August September 2005 Issue – Irish America Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 82361074 The Manly Mr. Crowe Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:59:12 +0000 Read more..]]> Russell Crowe is clad in a black jersey with a shamrock and bulldog embroidered on the left breast, and the name Jim Braddock, Crowe’s character in Cinderella Man, emblazoned on the right (“Something I designed for the crew,” he says briskly). His face is roughly shaven, and his short bicycle shorts show off the scope of his muscles.

Crowe exudes a raw masculinity. His body, thick and meaty, is evidence of his intensive training for the role of James Braddock in Cinderella Man (he even dislocated a shoulder during filming). He is eager to discuss his admiration of Braddock, who won the heavyweight title in 1935, against the odds, and the qualities that made Braddock a good man.

“Everything is real about Braddock,” he offers.

“Here was a boxer who was building respectable wealth. He wasn’t wasting his money. He was living very frugally. He had everything invested in stocks and he lost everything when the market crashed, but he made it back.

“Braddock was the one man Joe Louis called champ,” Crowe adds.

“Jim was a fan [of Louis]. He wanted to give Louis a shot. The last time a black man had fought for the title was 1908.”

Braddock lost the fight to Louis in 1937 — the first time in [Braddock’s] career he was knocked out.

“Don’t forget in the first round he knocked Louis down,” Crowe stresses.

As fervent as Crowe is about Braddock, he is equally passionate about the movie. Cinderella Man is Crowe’s baby. He spent years trying to get it made, and was intimately involved in bringing it to the big screen.

Crowe was given the script by Penny Marshall back in 1997, and knew immediately that he wanted the movie to be made. “I read it and I liked it but more than that I liked Braddock,” he recalls.

A fan of Renée Zellweger’s since seeing her in Nurse Betty and One True Thing, Crowe showed her the script and she agreed to play the role of Braddock’s wife, Mae. Later, he and Zellweger auditioned the young actors who would play Braddock’s kids.

And when Ron Howard wasn’t sure that he wanted to do a boxing movie, Crowe persuaded him otherwise.

“When I read the script I knew it was a great role for Russell but I was scared of it — boxing movies have been done so well, I wasn’t sure I could offer anything new,” said Howard, speaking after a screening of the movie. “Russell said, `Why don’t you think of dealing with the fights like the fires in Backdraft?’ And that clicked.”

Crowe is also extremely passionate — in that rallying, sporty kind of way — when afforded the opportunity to discuss Ireland.

“My main contact with Ireland has been Richard Harris,” Crowe maintains. He met the Irish actor on the set of Gladiator, and the two formed an immediate bond over rugby.

“The very first night we met, he said `So I hear you live in Australia.’ And I said, yeah. And he goes, `Well, they’ve got a s**t rugby team.'” Crowe laughs remembering the provocation. “I said, `Is that right?’ and he says, `Yeah, but I hear that you were born in New Zealand. They’ve got a brilliant rugby team.'”

After that first exchange, Crowe spent many pints and hours listening to Harris extol the beauty of his native Limerick.

Crowe also has Irish roots, but he can’t recall whether his family hailed from Cork or Clare.

“I’m not sure,” Crowe mused about his Irish roots. “It’s not in my lifetime, it goes way back.”

Crowe, who had never been to Ireland, promised Harris that he would meet him there for the 2002 rugby match between Australia and Ireland in Lansdowne Road. Unfortunately, Harris died two weeks before the match.

“We kept talking as if he wasn’t sick and we were going to go to the game and it was all cool. After I went to his funeral, I was going to go straight back to Australia but then I thought, No, I’m going to Ireland, because I’ve never been, and I’m going to go to the match and do all the things that me and Richard were supposed to do.”

Crowe anticipated that the Australians would have an easy win over the Irish side.

“It wasn’t expected to be much of a challenge for Australia. Maybe 20 minutes of rough and tumble up front but then they’d just amass points.” After halftime, it became apparent to Crowe that Harris was paying him back for his impertinent thinking.

“Australia couldn’t do anything right. [Captain] George Gregan dropped the ball, I think, seven times at the base of the scrum,” he recalls.

Ireland won the game, its first home victory over Australia in 37 years. “I couldn’t help but think, from halftime onwards, that Richard was on the field. That he was actually there,” Crowe said.

The experience inspired him to write an Irish drinking song, a schmaltzy affair orchestrated with bagpipes, called “Mr. Harris Take the Field.” Crowe has a CD handy and pretty soon he is singing along.

