on his travels through Chicago back in the day. Mayor Rich Daley was practically a regular and so was almost the entire ’85 Bears Super Bowl team. Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz did his TV show live from Reilly’s. Many of Chicago’s biggest labor leaders were once bouncers and bartenders at Reilly’s. A young Hawaiian fella named Barack Obama took a leak in the men’s room.

There are a zillion stories of raucous nights in this saloon that sits on the border of Chicago along Pulaski. Boz boasts, “We’ve got 400 parking spots and there’s a cemetery across the street and they never complained about the noise once.”

Boz’s son Brendan was born into this maelstrom. Brendan’s baptismal party was at Reilly’s and he’s been hanging around ever since.

One St. Patrick’s Day when Brendan was three, he somehow got lost in the crowd. The place was bumper to bumper and somebody lifts Brendan up over the mosh pit in the beer garden and shouts out “Pass him to Boz!”

Boz tells me, “He crowd surfed all the way to the bar and he had this big smile on his face as if it was the time of his life. So he’s always had a natural affinity for the business.”

Does he ever.

Boz says, “We had Christmas with Santa every year and Brendan would always force me to go up in the helicopter with him and Santa, but I was scared stiff of flying. You do stuff for your kid you wouldn’t do for yourself. So he was always here.”

When Brendan was 16 and finally got his driver’s license, he’d be working clean-up and was often pressed into service to drive guys home from the bar. “I loved it until I kept hearing the same story over and over again.”

Boz sez, “I always thought he was the only ten year old with 40 year old friends.”

“When I first came back last week and it was the first day we had the keys and … I just kept shaking my head, just can’t believe this, I was walking behind the bar like I did so many times and we were talking sports and politics and I felt like I was 30 years old again. And then I turned and glanced in the mirror… and I knew I wasn’t 30 years old anymore, not with that guy staring back at me.”

Maybe not, but the Irish Diaspora’s culture is preserved through tradition.

Brendan says, “So that’s it Houls, carrying the torch, father to son, growing up here my whole life, learning the business and being around him all the time working side by side.”

Talk with this father and son and you find yourself sharing their mutual pride of each other. The good vibe is contagious. These are professional publicans, good company, both of them.

Brendan is now 32 and has been running Midway’s Reilly’s Daughter. They’ve experienced a 47% growth spurt in revenue over the last five years according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Brendan is more experienced than Boz was when he started back in ’76.

They promise to bring back all the old traditions like the live turkey on Thanksgiving, the Irish Coffee and Soda Bread contests and hope to have Johnny Lattner’s Heisman Trophy on display for the Grand Opening.

Hundreds of folks have stopped by to reminisce while work goes on getting the joint ready for opening. So many, in fact, that they’ve had to lock the door. Boz laughs, “Everybody has been so gracious and excited to have us back. One guy called us,

‘Is this gonna be the original Reilly’s?’

Yes it is.

‘Who is this?’

Well I’m Boz O’Brien.

‘Wow, I thought you were dead!”

He is far from it and Brendan has learned from the master. “There’s a reason we were filled for 27 years, what he did and the things I’ve learned from him, keeping that going takes work. It’s the family atmosphere, it’s generational. The people he had as regulars, I want their kids, the descendants of the people who hung out here.”

Boz philosophizes with the words of Coach Lou Holtz advising a dying young man years ago, “The only time I’m afraid is when I’m unprepared. If you’re squared away with God and squared away with your family, you have nothing to be afraid of.”

The wisdom of Boz, “He couldn’t have said it any better if he were Thomas Aquinas.”

These wise men are aiming for the middle of November to open and Reilly’s will definitely be rockin’ by Thanksgiving.

Thomas Wolfe, you’re wrong. You can go home again.

Irish American News column September 2015



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

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.


Don’t miss the Hooley!


skinny surrenders the pillowHooliganism


Mike Houlihan


Having just recovered from our second annual Skinny & Houli Return to Ireland tour, I bring sad news from Northern Ireland.

Sectarian violence once again broke out last week in the Irish border city of Derry, when Skinny Sheahan left a “dirty bomb” in the toilet of the Tower Hotel.

The incident was triggered when a Buddhist named Ronan McNamara was leading our group along the walls of Derry. Skinny sidled up to me and said, “Ask him where the nearest bathroom is, it’s an emergency! And don’t bring attention to me!”

