August September 2003 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Gregory Peck: A Class Act https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/gregory-peck-a-class-act-2/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/gregory-peck-a-class-act-2/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:59:14 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42300 Read more..]]> When Gregory Peck passed away on June 12, the world mourned one of the last icons of Hollywood’s glory years. In all the tributes that were paid to him, few mentioned Peck’s Irish roots, of which he was most proud. In June 1997, Peck, who rarely gave interviews in his last years, sat down with Irish America Editor Patricia Harty. An edited version of that interview follows.

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“Will you pour?” The gentleman sitting across from me cracked a smile as I nodded and lifted the teapot, wondering if I would be able to complete the task without making a fool of myself. I felt as if I was in a scene in one of those Sunday matinee movies of years ago. “Try those pastries, they’re Lebanese. A professor friend of mine sent them over.”

Gregory Peck was doing his best to put me at ease. Not an easy job. After two weeks of watching some of his most memorable roles – as the dashingly handsome journalist Joe Bradley, who wins Audrey Hepburn’s heart in Roman Holiday, the cowboy, Jimmy Ringo, in The Gunfighter, the fighter pilot, General Frank Savage, in 12 O’Clock High, the missionary priest, Father Francis Chisholm, in Keys of the Kingdom, the commando, Captain Keith Mallory, in The Guns of Navarone – I was more than a little starstruck, but delighted to be spending an afternoon at the actor’s home in Beverly Hills. And once again I’m thankful for the strong pull that Americans have for their Irish heritage, the reason that Peck, who rarely gave interviews, agreed to this one.

Sitting across from me in a black turtleneck, cardigan, and corduroy pants, sporting a beard, Peck at 81 looked strikingly handsome on this June afternoon in 1997. The Southern California sun shone in on the living room, a luxurious mix of overstuffed sofas, fine antiques, paintings (including a small Renoir) and photographs: of Peck’s mother Bunny on her 75th birthday, from whom he inherited his good looks; of his father (who bestowed on him his eyebrows); of two couples, the men in top hats – Peck, his pal David Niven and their wives at the Ascot races. And in the middle was a large photograph of a group with unmistakably Irish faces – 30 cousins gathered for one of Peck’s visits to Kerry.

In the foyer there were more paintings, including two racing watercolors by Raoul Dufy. Peck, an avid horseman, at one time had several thoroughbreds, including Owen’s Sledge, ridden by Pat Taafe in the British Grand National.

The study, lined with books (Shaw, Shakespeare, Yeats, Wilde, all the classics) held a portrait of Thomas Ashe, the Irish patriot, with whom Peck shared great-great-grandparents, and a lithograph of President Lincoln by Yaacov Agam. Peck had great respect for President Lincoln, and the men of the Civil War era, “for not shirking the right thing to do.” Another man he grew to respect, through his research in preparation for the movie role, was General Douglas MacArthur.

It was during the filming of MacArthur that he had bought the house, a splendid bungalow, 20 years before. He laughed as he told me how he had left the set of the movie in full uniform and still in character, viewed the property and commanded his wife Véronique to “Buy it.” And the inside? “We’ll fix it up.”

He and Véronique celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by putting up a tent on the lawn and inviting all their friends – “Albert Finney came and brought his mother.”

Peck met Véronique in Paris after completing Roman Holiday. The then 20-year-old French journalist interviewed the American star, and Peck, smitten, called to invite her to the races. This particular day, she and their daughter Cecilia had taken the dogs to the vet. The two dogs were largely the reason why the Pecks didn’t have a summer home in Ireland, where six months’ quarantine for visiting animals is required.

Peck’s visits to Ireland became more frequent in the 1990s because of the film scholarships he set up with University College Dublin. Extremely modest when it came to his good works, he hastened to tell me that the scholarships are only a small part of the film studies program headed by Paddy Marsh and Richard Kearney, but when a project appealed to him, he was noted for his generosity.

He served as President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (where he worked to protect the integrity of the Academy Awards; “the studios may cash in on our awards, but that is not why we are here”), and was a founding member of The American Film Institute, and The La Jolla Playhouse (as a young movie star he enticed major stars to his home town to boost attendance).

Appointed to the inaugural board of the National Council on the Arts by President Johnson (who awarded Peck the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian decoration, in 1969), he traveled the country at his own expense to visit regional theaters. He was responsible for grants which saved many of them, including the now famous Long Wharf theater in Connecticut and the A.C.T., then in Pittsburgh, now in San Francisco.

Throughout his life, Peck was known for being politically liberal, and for not being afraid to take a stand on issues. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) opened the eyes of audiences across the country to anti-Semitism, and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) dealt with racial issues at a time when the country was in an uproar over civil rights. In the movie Peck portrays Atticus Finch, a Southern lawyer of quiet strength and dignity who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. Peck received an Academy Award for his role, and it remained his favorite movie.

Harper Lee, who wrote the autobiographical story, said that her father Amasa Lee (on whom the character Atticus is based) and Peck shared the same characteristics. “The man and the part met,” Lee said in a telephone conversation, her Southern drawl still in evidence. “He [Peck] was a beautiful man – a man of very high intelligence. I think he would have been outstanding at anything he chose to do.” Horton Foote, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird, concurred: “Peck is the essence of Atticus – born to play that part. He has such dignity as a man, and there’s an enormous sense of integrity about him.”

In a long afternoon that stretched into early evening, I found out that he also had, as Harper put it, “a very sharp and wry sense of humor, and was the most wonderful company in the world.” A born storyteller, he laughed a lot, pausing, coloring in the details as he answered all my questions in that wonderful voice of his. In another age in Ireland, perhaps he would have been a seanchai.

On the desk in Peck’s study sat a clay model of the Statue of Liberty, “to remind me that my grandmother and my dad came through Ellis Island.” With that in mind we began our conversation with talk of a trip to Ireland. – Patricia Harty

Have you found a favorite spot in Ireland?

I love Wicklow, but I suppose if we ever rented or bought a cottage it would be in County Kerry. I went to visit my second cousin, Kitty Curran, who is still in East Minard, about ten years ago. A modest house, and we sat around having a cup of tea, and she asked, “Would you be after saying hello to himself?” I didn’t know who himself might be, so I said, “Yes.” Upstairs we went, and himself was lying out on the bed dressed in woolen trousers, flannel shirt and a cardigan, wearing carpet slippers and with the cap over his eyes, fast asleep. Kitty shook him by the shoulder and said, “Da, Gregory Peck’s here to see you.”

Himself, it turned out, was a first cousin, and a childhood playmate of my father’s. He opened his eyes and said, “The hell he is.” He was confused because my father had the same name as I do. They told him I was in the films, I was in Hollywood, but he couldn’t quite grasp that. But he came to, toddled down the stairs, and they broke out a jug of poitin, and we all had a nip.

Later, Kitty walked me down the lane and said, “These are the foundations of the farm house where your grandmother lived, and your father lived as a boy.” I looked down the grassy, green slopes toward Dingle Bay. It was magical. That’s where I would go if I wanted to work on a piece of writing.

Did you feel in touch with your ancestors there?

I did. I saw my father everywhere.

He was born in the U.S., in Rochester, but his American father died quickly from diphtheria. So my grandmother took her infant son back to the family farm. They came back when he was about ten, and stayed. She had a lot of courage. She traveled as a saleslady, sold lady’s underthings, corsets and such, and made a success of it. She had bought an apartment house in San Diego, lived there and ran it as a business. She was able to help my father go through the University of Michigan, where he became a pharmaceutical chemist.

In 1909, there was no drug store in La Jolla, which is about 14 miles from San Diego, so she helped him get set up in business. My mother came along from St. Louis, Scottish and English descent, with a family name of Ayres. They married, and La Jolla is my home town.

Did your father ever talk about his time in Ireland?

He did. He always had a bit of a brogue, and he loved to tell stories. He used to talk about being a boy in Ireland and say that there was no entertainment other than telling stories or singing a song, or once in a while going by horsecart to Dingle.