“Mr. Harris take the field and play the 16th man. We’ll sing of Athenry and you’ll do all you can for the green, the glorious green. The emerald green of Ireland’s pride,” the song goes.

The tune, which Crowe imagines to be of the rugby drinking variety, is one track of a yet-to-be-released album by Crowe’s band, Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts. The album also includes a love song, written for his wife, Danielle.

“Can you handle the weight of a man?” the song inquires.

The evening following our conversation he was arrested for allegedly throwing a telephone at an employee of the Manhattan hotel where he was staying. He would claim that he was trying to call his wife from the phone in his hotel suite and it wouldn’t work. His arrest made the front of the tabloids for weeks.

The one quality in Braddock that Crowe admires above all else, he appears to be lacking in himself. “The greatest thing about Braddock,” he says, “was that he reclaimed his normalcy. He didn’t go around getting people to call him champion. He didn’t end up a drug addict or an alcoholic or a restaurant guy in Las Vegas, he just lived his life. I’d kind of like to do the same myself.” ♦

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First Word: Survivors Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:58:35 +0000 Read more..]]> It is one thing to see the Depression in photographs — black-and-whites of men in suits and hats lining up for food. It’s another when it is recreated on screen by good actors, and a director who made his first film — a documentary about the Depression — when he was in 11th grade.

There is a scene in Cinderella Man that for me completely captures the reality of what it must have been like to live during that dark time in America’s history.

The movie tells the story of James J. Braddock (played by Russell Crowe), an Irish-American boxer who lost everything when the stock market crashed (October, 1929). With an injured right hand he’s washed up as a fighter, but he does what he can — working on the docks when he can get a shift — to provide for his wife and three young children.

The scene takes places at the breakfast table. Rosie, Braddock’s young daughter, is still hungry after eating her one slice of bologna. Braddock who is gaunt and hungry himself (Crowe does an incredible job of portraying Braddock) gives her his breakfast (his one slice of bologna), telling her he isn’t hungry because he’s just woken up from a dream in which he’d eaten a great big steak.

It’s impossible to capture the poignancy of this scene in words. You feel like you are in the room with the father and daughter, experiencing the hunger of the child and the love and quiet despair of the father.

Suffice to say it left me in tears. While I am always unsettled by photographs from the Depression, seeing it on the big screen brought it home, and made me more fully understand what it must have been like not to be able to provide food for your children.

Ron Howard, the director of Cinderella Man, you’ll remember from his other “Irish” movie Far and Away, which had those great scenes of the land rushes — settlers who raced by horse and wagon to compete for land on which to settle. Here again he brings another piece of American history to life.

The director, who spoke after a screening of the movie in New York, said he first learned about the Depression from his father, who helped him make that 11th grade movie. “My first lengthy film project [28 minutes] was a documentary I did for a high school history class, where I interviewed people who had lived through the Depression.

“My own family were not victims of the Dust Bowl [the drought that lasted ten years, crippling agriculture and desecrating the southern plains] but they came from Oklahoma and Kansas and everyone struggled.”

Howard also said that his father always held up Jim Braddock “as someone who did not give up.”

“Braddock gave everything of his own up first,” said Russell Crowe, also at the same screening. (See Crowe interview on page 32.)

After the breakfast scene we see Braddock signing up for relief. In real life too, Braddock had to go on welfare. But he paid back every cent when he got some fight money. “He was an amazing man, paying back social security. I own the receipt now. It’s for $368,” said Crowe, who bought the receipt on an Internet site that sells boxing memorabilia.

With Cinderella Man, Howard and Crowe, and a very fine team of actors and technicians, have created a film that while it’s a story of one family’s survival, is also a microcosm of the despairing America during the Depression era.

“I felt that it was a great opportunity to deal with a great story that presents the possibility of hope and celebrates one family’s survival. But it acknowledges the loss and pain and struggle of so many people who didn’t make it,” Howard said.

In other stories in this issue that further attest to the strength of the American spirit, we honor The Wall Street 50, and the resilience of the men and women who are involved in the financial sector.

We also bring you the story of Tom Westman, a survivor of a different kind. Tom is a New York fireman who survived Sept. 11 (he was at home with his family when the attack occurred and arrived on the scene after the towers fell). He recently competed for a million dollars on Survivor, the reality TV show, and he won. Tom will use the money to educate his children. (See interview on page 68).