I raised my hand and asked the question, which was met by laughter from the group. And even more laughter when Skinny broke from the crowd with a butt-clenched trot in the direction Ronan had indicated.

I could write a book about the puny man’s many peccadilloes while in Ireland but probably the most offensive breach in our cultural relationship with Eire came to be known as “Pillow-gate”.

Regrettably I wasn’t aware of Skinny’s malfeasance until it was too late. We were staying in a charming little hotel in Stranorlar in County Donegal one night whilst traveling across the island. The Kees Hotel hosted a sumptuous dinner for our entire group.

Our driver and tour guide, the inimitable Philip Duffy, took me aside. We’d been invited to bring our entire group next-door for a music session with our Irish fiddler Katie Grennan. “You’ll have the whole bar to yourselves and Katie can put on a private show in the back room.”

Sounds great I said, but Duffy then cautioned. “How will you explain to the hotel manager that you are taking the whole crowd to the pub next door?”

It was indeed a breach of etiquette since the Kees Hotel has a cozy bar of their own we could spend our money in, but they had music booked of their own. I told Philip I would simply make an announcement after dinner informing the group that we would just be popping next door to The Snug for our private concert and then return to the warmth of The Kees at 9:30. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Before I could make any announcement the hotel manager, an imposing fella named Liam McElhinney, appeared at my table inquiring, “Which one of youse is Houli?”

That would be me.

“What the hell are you trying to pull? Your partner tells me you’re taking all 30 of your group to the pub next door, and me just serving you all this great dinner!”

I turned to see the giggling face of Skinny laughing as he watched me once again being ground under the wheels of the bus he had thrown me under. I managed to mollify Mr. McElhinney by telling him we would be back by 9:30, plenty of time to spend oodles of dough in his establishment.

Suddenly our driver, Philip Duffy, summons me and says, “I need to speak to you in private! ‘Tis very important!”

He then steers me over to Skinny’s table where he is having a grand old time, toasting the ladies at his table and basking in their adoration. Duffy beckons Skinny with his finger, “I need to speak to you both privately!. Skinny saunters over with a big stupid grin on his face and Duffy grimly looks at Skinny and says, “Did you steal a pillow from the Europa Hotel in Belfast?”

Looking squeamish, Skinny points at me, “He did it!”

Duffy says, “We know it was you. The guarda have driven down from Belfast and are waiting outside to speak to you, come on now the both of youse and we will speak to them, You’re in a heap of trouble. That pillow cost over 350 Euro!”

He then hustles us both out the door of the hotel and out to the street where the guarda are waiting. On the way, Skinny starts double-talking.

How the hell could it cost 350 Euro?

“It was embroidered.”

My sister gets headaches, she needed the pillow, and I took it for her!

I was starting to enjoy watching Skinny squirm.

We came out of the hotel and our bus was parked in front, but no sign of the guarda.

We looked at Duffy, where’s the cops?

He laughed at us and led us into the pub next door. “Come on, I’m going to buy you two amadons a drink!

That’s the funny thing about Ireland, everybody likes to get in on the joke. The whole pillow-gate incident was Philip Duffy having us on. Well Skinny did steal the pillow, that much was true. The three of us then concocted the story some more, kept it going, and I was sent back into the hotel to inform Skinny’s sister Mary that she was now implicated in the crime and would have to give up her credit card number to pay for the pillow. The story spread among our group like wildfire and the next thing we knew, Skinny had become Public Enemy Number One in Belfast.

Freddy the Lithuanian, one of the more colorful members of our tour group, took Skinny aside and told hm, “Take it from me Skinny, I come from a criminal background: deny, deny, deny!”

Katie was transcendent playing her fiddle and we all headed back to the Kee’s Hotel for our nightcaps. As I walked into the lobby, Liam McElhinney, ran out from behind the counter in a faux rage, “What the hell time do ya call this Houli? You told me 9:30 and it’s now 10:30!”

He spent the rest of the night and into the next day busting my balls. Gotta love Ireland, everybody gets in on the act!




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!



April 2014 Column from The Irish American News



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



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!


















