By Olivia Tracey
Being the kind of cailín who has more than a grá for the good life, I’m happy to say that, here in Southern California over the last few weeks, I’ve had a much-needed indulgence in that department. The icing on the cake is of course that it has all been Irish in flavor, between theatrical opening nights, film screenings and a very stylish presidential visit from Her Excellency, President Mary McAleese.
You’d have heard a pin drop in the Grand Ballroom of the exquisite Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel recently as the entire congregation hung on her every word. Beautifully dressed in a coral two-piece suit, she delivered a warm and wonderful speech, applauding us immigrants for our courage, vision and success. She referred to us as being part of "Ireland’s global Irish family," an indispensable element in the formation of what today’s prospering Ireland has become and will become. With a hard act to follow in our former President Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese truly excelled, coming across as an energetic, witty and very likable lady. She was joined by the minister for foreign affairs, David Andrews; Foreign Affairs Press Officer Declan Kelly; Vice Consul Niamh Ryan and Consul General of Ireland Kevin Conmy, along with is wife, Siobhan Campbell.
On my arrival at the stylish hotel, dressed in most unseemly blue jeans and blazer, I was inwardly diminishing by the minute as I took in the impressive elegance of the guests, especially a particular Judy Kirby, wife of the president of the Los Angeles Police and Emerald Society, Steve Kirby. Mrs. Kirby (nee O’Donnell), of Donegal ancestry, was simply stunning in a long black sequined gown that hugged every curve of her perfect figure, and, might I add, who was as endearing as she is gorgeous. Also dressed to the nines as always were restaurateurs Jimmy and Annie Murphy and daughter Geraldine, who was looking very Daryl Hannah with her long golden tresses. They were in their usual sparkling form with much to celebrate, including Geraldine’s birthday. Their main focus was, however, the imminent reopening of the famous Jimmy’s restaurant, appropriately titled Jimmy’s II by the charming trio of Murphy juniors, who include the birthday girl herself, along with her two brothers, Sean and Jamie. I’m already rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of a few good nights in what will no doubt be one of L.A.’s hottest spots. It promises a new concept, new decor and a new cuisine by award-winning chefs, but with a faithful allegiance to the traditional warm Irish welcome extended for so many years by their parents. Located as before at 201 South Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, it will open six days a week, with private parties only on Sundays. For reservations, call (310) 552-2394.
Also in celebratory mood was Corkonian Finbar Hill, as he was feeling very proud of his native city’s recent string of accomplishments, from their triumph at the Rose of Tralee and the Clonakilty Tidy Towns, to the Housewife of the Year and the All-Ireland Hurling Final. Nor was Aer Lingus holding back on the festivities with the tremendous success of the new direct Los Angeles to Dublin route. I enjoyed quite a laugh with the airline’s vice president of sales and marketing, Brian Murphy, who possesses that uniquely wonderful, honest-to-God, humorous New York personality. He was joined by the company’s Diane Baker and the chairman, Bernie Cahill, who has just been honored by the UCC alumni and friends at the Bayclub in New Port Beach. Also at the presidential reception were CIE Tours’ Jim McKay, the Irish Tourist Board’s Tom Heneghan, IDA’s Ciaran Morris, actress Fionnula Flanagan, Herbalist Nutritionist Dr. Tony O’Donnell (who has just published his first book, "The Miracle Superfoods that Heal," available for $17.95, by calling (310) 458-1169, and Shea and Paula Redmond, the latter being a cousin to the gorgeous Dublin stylist Helen Cody, who we all know is doing a great job dressing Her Excellency, the president. I also got chatting with "The Irish Screen" team, Trevor Murray and Paul Babirnie, who have already celebrated their first year of screening a host of Irish movies, including the upcoming "Black-Eyed Dog," by San Francisco’s Aisling Works production company. Lots more on that later.
Notably absent from the presidential gathering was former Glenroe actor Tim Murphy, who was busy working on that success factor so sincerely applauded by the president. Finding himself in the rare position of choosing between jobs, he opted for the Santa Barbara Ensemble Theater Company, where he is currently playing Babbybobby in Martin McDonagh’s acclaimed play "The Cripple of Inishmaan." Indeed it was a sensible choice, working with artistic director Robert Grande-Weiss, who did a fine job with the direction of this humorous and profound play. If this is the quality of work consistently presented by this theater company, I’m not surprised that they are celebrating their 20th anniversary season. As for Tim, he showed himself to be a superb actor with an honest, humorous and touching performance alongside an excellent cast including Paul Michael O’Brien as Cripple Billy, Rudolph Willrich as Johnnypateenmike, and Belfast smasher, Geraldine Hughes as Helen. Mr. Murphy is also expanding his celebrity status, attracting tremendous media attention in Santa Barbara and no doubt working that indisputable Kerry charm of his on all he meets. But alas, in the romance stakes, the heart-throb is all loveydovey with actress Susan Brink, another charmer who, by the way, has a pair of legs that would put Tina Turner to shame. However, to revert to the business of the play, it runs until Oct. 31 and is truly worth a visit. For reservations, call (805) 962-8606.
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Yes indeed, it was not without foundation that President Mary McAleese proudly announced that "Ireland is now a can-do culture."