My father was a jokester. When he was really getting on, 76, 77, with white hair, he loved to drive into gas stations, fill up, and hand them his credit card. I was already well known in the films by that time. The attendant would look at the old boy and say, “You’re Gregory Peck!” My dad would say, “Oh yes, but I’ve not been at all well lately.” That was typical of my dad.

How old were you when you went to St. John’s Military boarding school?

Ten. I was a bit excited by the idea of a military uniform, and I was getting into sports, so I wasn’t unhappy about it. I would go home at the end of each month, to my father’s home in San Diego, and he was living with his mother. They had a house alongside her apartment house that she ran. My father, being divorced and being a kind of bachelor, moved in with her. Unhappily, she was suffering from serious cancer. That would be 1928, the year she died. It was cancer of the stomach, and in those days, they didn’t know as much as they know today about alleviating the pain. At night I’d hear the most terrible groaning. In the morning, I would read the newspaper to her, so I remember exactly what she looked like, but as far as her character, I remember strength and an almost stoic way of dying, except for the groaning, which I can hear to this day. I visited her grave not long ago. My father is in the same place, Holy Cross in San Diego.

You’re a cousin of Thomas Ashe, the Irish patriot who died from force-feeding while on hunger strike.

He was a patriot. He wrote poetry, he was a bagpiper, he was a teacher. Once, years ago, we hired one of the carriages by the Plaza Hotel to ride around Central Park on my wife’s first visit to this country. The carriage driver said, “Mr. Peck, I’ve heard that you’ve got a bit of the Irish.” I said, “Yes, I have an Irish grandmother, and my father lived there as a boy.” He said, “Well, the portrait of one of your cousins, Thomas Ashe, is hanging in a place of honor in a bar in Queens.” I went out there and sure enough, in this obscure bar in Queens, there is, not a very good painting, but it has in bold letters, “Thomas Ashe the Patriot.”

Did you like the movie Some Mother’s Son, about the hunger strike of 1982?

I loved it. I was extremely disappointed that it didn’t get more attention at Oscar time, not so much because I thought they were longing to have their pretty little Oscars on the mantelpiece, but because it would have been more widely distributed. It would have given them the courage to do more aggressive advertising and wider distribution. It didn’t get enough attention. Those scenes in the jail were heartbreaking. Needless to say, it reminded me of Thomas Ashe.

You were at the Aintree when the Grand National was called off because of an IRA bomb threat. Did it make you feel ashamed of your Irish roots?

I didn’t in any way feel responsible. In human terms, I didn’t like it. I suppose some people were really frightened. Lots of people were inconvenienced in a big way if that’s what the IRA were interested in doing. But I don’t like that sort of thing, threatening people. Blowing up people.

All those mixed feelings in Some Mother’s Son. We all can identify with that both ways. Caught on the horns of a dilemma.

Did you always feel very Irish?

Yes. St. John’s Military School was run by the Sisters of Mercy, and every last one of them was Irish, and our chaplain, Father Crowley, was Irish, and our athletic teams were “The Shamrocks.” So I was heavily indoctrinated. My confirmation name is Patrick. My father’s influence on me was greater than my mother’s, because they divorced and she remarried, and traveled a great deal.

And of course they had us coming and going at St. John’s because we prayed when we got out of bed, we went to Mass three times a week, said grace at meals, we prayed before each class, studied the catechism upwards, downwards and sideways. There was no letting up! Then when we got out of the classroom, the military fellows grabbed on to us, and we drilled, and drilled, and drilled some more. So it was discipline, spiritual and temporal, in the extreme.

<em>Gregory Peck in his Oscar winning role as Atticus Finch in <strong>To Kill a Mockingbird</strong>.</em>

Gregory Peck in his Oscar winning role as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

What was college life like in comparison?

Berkeley was a revelation to me. I felt totally free, I was on my own. I had great professors who opened my eyes to wider horizons, and I read like a madman. I was an English major. I started out pre-med, but I couldn’t cut it with the science and mathematics. I took French, Greek, and Russian literature in translation. I read all the classics. I was soaking up information. I was ready to absorb a whole different view of life. So it was all quite wonderful.

Also, I was an oarsman. I loved to crew. Eight men have to row as one. When the boat just flows, it means you’re in perfect rhythm. If I hadn’t acquired a sense of discipline in St. John’s, that would have ground it in for sure.

Berkeley was also your first introduction to the stage.

Yes. I ran into this fellow on campus one day who said he was looking for a tall chap to play in a few scenes adapted from Moby Dick. I played Starbuck, the first mate. We had a short Ahab, and the director was looking for a tall Starbuck. My chief qualification for the role.

After college you went to New York.

I was just out of Berkeley, and I jumped on a train across country. That’s when I changed my name. Gregory is my middle name. When I got on the train in Oakland, I was Eldred G. Peck. When I got off in New York, I was Gregory Peck. I didn’t know anybody. I’d heard about this Neighborhood Playhouse school down on the Lower East Side and I went and auditioned there and somehow got approved for a scholarship, which was lucky, because I didn’t have any money.

Those two Jewish ladies, Irene Lewison and Rita Morganthau, who sponsored the playhouse were marvelous. I was often broke, and once in a while I would go upstairs to their rather stylish, old-fashioned offices with pictures and nice furniture, and I’d borrow ten or twenty dollars.

They never said no; I tried not to do it too often. They were generous, good people who loved theater, ballet, the arts in general. I’m sure they thought they were serving their community by contributing to the theater and by training young people.

Didn’t Martha Graham teach there?

Martha Graham put my back out. I was seated on the floor with my legs out, trying to put my head between my feet. I couldn’t get more than halfway there and she came along behind me, and said, “Come on, Gregory, you can do better than that.” She took me by the shoulder and put her knee in my back. There was a loud snap. I couldn’t get out of bed the next morning. I could barely walk.

I had ruptured a disk in my lower back. The school sent me to an orthopedic specialist who put me in an old-fashioned canvas strap which I wore for two or three years and gradually the condition began to remedy itself, though off and on it’s bothered me all my life.

But Martha Graham was a big influence. Her discipline was unyielding. With her somewhat vague concept of true art, you could never fully understand what she was talking about. You knew that she wanted you to reach beyond yourself, to where you could express yourself in an artistic, creative fashion. For a number of years she was it in modern dance. Her company, when she was dancing with them, was really exceptional. To spend a couple of years under her influence was inspiring.

We had no hope of being dancers. The idea was to make us feel free, to move about, to express our thoughts and impulses in body language. Play a whole scene in pantomime, without saying anything. And somehow, just her own flame that burned inside her was an inspiration to us in ways that are a little hard to define. She was a major artist.

<em>Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren in the movie <strong>Arabesque</strong>, 1966.</em>

Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren in the movie Arabesque, 1966.

You are known for your incredible voice. Was it something you had to work on?

I honestly have never thought much about it. Whatever it is, it more or less came naturally. I used to joke about having been a barker at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. There was a giant thrill ride called the Meteor Speedway, and another barker and I alternated on a platform outside, dressed like racing drivers. And we were a half hour on and a half hour off mike for 12 hours, from noon to midnight. So I used to joke that did something to my vocal cords. A permanent barker. That was an interesting part of my life because I got acquainted with what you might call the bottom rung of show business, including the sideshow people.

Would you say the stage is your first love?

That’s true. I didn’t have any ambition to be a movie actor.

Is that why early on you turned down a movie contract?

And maybe just a bit of snobbery, too. I felt that I was a stage actor. I had escaped with my life in three important Broadway productions. I had gotten past what they called “Murderers Row,” the seven critics of the seven daily papers. There’s a certain snobbery that prevails amongst stage actors. If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, so that’s why I was able to resist – it wasn’t even hard to resist the idea of a seven-year movie contract because I saw myself going back to the stage frequently. I just didn’t want anyone else deciding what I would do next.

