Saturday, March 09, 2013

Yarns from Cleek Club of Chicago: Ebert's Thumbs Up for Our Irish Cousins: I'm Mike Houlihan and I Make Movies and Drive a Ford!

Careful readers* of these hoary postings will recall that sometime during the waning days of President GW Bush's second term, Chicago auteur, venture-capitalist, swordsman and wit Mike Houlihan was blackguarded by the scions of mighty thin-bloodlines when he applied for membership to Chicago's Union League Club. Ganged together, the off-spring confederation of the Yankee manques who formed that club during the National Rebellion, could now meet in an antique phone booth, but its clout yet cudgels those whom they fear. Chicago's John Huston, Mr. Houlihan, was denied membership.

Oh WASP'S sting yet smarts; though its strike reaches not the heart and soul of good.

Houli turned to a somewhat younger, but equally unclubable worthy and formed Cleek of Chicago.

As its junior member my duties and obligations are solely fiduciary and financial and the rewards are Olympian - I get to hang with Houli.

I took refuge from a broken heart and the ague among Cleek's Doric columns and the walls of gilt Shiraz and Morocco bound volumes ancienne et moderne de la philosophie, de l'histoire et de la littérature.  My foolish heart was broken due to a faux pas that embarrased the woman I love and caused her to shudder in public when I ordered salade avant le plat principal à la manière américaine at Taylor Street's Chez Joel Bistro Francais.  Somethings are just not to be done and I allowed appetite to sweep away fond trust.

 " How could you?" the delicate and chic woman protested.

" Hey, I like salad afore the meat and spuds, Sweetie and guess what?  I'm ladling French Dressing all over the greens and onions . . .in a French restaurant!"

" Oh! Qu'est-ce une bête, vous pouvez être à des moments!"  she sniffed.

" Hey, Garson!  How's about a little more of this bubbly water?"

Here, at this last graceles utterance, fawn-like tears glowed and glistened in the candle-lit quiet and her alabaster skin went crimson, "Je ne te connais même pas!"

"Hey, It's Taylor Street, Sweets and not some Russian novel with the Cossacks playing at Talleyrand."

It took me days to have the import of those thoughtless and unmeasured remarks dent my heart to a full realization of my dastardry.  Anyway. I caught a bad case of coughs and shakes to boot.

In the Cleek, among the books and brandied Toddies I could regroup, what was left of body and soul.

Having devoured Pope's Epistles II, I decanted a needleful of E & J and on this passage:

Say, what can cause such impotence of mind?
A Spark too fickle, or a Spouse too kind.
Wise wretch! with pleasures too refin’d to please;        95
With too much spirit to be e’er at ease;
With too much quickness ever to be taught;
With too much thinking to have common thought:
You purchase Pain with all that Joy can give,
And die of nothing but a rage to live.        100
  Turn then from Wits, and look on Simo’s mate,
No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate:
Or her that owns her faults but never mends,
Because she ’s honest, and the best of friends:
Or her whose life the church and scandal share,        105
For ever in a Passion or a Prayer:

Swine!  Hickey make things right.  Thus, the path to my arching heart and the cordial my ague.  Now, I might attend to the affairs of my fellow man!

I read the Sun Times and howled with approval Roger Ebert's review of Mike Houlihan's documentary epic Our Irish Cousins at the Gene Siskal Film Center.  I fairly jigged with delight that Chicago's Maecenas  of Film had coaxed up two chubby thumbs in favor of Houli's film - and Three out of Four Stars!!!!!!!!


 As anyone familiar with Houlihan's work can attest, the man is a born storyteller — the kind of guy who can make a statement along the lines of "You know what's funny? Here's a good story. My brother died ..." and then actually pull it off. He gets a lot of laughs throughout the film, whether from well-polished anecdotes or spontaneous interactions with the people he meets. What is even more impressive, though, is the way that he manages to quietly layer in more serious-minded concerns amidst the laughter so that when he visits the church where his grandfather was baptized more than a century earlier, the scene winds up packing a surprisingly hefty emotional punch. 

Into the Cleek strode my friend! "My dear man!  Oh, Good Show, Houli! This from Ebert?

"Been at the E & J, again." he observed with a director's glass lanyard-ed around his neck.

" One or three to fight the ague and a . . ."

" My name is Mike Houlihan and I make movies."

"Yes, and so much more, like your work riding shotgun on the Salvation Army mobile food wagon in Uptown. . .and . . ."

"I love making pictures but I don't like talking about them.Anybody can direct a picture once they know the fundamentals. Directing is not a mystery, it's not an art. The main thing about directing is: photograph the people's eyes.   It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy than to get a cowboy to be an actor. It's no use talking to me about art, I make pictures to pay the rent. I didn't show up at the ceremony to collect any of my first three Oscars. Once I went fishing, another time there was a war on, and on another occasion, I remember, I was suddenly taken drunk. For a director there are commercial rules that it is necessary to obey. In our profession, an artistic failure is nothing; a commercial failure is a sentence. The secret is to make films that please the public and also allow the director to reveal his personality.As a beauty, Dolores del Rio is in a class with [Greta Garbo]. Then she opens her mouth and becomes Minnie Minoso . . ."

I was taken a back, somehow my friend had become . . .John Ford!

* the blackuarding of Mike Houlihan by the snobs of the Union League Club - in response Mike founded the Cleek of Chicago - the Driver of the City: Mashies, Rakes and Niblicks are for smaller souls. The Cleek of Chicago is Big, Big Club!

1 comment:

Dennis Ryan said...

Pat, I usually understand every other third line of what you write but somehow enjoy all of them. You're like a poor man's southside Joyce or something...probably the something.
Anyhow keep it up. Btw, how does one earn membership to the Cleek of Chicago?
Any group with that poor of a reputation is very appealing.