By Eileen Murphy
We were pleased to hear that our colleague, Ray O’Hanlon — he of the oh-so-inside "Inside File" column in this very newspaper — has been nominated for a Washington Irving Book Award. The awards honor authors who live in Westchester County, possibly because it’s so hard to concentrate on writing when there are all those yummy shopping centers within charging distance. Can anybody say "Woodbury Commons"?
Ray’s book, "The New Irish Americans," is in its second printing at Roberts Rinehart, and has garnered positive reviews and impressive endorsements from the likes of Frank McCourt and Pete Hamill. And trust us, they know of which they speak.
O’Hanlon is in good company on the Washington Irving short list, alongside fellow Westie Christopher Reeve, who is nominated for his autobiography, "Still Me." Also a worthy book, we’re sure, but we anticipate a hotly contested race. Man vs. Superman, and all that.
Ready for this close-up
Even managing one of the biggest rock bands in the world must get a little dull sometimes. After all, there are only so many fancy parties one can bear to attend, so many celebrity shoulders to rub against. Which is why, we’re sure, U2 manager Paul McGuinness has decided to try his hand at filmmaking.
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McGuinness and Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan have announced plans to form a film company, Belacqua, which will be based in Ireland. They have bought the film rights to a juicy psychological thriller, "Mary Mary," and are considering big-name leading ladies like Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Frances McDormand.
According to Colgan, the project will be a "big budget" one.
"I don’t think we’re looking at medium or small budget here," he told the Irish Times. "I think, being the type of egomaniacs we are, we’re going to try to make it a big budget production with an international dimension."
He was kidding about that last part. We think. Of course, if he’s serious, we’re sure that the boys will be able to find someone to help them spend all that money . . .
No, er, butts about it
Well, we hate to be the one to break it to you, but a British scientist has discovered that the average Irish — how can we put this delicately — rear end has gotten bigger over the last 50 years.
According to the Sunday World, Prof. Stephen Gray of Nottingham Trent University has spent the last three years checking out the rear view of more than 8,000 women between the ages of 16 and 90. (Yes, 90. Sheesh . . . is nothing sacred?)
Now, in the God-fearing, flag-waving and altogether respectable Bronx, we’d call Gray a pervert. But the guy was hired by a hosiery and underwear manufacturer to determine the bottom line for Irish gals, and he found the following:
€ The average Irish bum is a "whopping" (his words, not ours) one and a half inches wider than it was 50 years ago.
€ The measurements for a size 12 dress in 1998 equal the measurements of a size 16 dress in 1948.
€ The average figure measures 39-31-41.
Of course, it’s important to remember that body shapes go in and out of fashion as the years go by, and today’s waif models are tomorrow’s scrawny has-beens. And girls, take heart: bums are back (no pun intended). Just ask actress Jennifer Lopez. Though they never really went out of style — you don’t suppose those Victorian chicks wore bustles to emphasize their high cheekbones, do you?
Gaybo’s radio buh-bye
Irish radio and television star Gay Byrne will begin the first phase of his withdrawal from the grind of daily broadcasts at the end of the month. Byrne, or "Uncle Gaybo," as he’s known to his legions of fans, will end his 26-year run as host of RTE’s top-rated radio show with a special live broadcast from the bandstand in St. Stephen’s Green.
Byrne usually presented his Christmas Eve show live from Grafton Street, but, according to RTE insiders, "became unhappy with the location in recent years, because of crowd control problems and traffic disruptions." (We always said he had the kind of looks that could stop traffic.)
Byrne will continue on television as the host of the "Late Late Show" until May 21, when he rides off into the sunset. RTE has not announced who will replace Byrne.
Byrne plans to take a long holiday when he’s finished with the "Late Late Show." "I intend to do absolutely nothing for six months," he told friends.
Gaybo insists that this is a sabbatical, not a retirement. He plans to return to work in December of next year, and somehow, we’re sure that his voice will be the one ushering in the millennium in Ireland. Yes, go ahead — bet the farm.
Like, ‘Love’s Labours’
Marry, ’tis well that Kenneth Branagh canst cast whomsoever striketh his fancy in yon Hollywood movies. The rogue and, er, pleasant slave hath (already) work’d with actors whose names doth twinkle like stars in the heavens: John Gielgud, Emma Thompson, Melanie Griffith, etc. But now — ‘swounds! we swear by yon silver moon! — Branagh hath set his sights on the 20-something set. For, ’tis widely reported, he hath chos’n Alicia Silverstone to speak the speech, trippingly on her tongue, in his film version of Bill Shakespeare’s "Love’s Labours Lost."
As we told you a few months ago, Branagh plans to film "Love" as a 1930s-style Hollywood musical, complete with singing and dancing, and, one can only hope, feather boas. Branagh, ever the one-man band, will write, direct and star in the film. We’re having trouble imagining "Clueless" star Silverstone, the ultimate Valley Girl, in the role of the princess, but, hey, we also had trouble imagining Brad Pitt with an Irish accent, so who knows?
As fair Alicia might say to those who wouldst doubt her ability to pulleth off ye role, "As IF."