Do you ever feel any terror before you go on stage?

The first time I had a Broadway show, it was called Morning Star by Emlyn Williams, and they entrusted me with the leading role, and the first act was one hour, and I was on at the beginning and still there at the end. I was thinking thoughts like: This is the guillotine if they don’t like me, I’m not destined to make a living at this. I was terrified. For a moment I even wondered if I could slip out the back stage door and get on a bus to Mexico. That quickly passed, because the other actors were being chipper about it. I thought: They may be just as scared as I am and are just not letting on. I think I learned a lesson that has often come in handy, that if you can’t be bold, act bold. So I launched myself on the stage and I survived. Got good reviews, much to my surprise. So yes, I’m familiar with stage fright.

I had a surprising conversation with Jimmy Cagney once. He told me that he was always terrified before the curtain went up. He said even on a new movie with the new crew, cast and director, he was tight at first until he got to know everybody, until he proved himself. It’s something we have to do because we’re putting ourselves on public exhibit, assuming we’re going to be entertaining, charming, likable, dramatic, funny — make it worth their while if they bought a ticket and came to see us. So it is a challenge and you have to have a certain kind of actor’s nerve, actor’s gumption.

Of the male actors you worked with, who did you enjoy?

Just for fun, I think Anthony Quinn. We made three pictures together. Always at each other’s throats. Made a picture with Robert Mitchum, the original Cape Fear. David Niven, a couple of pictures – the most wonderful male companion I’ve ever had. We used to have our villas near each other in the south of France. But going way back, the experience of working with Charles Laughton, Walter Huston, and Lionel Barrymore – these are great, great figures. Rich characters.

And who was your favorite leading lady?

Audrey Hepburn. She was quite extraordinary. Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren. Lovely American girls, Jennifer Jones and Dorothy McGuire.

Did you ever work with John Ford?

No. He had Fonda, Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, he had his stock company. He didn’t need me. I made a Western called The Gunfighter which was quite good. I won the Silver Spurs award in Reno, Nevada, as the Best Movie Cowboy of the Year. I went up to get my silver spurs, and one of the first people I saw when I came back was John Wayne. He said, “Well, who the hell decided that you were the best cowboy of the year?” and I said, “Well, look, Marion, you can’t win it every year.” Six months after I won the Silver Spurs I got a script from Stanley Kramer and I thought, well it’s too much like The Gunfighter and my aim was to do a variety of things. So I said no to the script. It turned out to be High Noon. Gary Cooper won the Oscar for that. I might have done it, it might have won the Oscar, who knows? I was happy for him. No one could have done any better.

You won your own Oscar for To Kill a Mockingbird. What are your memories of working on that film?

It seems to me, looking back on it, that we were in a state of grace. In that we identified so closely with the roles. We seemed to be riding along on a stream or current in a river of emotional involvement with the characters so that the acting almost took care of itself. It wasn’t necessary to do a whole lot of research or any method agonizing. We were emotionally immersed in telling that story through those characters. I think we filmed it in only ten weeks. I could hardly wait to get to work in the morning.

You became friends with Harper Lee.

Oh yes. Even to this day. Harper came out for our first day of shooting and the scene was that I’m coming home from the courthouse or my law office, and the kids run down to the corner and the boy takes my briefcase and we walk down the street. Harper was walking by the camera, and I saw some glistening on her cheek. We did the scene and the director said, “My God, first day, first scene, first take, it’s a print.” It’s probably never happened before. So he was happy and we were happy. I strolled over to Harper, and I said, “Did I see something glistening on your cheek?” I was flattered that the scene had affected her. She said, “Oh Gregory, you’ve got a little pot belly just like my daddy.” Of course I said, “Harper, that’s great acting.”

That I reminded her of her father was the highest praise she could give me. Amassa Lee was a great hometown kind of pillar of the community. He died before the picture came out. I’m sorry that he couldn’t be around to see it himself on the screen. The story was largely autobiographical. The little boy with the buck teeth next door was actually Truman Capote, from Tupelo, Mississippi, who just happened to have an aunt living next door to Harper Lee. Some coincidence.

It did come in the midst of the civil rights movement.

It came just a year before LBJ pushed through this great program of civil rights legislation. I wouldn’t assume for one minute that the movie had anything to do with that, but it was in the mood of the times. It was issued in good climate when there was a strong national awareness that we were very much in need of this legislation that would to some extent level the playing field. It hasn’t been altogether successful, but Colin Powell has said, for example, that he wouldn’t be where he is except for the civil rights movement and, following that, the affirmative action program.

Affirmative action was voted out in California.

We take a few steps forward and then a step back. But we must never give up. I like to believe in the dream of Martin Luther King, that we can achieve it before we tear ourselves to pieces.

Tell me about being on Nixon’s enemies list.

I had produced a film called The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, which was a very powerful statement against our continued involvement in Vietnam. Nixon heard about the movie, or one of his staff did and they put me on the enemies list. It didn’t affect me one way or the other. In my eyes, the Vietnam war was of such monumental wrong-headedness – needless slaughter of human beings on both sides – the only thing that I could think of to do was that movie, hoping that a lot of people would see it and in some way it would affect the determination of our policy over there. I don’t think it did. Not enough people saw it.

I was almost literally carrying the cans of film around town to major studies, looking for distribution. I thought to take it to Robert Evans and Frank Yablans, because they had two enormous hits, The Godfather and Love Story. They agreed to see it. Bob Evans was ecstatic. He said, “This is shameful, this is a blunder of historic proportions. Everyone must see this picture,” and Yablans said, “Not with my Godfather money.”

<em>Gregory Peck and his wife, Veronique at <strong>Irish America's</strong> Irish of the Century Party, 1999.</em>

Gregory Peck and his wife, Veronique at Irish America’s Irish of the Century Party, 1999.

You had a good relationship with President Johnson.

For some reason LBJ took to me. He appointed me to his National Council for the Arts. Veronique and I became almost regulars at state dinners. He was deeply sincere about civil rights and about the plight of the underprivileged. It wasn’t just politics. Although he was a master politician, and probably pulled a few fast ones. He was crafty, there was no question about that, but he was deeply concerned about the underclass. He wanted to be the President who started the country on the right road, and education was the strongest part of it. Then he got caught in Vietnam, chose not to run in ’68, was so disheartened that he didn’t get out and support Hubert Humphrey, who was a wonderful man.

He hunkered down, as they say, in West Texas on the ranch, and we would go down there after he was out of office. He was quiet. The battle was over for him. He had a bad heart. He’d always say to me, “Well, Greg, how are things in the Arts?” I’d say, we’re doing this and that. One time we were sitting around the pool, he said, “Well, Greg, how are the Arts?” And I said, “Fine. You know, this regional theater movement is doing so well, and you’re responsible for it with your Arts and Humanities Act. Wouldn’t it be great if out of that would come the American Shakespeare?” He thought about that. He said, “You know what would be even better? If the American Shakespeare turned out to be a black man.” Isn’t that great? The politician linking the arts and civil rights.

Tell me about your scholarships for Irish film students.

I have those scholarships that I give out at the University College Dublin. Film Studies. I give a modest amount and we try to raise money everywhere we can.

We must get away from this conglomerate all consuming money madness, bottom line preoccupation which exists in the film industry. Money isn’t everything. Originality, creativity, humor, new points of view about the human condition, coming from fresh sources, are all important. Otherwise we’ll be just turning out commercial properties.

Your first visit to Ireland was to work with John Huston on Moby Dick.

We filmed in Youghal only for about a week. All that John wanted there was the departure of the Pequod from New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Youghal represented New Bedford. So I didn’t get very well acquainted with Ireland on that trip. I didn’t get down to Kerry at all. We went off to Fishguard in Wales after a week.

We were there [in Ireland] because it was John’s Irish period. It was definitely the wrong place to go out to sea looking for whales. There were no whales in the Irish Sea. But John wanted it to have some kind of Irish connection. It really was a struggle.

