By Eileen Murphy Like any good St. Patrick’s Day, this past one was filled with good company, great music and so many smoked salmon appetizers that we’re still supressing the urge to jump into the Hudson and swim upstream. As usual, all the fun things seemed to happen simultaneously, which means we can’t wait for those mad scientists to forget cloning kitty cats and start concentrating on cool cats, i.e. arts editors, if you catch our drift. Hey, ethics, shmethics — we’re sure those lab jockeys would hurry up if they’d had to choose between the Saw Doctors at Roseland and the Prodigals at B.B. King’s on Friday night.
But wait — we’re getting ahead of the story, which started on Thursday evening, with the launch party for the Irish Film Fleadh at the downtown hotspot, Sugar. Oozing indie film chic — which in plain English means wearing lots of black and favoring chunky retro eyewear — alongside fleadh director Terry Mulligan was the usual cast of New York movie people, plus the poster boy for crossover success, Edward “The Brothers McMullen” Burns. The actor, who’s engaged to supermodel Christy Turlington, was accompanied by a buddy. Uptown at Lincoln Center, we hear that Irish tenor Brian Hunter and home-grown trad supergroup Cherish the Ladies did their best to raise the roof of Avery Fischer Hall.
On Friday, we headed up to the Ireland-U.S. Council luncheon at the venerable Metropolitan Club on East 60th Street. With Irish president Mary McAleese as the guest of honor, and an extremely upper-echelon guest list that included wall-to-wall CEOs, this was a bit of a Cinderella-goes-to-the-ball scenario, which brought up the dilemma of what to wear. Would it be rude not to wear something green, or would we look corny? Heels or flats? Jacket or twinset? Dressssssssss? In the end, we decided on a bright red jacket, which would make it easier to find us in a crowd, just in case one of the network TV presidents in attendance decided to build a “Seinfeld”-type sitcom around us (again). This was also our first weekend encounter with smoked salmon — garnished with crFme fraiche and caviar. It wouldn’t be our last.
After the luncheon, the Echo staff adjourned to P.J. Moran’s on 47th Street for some spiritual renewal. Then it was off to Roseland on 52nd Street for the Saw Doctors’ annual St. Patrick’s gig. The place was packed — really, you couldn’t have squozen one more body into the place with a shoehorn — and the atmosphere was happy, the mood celebratory. The Doctors didn’t disappoint — they were terrific. By the end of the show, we were hoarse from singing along, which is the mark of a great concert.
Down on West 42nd Street, the Prodigals were also onstage, playing to a packed house at B.B. King’s venerable blues venue. One eyewitness told us later that the band — who were voted Irish Echo readers’ favorite rock band a few years ago — “kicked arse.” In rock ‘n roll circles, that’s like getting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
We had fancy blue VIP wristbands, so we were able to hang out with the Saw Doctors after the show. Since they were facing a 4 a.m. ride to Massachusetts for a Saturday night gig, Davey Carton, Leo Moran and Pearse Doherty didn’t stay long, which gave us the perfect excuse to head off to the Upper West Side’s CafT Lalo for scones and tea, which always taste better at 1 a.m.
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Saturday started off with the Governor’s Breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria, which was sponsored by ICCUSA. This year, thanks to a colleague’s connections, we were on the list for the inner sanctum, which impressed us no end. Armed with a camera and again wearing the red jacket, we cleared security and made our way into the room, where we spotted lots of VIPs. Actor/comedian Denis Leary, who has worked tirelessly for his firefighter charity, was in the corner with a dark-haired actress. One man swore that he recognized her.
“He’s here with that girl from the bus movie!” he shouted into our ear.
We whipped around — casually, of course. Long dark hair. Big brown eyes.
“Your one from ‘Speed’ ” he elaborated.
We dropped our pen, accidentally-on-purpose, like any self-respecting, nosy columnist. This allowed us to take a couple of steps closer without looking obvious. (What, you don’t think Barbara Walters uses this trick?) Got a good look. Definitely not Sandra. We broke the news to him gently.
“It is so her,” he insisted.
Who were we to burst his bubble? We just shrugged and wandered off to take a picture of some Irish wolfhounds. (It was that kind of party.)
Soon, the governor’s staff herded us into the main reception room, where Gov. Pataki took the stage to welcome President McAleese and New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey. Jim Ryan, host of “Good Day New York,” was the emcee. The speeches were unusually brief and very touching, as each of the dignitaries paid tribute to the heroes of Sept. 11.
Ran into former Irish Echo colleague and IIRM co-founder Pat Hurley and his wife, Mary, after the speeches, as well as Project Children founder and NYPD Bomb Squad detective Denis Mulcahy. Since Hurley and Mulcahy both hail from Cork (which, as my Kerry-born father would say, is not their fault) the conversation turned to things Southern. We spotted Denis Leary making his exit, so we ran over to snap a picture, just in time to get a great shot of the back of some very tall man. (Thanks, bud.)