Irish American News Column December 2013

1960 City Champions Coaching Staff Back row: Howie Fagan,Van Snyder, John Mc Donnell kneeling: Rocco Principe. Far right, Head Coach Tom Carey

1960 City Champions Coaching Staff
Back row: Howie Fagan,Van Snyder, John Mc Donnell
kneeling: Rocco Principe. Far right, Head Coach Tom Carey



Mike Houlihan

If you hang around long enough, sooner or later somebody will give you an award. I seem to remember some showbiz hotshot saying this as he accepted his “Irving Thalberg” Award at the Oscars.

This month I will turn 65 and it’s finally happened to me. And just like that guy in Hollywood, I’m very proud of the honor but mystified why I was chosen.

On Saturday, December 14th at Hawthorne Racecourse the MC Foundation will honor me with the “Man in the Arena” Award “honoring coaches, players, and past heroes” of Mt. Carmel High School at their annual “Salute To The Champions”. I’m thrilled to be in the company of 16 others being inducted that day, particularly since I am a very proud alumnus of Mt. Carmel, the most legendary school in Chicago history. On the gridiron and splashed across the sports page of America, the Caravan has electrified our nation with heroic exploits of athleticism, courage, and fortitude for more than a century.

So how in the hell did Houli get in?

Yeah I asked myself the same question when I realized I’d be sharing the stage with the likes of boxing legend Marty McGarry, NBA All-Star Antoine Walker, and Heisman contender Jordan Lynch.

Back in 1960 I went to a football game at Soldier Field to watch Carmel defeat Taft 27-0 for the City Championship. I was in sixth grade and became entranced by the legendary tradition of Mt. Carmel: the brown and white, the tough guys on the team, the Carmelites in their brown robes running up and down the sidelines. The spirit of the school was infectious. Even the cheerleaders were hot, and some were even rumored to be slutty.

I decided I wanted to go to Carmel.

And so in 1963 I was a freshman trying out for the football team. I had been a starter at CK but the guys at Carmel were bigger, tougher, and meaner than the kids I’d played with in 8th grade. I played football all four years at Carmel but never broke that starting lineup. I didn’t care, I was wearin’ the brown and white, I was part of the tradition, and I got to play at Soldier Field just like the legends had.

I was a tight end in senior year and earned the sobriquet of “Hands” Houlihan due to my uncanny ability to drop every pass thrown in my direction.

I used to spray that tacky stuff all over my hands before practice to insure my catches, but then I’d forget and go to fish out a booger during practice and spend the rest of the afternoon with my finger stuck to my nose. “Hey hands, go long!”

My “dobber” on the sidelines was infamous as I exhorted my teammates with cries of “Way to be!”

In senior year I proudly wore my letter sweater everywhere, including mass on Sundays. Maybe I never started, but altar boys feared me.

I recovered a fumble against Hales Franciscan in 1966 when we were beating them 57-0 and my pal Skinny Sheahan tells me they’ve erected a statue at Hales commemorating my singular play that day.

Thirty years later I sent my sons to Mt. Carmel and relived high school, watching them win the state football championship in 1996.

I wrote a column on my class of 1967 for years in the Alumni quarterly but soon grew bored with stories of “our classmate Bob who lives in Schaumburg with his lovely wife Trudy and three kids”. I started making up imaginary classmates in the column and amusing myself with their exploits. Tight asses objected and I quit.

I wrote “An Ode to the Ol’ Brown ‘n White” and was a celebrated after dinner speaker at the annual “Big Event” fundraiser, but wasn’t asked back after giving my speech with a jockstrap on my head.

I had pretty much resigned myself to the dustbin of old Carmel guys until Coach Howie Fagan asked me to perform my “Ode” at the 50th Anniversary of the 1960 City Championship team. Suddenly I was back among the heroes and legends who had started it all for me in sixth grade, champions like Tony Carey and Buddy Ruel and coaches like Tom Carey and JJ McDonnell.

These were the guys I idolized as a youth and here I was, honored to be in their midst, having a beer and swapping stories of the glory days. And now it looks like I’ll get another shot at standing with champions on December 14th at Hawthorne Racecourse. I’ve been around the block in my travels: as an actor on Broadway and films, as a newspaper columnist, and radio host; but the thing I’m most proud of is being a Carmel guy.

So please join me that Saturday afternoon when we “Salute The Champions”. It’s for a good cause and we might even win some dough at the track. Call Howie Fagan for tickets at 708-780-3679.

Many thanks to my old pal and another legend, Coach Howie Fagan, for making it happen.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!