Didn’t you almost get killed on that film?

Well, we always say that John Huston tried to kill all his leading men.

We went out day after day from Fishguard, four, five, six miles at sea with our mechanical whale. There were scenes where I had to be on the back of this creature, which was about 65-70 feet long. On a day with very rough seas, a fog bank coming toward us, very dark, ominous skies, we had no business being out there. The tow line broke on the back of the whale. The waves were slapping against the whale, probably about six or eight feet high. I was slipping and sliding trying to hold on. I wasn’t fastened to anything, as I just drifted off into this fog bank, pitching and tossing and sliding. I knew that I wouldn’t last long if I slipped off into the water, which was very cold, and I certainly didn’t know which direction to swim in, Ireland was one way, Wales another. I did actually think I could die. I imagined The Mirror in London: “Movie Actor Lost on Rubber Whale.” It went on for about 20 minutes, but it seemed like an age, before I was rescued.

We had been trying to film in Fishguard for about two months and we had about 12 minutes of usable film, and along about that point, the men in dark blue suits showed up from Warner Brothers. They came out on a launch to visit the Pequod one day and the water was fairly rough. They were deathly sick by the time they got to us, about five miles out, they were green. John greeted them at the top of the ladder leading up to the launch of the ship. One of them was Harold Mirisch and John said, “Good to see you, Harold,” and he blew cigarette smoke right in his face. They didn’t stay on board for more than ten minutes. That night there was a heavy conference, and the decision was made to move to the Canary Islands, where we should have been all the time. They had to build a new whale, the other one was never recovered. I’ve always thought it would be a wonderful children’s book – the rubber whale that went south and tried to join the whale pack and was rejected.

What was Huston like?

Huston was not known as an actor’s director. His best films were those he made with his family: his father, Walter, and later on with his daughter, Anjelica; Prizzi’s Honor and especially The Dead. He had a wonderful visual sense, and was something of a draftsman. Certainly, he was a colorful character, a fine raconteur, but I didn’t get to know him on an intimate, friendly basis.

I only knew him as a film director, and he was a director who was in big trouble. We shot 27 weeks on a 14-week schedule. The picture was greeted with mixed reviews. Now people come to me and say, I remember that picture, it was the first picture I saw. They see the whole thing in one fell swoop as some kind of mad adventure. Broad strokes. Even some people who have seen it recently seem to think better of it than the critics did when it came out. But I think of it as a lost opportunity. It has its moments, but to my notion, the picture is spotty and too short by far to tell the story.

I felt about Moby Dick that I was too young, 35, to play this malevolent, bitter old man of 65 or 70 full of hatred, longing, vengeance, with this mad obsession about the whale. I thought that in some scenes I captured it, and sometimes I didn’t always have the underpinning of emotion.

<em>Still handsome at 81, Gregory Peck in 1997 - Photo by Kit DeFever.</em>

Still handsome at 81, Gregory Peck in 1997 – Photo by Kit DeFever.

What draws you to Lincoln and the Civil War era?

I’ve often thought I’d have been better cast in the American scene a hundred years ago or more. In my mind I seem to drift back a good deal to imagining what it was like to live in America in those days. I’ve read so much about the Civil War, and so much about Lincoln, that it draws me. Why exactly? I haven’t really tried to come up with a simple answer for that, but a willingness to sacrifice – not shirking the right thing to do – not preoccupied with material things or the struggle for money and power – lack of fearfulness. Those are the things I guess that I admire the most. I find those characteristics in the people I read about so much. I’m always drawn to read about them. If I have a sleepless night I reach for one of the many books about Lincoln and read for an hour or so. It seems to do me good.

Had he run for a second term Johnson was going to make you ambassador to Ireland. Would you have taken the job?

That’s an interesting question. It was never actually put to me, but after he chose not to run in ’68, there was a grand ball for him. At a certain point he came and asked Veronique to dance, and he said, “Well, there are two of us here who love Gregory.” He was always lavish with compliments, always patting people on the back. He said, “You know, I have the thought that if I were to run for another term, I would impart Gregory as the ambassador to Ireland.” That was the whole substance of it. It was a remark he made while they were dancing at the Plaza Hotel.

Would I have taken it? Probably. I think it would have been a great adventure. It would have been interesting and new and something for me to learn and new challenges, and a whole change of our way of life.

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Gregory Peck is survived by his wife Véronique Passani; his sons Stephen and Carey from his first marriage to Greta Rice; a son, Anthony, and a daughter, Cecilia from his marriage to Véronique; and six grandchildren, Another son, Jonathan, a television reporter, died tragically at 30.

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First Word: Heroes for Our Time https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/first-word-heroes-for-our-time/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/first-word-heroes-for-our-time/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:59:09 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42066 Read more..]]> “You cannot put a rope around the neck of an idea. … You cannot confine it in the strongest prison cell that your slaves could ever build.”

– Sean O’Casey on the death of Thomas Ashe.

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Just as I was getting annoyed that no one on the Larry King tribute to Gregory Peck mentioned the actor’s Irishness, he mentioned it himself. “It must be that Irish stubborn streak in me,” Peck said suddenly filling the screen in a film clip from an earlier TV interview.

Gregory Peck was, of course, universal. He was loved by audiences the world over. “I thought he was Jewish,” a neighbor of mine said, recalling the 1947 film Gentleman’s Agreement, in which Peck’s character is a journalist who exposes anti-Semitism by pretending to be Jewish. And to African-Americans he will always be the heroic lawyer Atticus Finch who defends a black man in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

But it’s not taking from Peck’s universal appeal to say that he was proud of his Irish ancestry.

His “passion and curiosity about Ireland and all things Irish was unbounded,” Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, who shared in one of Peck’s literary evenings, told me. But I knew that. It was the reason why Peck finally consented to sit down with Irish America in 1997 for an interview, which we republish in this issue. I believe it was his last formal interview. After we published it, he told me that the New York Times called but he told them he had said everything he wanted to say to Irish America.

Peck’s roots were in Kerry. His paternal grandmother was born there and his father lived there until he was 10. Peck himself was born in La Jolla, California on April 5, 1916, just a few days shy of the Easter Rising in Ireland, in which his cousin Thomas Ashe with just 44 men managed to capture a police column, one of the few military successes of the Rising.

When Ashe died in prison on hunger strike (from a brutal forcefeeding) trying to win political prisoner status, Sean O’Casey wrote: “You cannot put a rope around the neck of an idea…. You cannot confine it in the strongest prison cell that your slaves could ever build.” It’s a quote that Peck, who kept a portrait of Ashe in his study, identified with. Like his cousin, he never walked away from an idea that might change someone’s thinking on racism, or discrimination, or the rights of the individual.

When I heard that he had passed on, a line from a half-remembered song, “Shall My Soul Pass Through Old Ireland,” came to mind. Ironically, it’s a song about an Irish rebel who died on hunger strike in Brixton prison.

If souls do any traveling after death I’m sure Gregory Peck’s did a flight over Annascaul in County Kerry that was his heartplace.

Peck was a fan of Abraham Lincoln’s and the men of that era for their “willingness to sacrifice – not shirking the right thing to do – not preoccupied with material things or the struggle for money and power – lack of fearfulness.” I think he would have enjoyed our feature on Civil War reenactors in this issue. As a literary man he would have been interested in the story on Barney Rosset, the publisher who rescued Samuel Beckett from obscurity. And I’m sure he would have admired the tenacity of John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted. See Louise Carroll’s insightful interview on page 32.