After the governor’s shindig, we headed out to the parade, arriving in time for the tribute to the fallen heroes. There was a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m., as the marchers turned to face Ground Zero. The sadness was palpable, the loss as fresh as it had been six months ago. Tears streamed down the cheeks of everyone around us. Up on the reviewing stand, we hear that President McAleese was so profoundly moved by the sight of the 343 fire department recruits, each carrying an American flag, that an eyewitness told us she staggered slightly.
Headed up to the Irish Consulate for the Enterprise Ireland party, which drew a mixed business and political crowd. Met Northern Ireland’s minister for agriculture, Brid Rogers, and pastor of the Holy Cross grammar school, Fr. Aidan Troy. While the two chatted with one another, we went in search of lunch. This, of course, included smoked salmon, this time with brown bread. (We could feel the gills sprouting.)
Next stop was Adrian Flannelly’s studio, where the annual St. Patrick’s Day broadcast and bash were in full swing, and the place was salmon-free. Due to security considerations, there were fewer people allowed in, but, to paraphrase Spencer Tracey, them that were in were cherce. It was wall-to-wall politicians, with President McAleese, ex-NYC Mayor Giuliani, current Mayor Bloomberg, and Gov. Pataki taking turns in Flannelly’s hot seat. Ciaran Sheehan, in a tuxedo and green bow tie, sang “God Bless America” for the president.
We tiptoed out of the studio into the office suite, where the party raged on. Producer Aine Sheridan kept things flowing smoothly, smiling through the pain of nearly mangled fingers, courtesy of an overly zealous greeting.
“What is it with men and strong handshakes?” she asked rhetorically as she showed us a hand that was still red.
One nice surprise was meeting up with Margaret Miller, an old friend from the Bainbridge Avenue days. We reminisced about the bad old days at the Inisfree and the Roaring Twenties (both of which have gone the way of the dinosaur), and recalled the miserable night we stood in the rain on Eighth Street to buy U2 tickets. Ah, youth.
Irish tenor John McDermott arrived wearing an FDNY baseball cap, fresh from marching in the parade. We chatted about his new album “Remembrance Tour” and about his accent, which is an intriguing mix of Irish, Scottish and Canadian. We confided that the mother unit had phoned us at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. one recent Saturday to quiz us about his accent.
“What’s her number?” he asked, pulling out a cell phone. “We’ll settle this right now.”
Sure that he was joking, we rattled off the number. To our amazement, he punched them in, and was soon chatting away with the stepfather. Mom had taken the dog for a walk.
“Tell her John McDermott called,” said John McDermott. “I’ll call her back later.” (Note to John: she’s vowed not to leave the house until you do.)
Went back to the hotel for a nap before the IBO Gala Ball at the Grand Hyatt that night. Debated the merits of wearing a long dress, sparkly jacket with big maribou cuffs or a sequined tunic that the sister described as “the medieval shirt,” a remark that immediately narrowed our choices. Decided on the feathered jacket, which seemed like a good choice until we arrived at the cocktail hour and found that the spring rolls were guarded by menacing little tea lights.
The IBO ball is always fun, because the organization’s membership is drawn from all types of industries. Echo colleague Barry Lynch emceed in a maroon dickie bow (a nod to his native Galway?), and kept his promise not to tell any jokes (which is sort of a private joke). The guest of honor was John Corrigan, the recently retired CEO Americas of Enterprise Ireland, who gave a nice speech and acknowledged his hardworking staff, including Michael McNicholas, M’ve O’Malley and Ruari Curtain.
The newly minted New Jersey governor, Jim McGreevey, whose Irish roots are firmly planted in County Down, didn’t let a broken leg keep him from the dance. Moving slowly but steadily on his crutches, the personable politician — who smart money says will be president one day — gave a brief speech that included the battle cry, “Up Down!” The prize for best bow tie (which we silently award each year) went to Pat Dooley of Dan Dooley Rent a Car, for his snappy green, white and orange number. Best dress was a three-way tie between Tourism Ireland’s Ruth Moran in a gorgeous shade of lilac, IBO prez Colleen Foley in a black, beige and cream geometric print, and Paula James in a discreetly beaded number.
Then it was on to the dancing and power socializing before the party moved to The Wheeltapper Pub at Fitzpatrick’s Grand Central hotel, and then on to O’Neill’s on Third Avenue, where we amazed and entertained our companions with our thorough knowledge of the Wolfe Tones’ song catalog (don’t ask) before heading home.
Sunday was a bit of blur thanks to Saturday, so we didn’t make it to The Chieftains’ gig at Alice Tully Hall. But we have it on good information that the veteran band had the whole place a-rockin’ with their trademark brand of Irish trad plus a host of guest dancers and musicians.
Monday’s Tourism Ireland luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel marked the end of the weekend. Everything was very posh, as befits an event honoring President McAleese, with Irish tenor Ronan Tynan appearing in person to sing two songs — “Isle of Hope” and “My Grandfather’s Emigrant Eyes.”
Then lunch was served. The first course? Of course, it was smoked salmon.