Irish American News Column August 2013

Kathleen Keane w:pintHooliganism


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 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!

August Column From The Irish AMerican News

Mike Houlihan

The “Man from Clare” was my muse.

I wanted the narrator of my new film, “Our Irish Cousins”, to have a brogue and intended to recruit Michael Quinlan from Limerick. Michael had been our guide in Ireland. But when it came time to produce our trailer for the film I couldn’t afford to record a narration track in Ireland so I recruited my old friend PJ O’Dea.

PJ agreed to help me out. I figured we could make PJ’s voice somehow work because the trailer was only ten minutes long.

We had PJ sitting in a studio while I listened in the control room. Jim, our engineer, took PJ through the script line by line as he laid down the tracks.

The narrator would have to be authoritative and commanding while telling our story and yet still be in on the many jokes that popped up during our adventures. The voice would also have to resonate with knowledge of Irish mythology and a timbre of antiquity to suggest the long history of our nation. The voice would need to sound like Ireland himself.

As PJ read the script into the microphone I started thinking, “He sounds pretty good, this might work!”

Towards the end of the trailer script was a line promoting “the new film “Our Irish Cousins”.

Jim the engineer was listening to PJ and stopped to correct him, “No, you’re pronouncing it wrong, it sounds like your saying “fill-um”.

I jumped from my seat and said, “No, that’s perfect, don’t correct him, that’s exactly how it should sound!”

I should have known at the moment that PJ’s voice was destiny calling out to me. The trailer worked out beautifully and helped raise funding on our website. But I still intended to use Quinlan because I had already told him he would be recording his voice over. Months later I recorded Quinlan via Skype as he and engineer Dave Keary laid down the full narration track at Red Door Studios in Limerick.

But PJ’s voice still haunted me. My old pal Pete Nolan called late one night and left a message on my voice mail after watching our trailer online, “PJ sounds great!”

I decided to ask PJ if he would record his version of the complete narration and then I would compare the two and choose the one that worked best.

So I picked up PJ and we again traveled to Hubbard Street Studio. It wasn’t until I was in the editing room with our editor Roger Wolski that we decided to replace Quinlan’s voice with PJ as our narrator.

It was the smart move too because when I eventually sent Quinlan the final cut, he sent me a note that said, “PJ did a great job and from the first time I heard his fine voice I knew he was the one to narrate. Give him my best regards and compliments.”

Classy guy.

PJ’s narration is now the star of my film and people continually ask me where I found him. Well I found him right in our backyard.

We’ve been friends for over 25 years. PJ was born in Kilrush, County Clare and so was my great grandfather.

PJ is a true GAA legend who played with 2 clubs in 11 cities and in four countries. He won his first county medal in 1939 and represented Clare in minor, junior, and senior hurling and also played senior football with Clare and with the Munster teams in 1951 and ’52. He won an All-Ireland hurling medal and then emigrated to the US where he played hurling and football in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and in New York PJ played for our mutual friend John “Kerry” O’Donnell at Gaelic Park in the Bronx. By coincidence I was the porter at O’Donnell’s bar in Manhattan in the early ‘80’s.

Shooting my film in Ireland I interviewed County Clare Mayor Madeleine Taylor Quinn who told me a story about the day she brought a delegation to Chicago to meet Mayor Daley. She was with her cohorts at the Consul General’s Office and one of the dignitaries was alarmed that PJ had stationed himself outside the Mayor’s office and was waiting to join them for the meeting. This stuffed shirt was complaining of the audacity of PJ to crash their meeting. When they finally entered Daley’s inner sanctum, the Mayor jumped from behind his desk and walked across the room to announce, “PJ, how wonderful to see you again”, while the fakers fumed.

He might be breaking into show business at the age of 86, but he’s been a star all his life. When we paid him for the film he sent back a check to buy my grand daughter Charlotte a new bike.

PJ’s voice brings spirituality to the film with an air of mysticism that reminds us all that it’s important to remember who you are and where you come from. His immense pride as an Irishman and “man from Clare” also remind us to hold on to our heritage, it’s the one thing they can never take away from any of us.

“Our Irish Cousins” is now under consideration by all the major international film festivals in the world. I’m sure any accolades or honors we might win will all be due to the performance of PJ O’Dea, our new fill-um star!

Hear PJ O’Dea at