Walsh’s style couldn’t be more different from Peck’s. Where the actor was persuasive, Walsh is combative – after all, his roots are in Tipperary Hill, in Syracuse, New York, where they insist that the traffic light be turned downside up with the green on top to celebrate the fact that Irish stubbornness won out after years of British “Redcoat” domination. They don’t call Tipperary people “stone throwers” for nothing. As a county with more than its share of rebel history, the nickname supposedly came from the citizens’ penchant for throwing rocks at passing landlords and bailiffs (from behind the wall, of course). References to the Walsh name in MacLysaght’s Irish Families show that two of the Walsh clan were killed “in rebellion against Queen Elizabeth.” So John Walsh has an inherited rebellious streak. He refused to lie down after the enormous tragedy of his son’s murder but used Adam’s death to fuel a mission against crime. Recently his persistence helped bring about the return of kidnapped Elizabeth Smart to her parents, and in countless other cases he has been responsible for the arrest and prosecution of some of America’s most notorious criminals. His new show, The John Walsh Show, which concentrates on his latest campaign for victims’ rights, is one of the many things he talks about in this issue.

“This is a hard time in human history, and we look for the bright spots that show us the way,” Jean Picker Firstenburg, the director of the American Film Institute, said just days before Peck’s death when the Institute named Atticus Finch its top screen hero of all time. Like Atticus, Gregory Peck showed us the way. He never shirked his duty. And in his own inimitable style, neither does John Walsh. ♦

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The Life of John Walsh https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/the-life-of-john-walsh/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/the-life-of-john-walsh/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:59:00 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42268 Read more..]]> John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted and The John Walsh Show, talks about his family, his television shows, his thoughts on Ireland, and his tireless crusading.

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Before he was a TV icon, crime-fighter, father of a murdered child, legislative harbinger and “the guy in the leather jacket,” John Walsh was an Irish-American everyman. Born in 1945 to Mary Jean Callahan and John Edward Walsh, he was raised in upstate New York in a traditional Irish Catholic home. The Callahans were lace-curtain Irish and they ran a construction company with Kelly green shamrocks on the trucks. His father was a World War II hero and a great role model to his children. He was very involved in their local parish and was a member of the Holy Name Society.

Despite a stable homelife with happily married parents, Walsh was a self-confessed hell-raiser in his youth. Many Sundays throughout his adolescence, Walsh and his brother Jimmy were ordered by their father to sit in the last pew of church because the boys had been tearing around town getting into fights and turned up at mass with black eyes and split lips. Walsh had a traditional Catholic education, attending Our Lady of Mount Carmel high school run by Carmelite priests. After graduating from the University of Buffalo with a degree in history, Walsh moved to Florida in 1966. Soon after, he married his long-time girlfriend Reve and they had their first child, Adam, in 1974.

In 1981, six-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Florida shopping center and murdered. Despite a massive effort by the Walshes, no arrests were ever made in the case, and the family learned first-hand that there was no national, centralized system to track missing children. Shocked and dismayed that the FBI and other groups neglected these problems, the Walshes worked tirelessly to establish resources for parents in their situation. Walsh’s life as a resort hotel businessman slowed down, and his work for missing and abducted children took over. He and Reve led the fight to pass the Missing Children’s Act of 1982 and Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1984, which created the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In 1987, the fledgling Fox network approached Walsh to host a new TV series called America’s Most Wanted (AMW). Although he had not been an actor or TV personality, Walsh was becoming high profile because of his work for victims and children. He was reluctant at first, but Fox insisted he was the right person for the job. The following year the show aired and he was catapulted into the public eye permanently. After a six-week cancellation in 1996, a groundswell of support and letters from viewers brought the show back on the air. As a result of AMW, over 750 fugitives have been captured and 36 children have been recovered alive. A recent highlight of the show was finding Elizabeth Smart, the girl who was kidnapped from her bedroom at home in Salt Lake City. An AMW viewer phoned in after seeing Smart with her captors, and she was soon brought back to her parents and her kidnappers were apprehended. Fifteen years after its launch, Walsh still encourages his viewers to believe what he tells them each week: “You can make a difference.”

Last year Walsh began a second TV series, but rather than focus on crime, The John Walsh Show (TJWS) tackles issues for victims, families and children in the softer, more Oprah-style of show. TJWS debuted on NBC in September 2002 and has shown a different side of Walsh. He has shed the leather jacket for fuzzy sweaters and rather than chasing fugitives, he sits down and discusses a range of issues with his guests. The show was recently renewed for another year and he has made it a major point that the people on his program be treated with dignity. If AMW deals with solving crime, then TJWS deals with the repercussions for victims, the emotional and psychological impact, and how to prevent crime if possible.

Still married to his wife of over 30 years, Walsh and Reve make their home in Washington, D.C. with their children Meghan (20), Callahan (18), and Hayden (8). Their marriage has not always been smooth, and being in the limelight has made his infidelities a public part of their relationship. After Reve filed for divorce in July of last year (it did not go through), he started therapy and is determined to keep on the straight and narrow. The whole family has lived with the strains of his celebrity. Walsh is often the target of death threats and the family have had very tight security as part of their daily lives since the beginning of AMW. However, after a few minutes of talking with him, it’s blatantly apparent that for all his faults, his children and his wife are of ultimate priority in his life.

<em>Left to right Ed Smart, Lois Smart, John Walsh, and Elizabeth Smart playing the harp during a taping of <strong>The John Walsh Show</strong>.</em>

Left to right Ed Smart, Lois Smart, John Walsh, and Elizabeth Smart playing the harp during a taping of The John Walsh Show.

Louise Carroll: What would you say is the purpose of The John Walsh Show?

John Walsh: I want to be able to use The John Walsh Show to effect some social change. I want it to be a call to action. I want to be able to say to people, Here’s a problem in American society, here’s something you’ve seen in the news or read or heard about, and here’s how you can change it. I want to tell Americans how they can impact society, how they can get laws changed, and I want to right some wrongs and change some things, especially for victims, especially for children. And so far it’s been working. It has been an exhausting experience – I’m working for two networks and doing two shows – but the public is slowly but surely finding us.

<em>John and Revé with their daughter Meghan during a 1983 press conference.</em>

John and Revé with their daughter Meghan during a 1983 press conference.

Your son’s murder is something you discuss often on the show. Is that difficult for you?

No. Adam’s murder dramatically changed my life forever. It altered my perception of the world, of family, of good and evil, and it altered my career. It changed my emotional state and well-being for years. For me it was the springboard to try to change things to make sure that he didn’t die in vain. Adam’s always with me. I think about him all the time. I loved him so much. He’s a great inspiration to me, and I can go to that place and it’s not painful to go there. What happened to him that one day was horrible and painful, but the joy of his life and the celebration of his life and the things that have happened since then [are positive]. People helped us to change laws. They look on Adam as a symbol of changing some of the things that are wrong with society.

Everybody deals with the loss of a child in a certain way. A lot of people come on my show because they feel that I have walked in their shoes and that I will be empathetic. You will always be the parent of a murdered child. My wife Reve says it’s like trying to explain a color to someone who has never seen it – a color that you hope they would never see. And the only people who ever understand that color are other parents of murdered children – because you don’t bury your children.

<em>Adam at six months having a swimming lesson with Revé and John at the pool.</em>

Adam at six months having a swimming lesson with Revé and John at the pool.

If there was one thing that you could change about the justice system, what would it be?

I would change how victims are treated. The Constitution has been amended 27 times in the history of this country, four times for the rights of the accused, never for victims. The criminal gets 25 character witnesses to plead with the judge and the jury for mercy and he gets spared because he was fat or had acne and that’s the reason he raped 27 women and slit their throats; but the victims can’t make a five-minute statement. So I’m working on a victims’ constitutional amendment. I started with President Clinton, and we introduced the amendment with [Senators] John Kyl, a conservative Republican from Arizona, and Diane Feinstein, a liberal Democrat from San Francisco. I wanted it to be bipartisan. President Clinton endorsed it, and so did President Bush when he took office. I addressed the national governors’ conference, and 49 of the 50 governors endorsed it. But it still has not gotten out of the Senate. They never felt it was that important. There’s no big lobby behind victims’ legislation. I call it the criminal injustice system.

What was your reaction to Governor Ryan’s decision in Illinois to throw out the death penalty?

I think he’s a coward. Thirteen people were released from death row, justifiably so, they were cleared by DNA testing — thirteen terrible mistakes. But what about the 170 others that he gave clemency to, or reduced their sentences to life in prison? What gives one man the right to say to the House and Senate of Illinois, the people of Illinois and the court that tried these 170 cases and the juries that convicted these people, “I’m going to commute these sentences, I’m against the death penalty.” You can’t do that. That’s a dictatorship. The governor never had the balls, or the guts, or whatever you want to call it, to consider what the impact would be on the families of the victims. For them all of a sudden to be told, after the trial they sat through, the nightmare that they went though, that these people who were convicted and sentenced to death, are going to have their sentences commuted.

What should you do instead?

You slow down and you stop the system. You review every case, whether it takes five, ten, fifteen years. If DNA is available you look at it. Coward that he is, he does it at the last hour of his gubernatorial tenure. People in his administration are in [trouble] for corruption, which the press forgets while they’re covering his reducing of people’s sentences. He’s still facing investigation and indictment.

Have you considered running for political office yourself?

I’ve been asked to run for governor, and for the Senate. I can’t. I only have a couple of issues: victims’ rights and children’s rights. I couldn’t sit down with the auto manufacturers of America at lunch and listen to them for an hour. I really don’t care about the automotive industry. I can address 50 governors in one day and I can address Congress and I can address the State Legislature on what I want to do. And I’m not held accountable to an electorate.

What people don’t seem to understand and what I understand very clearly is that if you are the governor of a state you only have power in that one state. If you are a senator from Florida you are one of 99 other senators on the floor that can’t get anything done. If you are a member of the House of Representatives you are one of 435 well-intended people who are up for election every two years. But if John Walsh shows up on the capitol steps as John Walsh, private citizen, then I know that there will be 30 cameras there and the governor is going to come out and listen to me. If he doesn’t listen to me, he’s going to be embarrassed, because people are going to ask, “Why didn’t you talk to him?” I think I am a hundred times more effective on the outside as a private citizen. And being able to have a prime-time television show with millions of viewers on a Saturday night and a daytime TV show is much more effective. I don’t think any governor of any state, or any U.S. senator or U.S. congressman is on TV six days a week, but I am right now, fortunately, and if I want to get on my little bully pulpit [I can].

<em>Revé and John with President Ronald Reagan, who is holding their daughter Meghan. On the far right, Florida Senator Paula Hawkins looks on.</em>

Revé and John with President Ronald Reagan, who is holding their daughter Meghan. On the far right, Florida Senator Paula Hawkins looks on.

Where do you stand on gun control?

I am a very strong advocate of gun control. I own guns for my own self-protection because people threaten me all the time. But I am a great advocate for long, extensive background checks. I think that Japan probably has the best system for gun control. You have to take a psychiatric evaluation test. And they [the licensing bureau] go and talk to people at your place of work. You have to take a shooting skill test, and that’s all before you even get your gun. In the United States you can go to a gun show, and even though the Brady Bill says there is supposed to be a 24-hour waiting period, the gun shows are exempt from that. Canada probably had 800 homicides last year. Can you own a gun in Canada? Yes. Can you hunt? Absolutely. Do they participate in the Olympics in target shooting and pistol shooting? Yes. But America had 20,000 homicides last year, half of them gun-related. We’re a psycho-gun society. There are 250 million guns here. It’s absolutely insane. I’m a great advocate for countries like England and Ireland and Germany and Japan where they have very strict gun-control laws.

What is your opinion of the National Rifle Association?

I think the NRA is made up of a bunch of psycho gun-freaks. They use their money to terrify members of Congress and say, “If you support gun control I will come into your district and you will get un-elected.” They have done it. They have targeted members of the House and members of the Senate.

The NRA doesn’t realize that ninety percent of Americans are for reasonable gun control. I believe people should own guns if they can pass the background check, if they are not psychotic, if there is a waiting period, if they know about trigger locks. Fifteen kids are hurt, maimed or killed by gun accidents in the home every single week in the United States, but the NRA refuses to even deal with these statistics. I am probably one of the few guys in this country who actually needs a gun other than a cop. And I don’t carry my gun. I mean, I sometimes carry my gun if I get really heavy threats. But I’m highly skilled and I know how to use the safety.

<em>FBI director William Sessions visits John on the set of <strong>America's Most Wanted</strong>.</em>

FBI director William Sessions visits John on the set of America’s Most Wanted.

Where do you think violence against children is most worrying, at home, at school, on the streets, or in the media?

Seventy percent of crimes against children are committed by someone they know, by someone in the home or a trusted authority figure such as a Catholic priest. I am a Roman Catholic but I am absolutely disgusted by the Catholic Church. All these years I watched my father put money in that plate. And I gave lots of money to the Catholic Church. And to find out that they have settled over a billion dollars in hush money, to try to keep victims from coming forward, is disgusting.

We are supposed to be a gentle, loving, nurturing religion that takes care of children, but bishops have known about pedophile priests for years and they just moved them from church to church. If I molested a boy I would be in jail. These priests belong in jail. And for the Vatican not to say three simple things at the Bishops Conference where they met to discuss the situation: We are absolutely sorry. We will no longer pay hush money, but we will pay for therapy. And if a priest is accused of sexual abuse, we will let the D.A. come in and investigate, and if it is proven that that priest is a sexual abuser, we will turn him over to the authorities and that priest’s ass will be in jail where it belongs.

That is the Catholic Church that I would like to see. I went to Catholic school my whole life. They [supposedly] teach you truth, you’re supposed to go to hell – it’s a mortal sin to sexually assault somebody. They preach to all of us that we will be held accountable for our actions and we must do the right thing. Are there priests who have done God’s work? Absolutely. But has the Catholic Church practiced what they preach? Absolutely not. That’s why I think the Catholic Church is hurting right now, that is why so many people are dropping out.

Would you say you are still religious?

I believe in a higher power. I don’t think you can name that higher power, you might want to call him Mohammed or Jesus. I don’t think you can say that the one true religion is Catholicism, and that Judaism, or Hinduism, the Muslims and the Protestants are wrong. What difference does it make what the name of that higher power is? That higher power is there and takes care of you and looks out for you. God gives you free will. You can be an evil, terrible person or you can try to make a difference and be a decent person.

Walsh with guests on The John Walsh Show.

Walsh with guests on The John Walsh Show.

How does your family cope with your celebrity?

They don’t know any different. I think that people say to [my kids] Meghan or Callahan or Hayden, “What’s it like? Everybody stops your father and there are bodyguards?” But they don’t know any different. That’s how they were raised. My kids know that we have to move here and we have to do this and we have to watch out. The weirdest thing is that they don’t think it’s anything special.

How do you cope with being a celebrity?

With the benefits and certainly the financial benefits and the certain degree of power or whatever you would call it, comes loss of privacy. There is a tremendous intrusiveness in your life. I was a very private person. I really loved building hotels and I liked being a private person. I never wanted to be on television. I don’t like the trappings that come with it. It certainly can be detrimental, but you just deal with it. To me, if people stop and say, “I’m proud of you,” or “You’re doing a good job,” I think that’s an acknowledgment of my work. That’s a pat on the back. I don’t look at that as an intrusion. I look at it as an affirmation that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing or that I’m doing something right.

This old lady stopped me in the airport one time and it was the most bizarre thing. She said to me, “I always knew I was going to meet you. So I have carried this Michael the archangel card around with me. Michael had this dark curly hair like yours and he was the avenging angel. And he wasn’t perfect, but God chose him to cast Satan out of heaven. And you are like Michael. You look like him, you’ve got that hair and you’re also flawed, but you fight back for those who can’t fight back. You’re tough but you’re fair.” I’m going “Holy mackerel” – in the middle of the airport this old lady is standing next to me telling me this. But she was wonderful. And what she said was very flattering.

Tell me about your visits to Ireland.

I’ve been to Ireland many times in several capacities. In the highly visible public capacity as a star of Manhunter – a hit show I had on [U.K. network] Sky, and also as a private citizen. And I really have to be objective because I’ve been to many, many countries all over the world, but I probably had the most fun in Ireland. I think the Irish are the most gracious and kind people of all. And I don’t say that because I’m Irish, because I went over there as an American. I went as a world traveler.

I just loved it. I rode Connemara ponies, because my wife and I ride horses and we rode along the cliffs. I had a flat tire outside of Ashford Castle and two guys changed the tire and never asked for a dime. People will help you, and they will give you directions, although it will take an hour because Irish people are long-winded like me; but they are gracious and accommodating. And it’s such a beautiful country.

Ireland is also a literary country and television is not such a big thing. You go to bookstores and you read about poets and writers. Ireland is a very educated country. Everyone I met could talk about all kinds of things. I always say to people, I don’t care what nationality you are. If you want to have a safe, interesting, fascinating, romantic trip, go to Ireland. Maybe there’s nothing to buy besides cable-knit sweaters but you’ll have a phenomenal time. And it’s a beautiful place to visit.

What are your views on Northern Ireland?

I could never figure out how England gave up India, South Africa, Australia, Jamaica – they gave up all this and they still keep Ireland. Just because of these Ulster men and these Orange Protestants who have a link back to the U.K. Northern Ireland should not be dominated by England. It’s the Emerald Isle; it’s an island that should be a republic. Protestants and Catholics can both live there. Why doesn’t England let them unite as a republic? People say, “Oh, you’ve got relatives who give money to the IRA.” That’s not true, but I have strong opinions from the Irish culture embedded in me. My father was born in Syracuse, New York on Tipperary Hill where the traffic lights are green at the top. My father and my mother are both Irish so I’m 100 percent. I’m proud to be Irish.

<em>Walsh at Ground Zero beginning the hunt for the September 11, 2001 terrorists on <strong>America's Most Wanted</strong>.</em>

Walsh at Ground Zero beginning the hunt for the September 11, 2001 terrorists on America’s Most Wanted.

Do you think there’s something that America can learn from Ireland, because Ireland has been facing terrorism for so long?

What can you learn from it other than you have to put up with it? I don’t think there’s anything to be learned. The people in Belfast go out and they deal with it. But there’s no great lesson. The lesson is, let’s get it done with. Let’s come to some conclusion here. Get over it and get by it. There’s no living with terrorism. There’s no living with innocent men and women and children getting killed. I think the people of Northern Ireland want to be left alone. I think they want to be free. The lessons are that religion is not a reason to fight, but we’ve been fighting over religion for years. The lessons are that it’s horrible and it’s terrible and it’s stupid. Who wants to live with terrorism? Who wants to figure out a way to live with terrorism? We don’t. I don’t.

I was at Ground Zero where 2,800 people were killed, innocent people not soldiers, not me. Now, if someone was going to come up and shoot me on the street, I’ve got it coming. If you live by the sword you die by the sword, I’m ready for that. I believe that. Someone could shoot me tomorrow for what I do on America’s Most Wanted. I would understand that. I chose that, like professional soldiers do. But women and children don’t choose that.

I’m the kind of guy who believes you should go out and kill bin Laden, absolutely. I wish I could find him and kill him. You can end dictatorships and you can end terrorism. You know how you do it? You kill the figurehead. Hitler dominated Germany, killed six million Jews. But then Hitler committed suicide. Isn’t Germany a free country now? Isn’t it a democracy? It’s the land of Mercedes Benz. Mussolini ran fascist Italy; then they hung him in the square and what is Italy now? It’s the land of Giorgio Armani. You can end fascism. I’ve taken fifteen guys off the FBI’s ten most wanted list – will there be other ones? Yes. But Italy and Germany are democracies now because the two megalomaniac sociopaths that ran those countries were killed. I’d love to see bin Laden killed. I’d love to see all the bullshit that’s been happening in Northern Ireland stop.

<em>The Tipperary Hill traffic light in Syracuse, New York that is green on the top instead of red. Walsh's father Jack Walsh, a proud Irish-American, hailed from this area.</em>

The Tipperary Hill traffic light in Syracuse, New York that is green on the top instead of red. Walsh’s father Jack Walsh, a proud Irish-American, hailed from this area.

Do you think there’s any hope for peace in Northern Ireland?

I think and I really believe that in this century, maybe in the next twelve years, people in Northern Ireland are going to get sick of it. They’re just going to give up. I believe that finally the British Parliament will say, what are we doing there? I have a good friend from Ireland named Sean Kinealy, who is a Royal Marine, he had to go over and fight in Belfast. How does an Irishman, who’s in the British Army, feel when he has to go over and kill other Irishmen? He hated it. He said, “This is insanity. I became a Royal Marine to protect Great Britain, to fight in the Falkland Wars and support the United States in Desert Storm, but I did not become a Royal Marine to go over to Northern Ireland and kill other Irishmen. I’m 100 percent Irish.” Now that I’ve solved the world’s problems, I’m going to go over to Northern Ireland and I’ll solve it! (Laughs).

Have you taken your children over to Ireland?

Callahan is going over next week to play rugby in Dublin. How’s that for an Irish name? Meghan has been to Ireland. Hayden hasn’t, but he can’t wait to go. He will go if I ever get a day off.

<em>John Walsh - Photo by Kit DeFever.</em>

John Walsh – Photo by Kit DeFever.

There was a New York Times Magazine profile written about you that said, “Happy is not a word that comes to mind when you meet John Walsh.”

If you know me, I’m happy. When I’m hanging out with Hayden and when I was watching Callahan playing rugby and when they beat the Welsh rugby team in a match, I was happy. There was a smile on my face. And to see Meghan’s art and to see her in college. I like to ride my motorcycles and go scuba diving, go jet skiing, ride Nascar at 120 miles an hour. I do all kinds of things that make me happy. If you ever worked with me, you’d see what a real Irish wise-ass I am, I have that sense of humor. That article was one reporter that spent one day with me. We did a whole 12-hour heavy day shoot with all the cops around, it was really intense. [I was] memorizing 50 pages of script and trying to be a professional. So that’s probably not a happy day in most people’s lives. But I enjoyed it. I thought it was fun. There are times when I am extremely happy and I feel very blessed. As much sadness as I have had in my life, as much sorrow, as much heartbreak – I have also had the greatest luck of anyone I know.

What would be the perfect day in the life of John Walsh?

To go to the Rose Garden with my family and a lot of other victims and see the United States Constitution changed; for the Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendment to become the law of the land. In every one of the 50 states victims like myself and the other 40 million Americans who are victims of violent crimes would get the same treatment and be treated with the same dignity as the criminal and the accused. That would be great. I’ve been honored in the Rose Garden by four presidents. Is it wonderful? Absolutely. Is it nice? It’s great. But to see something permanent put in place, that would be a great day. And to have all my kids there, that would be wonderful. Because you know, I spend a lot of time away from my kids. And I’ve acted up terribly in my life. So it would be something that they could be proud of. ♦

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Irish Films Wow New York Audiences…and Bono & Daniel Smoke Outside https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/irish-films-wow-new-york-audiences-and-bono-daniel-smoke-outside/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/irish-films-wow-new-york-audiences-and-bono-daniel-smoke-outside/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:58:20 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42070 Read more..]]> At the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City in May, two Irish movies quickly sold out: Jim Sheridan’s In America and Aidan Quinn’s Song for a Raggy Boy. Sheridan’s movie, based on his own experience as a recently arrived immigrant to New York, left not a dry eye in the house. Release date is set for November.

Quinn’s movie meanwhile is set in an Irish reform school for boys in 1939 and is a chilling tale of institutionalized abuse. Release date has not been set.

Meanwhile at the Tribeca Film Festival party at Seven, the ban on smoking had Daniel Day-Lewis and Bono lighting up on the street. “It’s ridiculous,” Seven’s owner Mike Kelly told the N.Y. Post. “These guys travel all over the world, and they come here and they’ve got to go out to the curb?” Kelly said of New York Mayor Bloomberg’s smoking ban. “This guy is off the rails.” ♦

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Fleadh Cheoil na hÉirann 2003 https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/fleadh-cheoil-na-heirann-2003/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/fleadh-cheoil-na-heirann-2003/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:57:01 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42077 Read more..]]> Tipperary expects over 200,000 for Irish music festival. And Irish musicians and dancers from throughout the U.S. meet in Boston. 

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Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2003 will be held in Clonmel, County Tipperary from August 22-24. This premier traditional music event attracts over 220,000 people and 10,000 performers each year These include 4,000 competitors in the 150 or so traditional competitions.

The fleadh is organized by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, an association dedicated to Irish culture with chapters in over 20

countries and dozens of American cities.

Comhaltas concert tours date back to 1972 when the first official North American Tour took place. For audiences at home and abroad, these tours showcase all that’s best in our traditional music, song, and dance.

An annual convention is also held in a different city in North America each year featuring non-stop Irish music sessions flourishing alongside ceili dances that include up to several hundred people.

This year’s convention was held in Boston. From April 24-27 Irish musicians and dancers from across North America

converged on the Hilton Boston Hotel. Over 500 delegates from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Philadelphia and other U.S. cities as well as representatives from Ireland, England and Scotland, including Ireland’s Senator Labhras O’Murchu, a noted scholar and music historian who is associated with the Comhaltas headquarters in Dublin, attended.

“The goal of Comhaltas is to celebrate and pass along the music, dance and culture of Ireland that has survived for over ten centuries,” said Larry Reynolds, who immigrated from Galway in the 1950s and has helped fuel the Irish music revival in

Boston. “Irish gatherings are very sociable, so typically these occasions allow people to talk, laugh and tell stories while enjoying the best Irish music and dancing you’re likely to see anywhere.” ♦

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For more details on Comhaltas visit www.Comhaltas.com.

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The Fading of The Green at NYPD https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/the-fading-of-the-green-at-nypd/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/the-fading-of-the-green-at-nypd/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:56:37 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42082 Read more..]]> “The Irish were part of the problem and part of the solution,” said former New York cop and current college professor Hugh O’Rourke, PhD.

O’Rourke spoke at the First Annual Irish Heritage Day at the New York City Police Museum, a literal slip of a building in lower Manhattan in late April.

The official New York police department was set up in 1845. Coincidentally, 1845 was the first year of the famine in Ireland which forced massive emigration to the U.S. Many of those new immigrants found their way to employment in the new police force. So much so that in 1855 an unflattering New York Times editorial noted that of the 1,100 cops in the NYPD, 300 were born in Ireland, 700 were second-generation Irish-Americans, and 36 had served prison terms.

<em>New York City patrol car from the 1920s.</em>

New York City patrol car from the 1920s.

O’Rourke pointed out that the reason the police department was so sorely needed was because the huge influx of Irish immigrants were “the most rowdy people in the city at the time.”

The Police Museum event was sparsely attended because the city was on high alert and many police officers were deployed around at anti-war demonstrations. Nevertheless, there was plenty of homemade Irish soda bread. The NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums played a few airs. Kellyanne Farrell danced, and the program was broadcast live on WRJU radio, the Long Ireland Show. Mike Cronin, deputy director and curator of the museum, organized and hosted the program.

<em>Hugh O'Rourke PhD.<em/>

Hugh O’Rourke PhD.

Today, the NYPD is not so solidly Irish as it was. Of the 2002 recruits O’Rourke said that of the 1,379 graduates, only 108 were Irish. The largest groups of immigrant admissions to the academy from 1991 to 1998 were from the Dominican Republic, Soviet Union, and China.

Irish cops still outweigh others at the top of the department, however, and all police commissioners, including the current Ray Kelly, have been Irish except for two. And Michael A. Sheehan, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, will head the new counter-terrorism department. O’Rourke’s son is a captain in that unit. ♦

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Enya Donates “Only Time” Sales to NYC Firefighters https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/enya-donates-only-time-sales-to-nyc-firefighters/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/enya-donates-only-time-sales-to-nyc-firefighters/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:55:09 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42092 Read more..]]> Irish Singer Shows She Has a Soft Heart.

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The Uniformed Firefighters Association’s Widows’ and Children’s Fund will receive a donation from Enya earmarked for the surviving family members of New York City firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The internationally acclaimed singer and songwriter’s contribution will also help provide assistance to those firefighters’ families who lost loved ones in the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Enya announced on April 29 that she will donate the total royalty earnings from her single, “Only Time” to the UFA Widows’ and Children’s Fund. Additionally, Warner Bros. Records, the artist’s recording company, will contribute its earnings from the sale of the song.

“Only Time,” the Most Played Song of 2001, can be heard on the Grammy-winning artist’s Reprise Records release, A Day Without Rain.

“My hope is that, in some small way, these funds can help to alleviate the concerns facing the families in the aftermath of 9-11, and other families of fire fighters who have been affected by a tragic loss of life,” Enya said. “My thanks go out to the UFA for all their efforts in helping these families.”

According to her official website, Enya felt a strong empathy for the fire fighters following the September 11 tragedy. The father of her lyricist, Roma Ryan, was a commander in the Belfast Fire Department.

The UFA Widows’ and Children’s Fund helps widows and surviving children of firefighters who are experiencing financial hardship, and assists in the education facilities for dependent children. ♦

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Dance New York https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/dance-new-york/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/dance-new-york/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:54:00 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42105 Read more..]]> Stepping out in style for the Center.

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The Irish Arts center presented the New York City Irish Dance Festival 2003 at Pier 63 on Sunday, May 4. There were performances, workshops, discussion forums, films, music & dance workshops, music seisiúns, and set and céilí dancing accompanied by live music. Taking part were Donny Golden, Mick Moloney, Kathleen Collins, Jo MacNamara, Geraldine Bergin, Darrah Carr, The Niall O’Leary Irish Dance Troupe, Jerry Mulvihill, Nial Mulligan, Louise Walsh, Clayton James, The Lynch-Mulvihill School of Irish Dance, The DeNogla School of Irish Dance, Bill Ochs and more. There was also Irish food, dance and craft vendors, and a fine time was had by all. Great credit is due to the Irish Arts Center, which under the direction of Pauline Turley is doing a stellar job of promoting Irish culture. ♦

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Out of Practice https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/out-of-practice/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/out-of-practice/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:53:40 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42100 Read more..]]> Flynn Boyle and McDermott are gone.

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Budget cuts (ABC offered to pick up the show for an eighth season but only at a lower fee) are said to have forced David E. Kelley, the creator of The Practice, to let go two of the series stars, Lara Flynn Boyle and Dylan McDermott. “It hurts, professionally and personally,” Kelley said in a statement. “This is perhaps the finest group of actors and people one could ever have worked with.”

McDermott received $400,000 per episode while Flynn Boyle earned $150,000, not a huge amount by today’s standards.♦

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Dancing to a Degree https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/dancing-to-a-degree/ https://irishamerica.com/2003/08/dancing-to-a-degree/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2003 07:52:50 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=42109 Read more..]]> Jean Butler Goes Back to School.

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Jean Butler, the tall red-haired Irish-American from Long Island, New York who starred with Michael Flatley in the original Riverdance, plans to dance again. In the meantime, she is pursuing a master’s degree in dance at the University of Limerick, Ireland.

Butler, who now lives in Ireland and is married to Irish designer Cuan Hanley, stayed on with Riverdance after Flatley’s departure, and then went on to create her own show Dancing on Dangerous Ground, which received mixed reviews, and starred in a movie, The Brylcreem Boys, with Gabriel Byrne.

The fact that Butler picked the University of Limerick may have something to do with the university’s connection to Limerick-born composer Bill Whelan, best known for his creation of the music for Riverdance. Whelan premiered his latest classical compositions in the university’s concert hall.

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