In a final note on Cinderella Man, Crowe says, “It’s not just about Braddock. Millions of American like Braddock, put their children first, and didn’t give up.” ♦

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Clinton Launches Suicide Prevention Program Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:56:26 +0000 Read more..]]> Former U.S. President Bill Clinton launched a major new suicide prevention program in Dublin. The program being run by RehabCare is aimed at tackling a growing number of suicides in Ireland, particularly among young men. Figures for 2003 show that 444 people took their own lives, with 11,2000 attempted suicides also recorded.

“We want to change the culture where young men find it difficult to talk about their feelings,” said RehabCare chairwoman Angela Kerins. “Whether it’s money matters, exams, their boyfriend or girlfriend, there are increased expectations of what young people should achieve. It’s a symptom of how society has changed, and it leads to a great sense of hopelessness and despair.”

“More people die each year by suicide than are killed on our roads yet, there is still a greater awareness of the loss of life on our roads,” added former SDLP leader John Hume, patron of the scheme. “The statistics don’t lie. The truth is not being twisted. We have a problem that needs to be tackled and one that to date has not had a cohesive response.”

The former U.S. President launched the program at a high-profile gala fund-raising dinner in Dublin attended by over 1,000 people. It was the second cause to which Clinton lent his name in Dublin last month. He also appeared at the launch of The Rose Project, an AIDS initiative that assists a Franciscan missionary group in Kenya. Some 350 guests came to hear Clinton speak at the Project’s special breakfast, raising funds in the region of 200,000 euros. ♦

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Government Favors EU Poll Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:56:12 +0000 Read more..]]> The Irish Government is likely to press ahead with a referendum on the EU Constitution despite consecutive rejections of the treaty in France and Holland. Britain postponed holding a referendum following the setback in northern Europe but Ireland aligned with Poland and Denmark saying the constitution should be put to a national vote in each member state regardless. The decision on whether to stay with the existing treaty was discussed at the following European Council meeting in June. However, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahem acknowledged that the French and Dutch outcomes “creates a very difficult situation.” On a visit to the U.N. in New York he said, “If other countries proceed to ratify (the Constitution) and they (France and Holland) are the only two remaining countries, then obviously that’s an issue they would have to address themselves. Different countries will have different views on how we proceed and we will just have to see how these are articulated.” ♦

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Dublin Population Faces Boom Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:55:26 +0000 Read more..]]> The Central Statistics Office (CSO) predicts that the population of Greater Dublin area will exceed two million people by the year 2021. It is estimated that the region will by then be home to an estimated 40 percent of a national population of five million people in the Republic of Ireland. This will mean that growth in Greater Dublin — which includes neighboring counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow — will take place ten years quicker than originally forecast.

The CSO bases its figures on the continued annual influx of 30,000 immigrants to Ireland and a significant increase in the birth rate. The demographic profile is also set to change, with a high increase in both the number of young people (0-14 years) and pensioners. It is a remarkable change since 1961 when the population of the state was just 2.8 million. However, the heavy concentration of people and resources in the Dublin area is creating a structural imbalance with the rest of the country, with associated pressures on housing, employment and transport. ♦

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Irish Language Confuses Tourists Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:54:58 +0000 Read more..]]> Visitors to Gaeltacht (Gaelic-speaking) areas on the west coast of Ireland may be in for a surprise, following a government directive on the public use of Irish language. The Placenames Order 2004 makes it a law that all Gaeltacht signposts and maps display place names only in the Irish language. Towns widely known by their Anglicized names will now be represented only in their original Irish form. And so the Co. Kerry town of Dingle, for example, will be known only as An Daingean from now on.

Fearing that the order will confuse tourists, local authorities in Co. Kerry have requested that Gaeltacht towns can also present the English form of each place name. Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Eamon ÓCúiv ruled out that possibility.

“The days of walking both sides of the street are over,” he said. “It’s a nonsense not having linguistic criterion attached to the Gaeltacht. If you are in the Gaeltacht, one would imagine the first brand you would sell is the Irish language,” he added, noting that some 24,000 students go to Kerry to learn Irish every summer.

However, not every politician in the county shared the Minister’s enthusiasm. Councilor Michael O’Shea from West Kerry said that tourists were “getting dizzy in the head” trying to match Anglicized names with Irish language names. “We must write to Minister ÓCúiv and tell him foreigners do not understand the Irish language,” suggested the councilor. “Perhaps a new sign should now be put up on the N86 (the road to An Daingean): `If you don’t understand Irish, don’t go beyond this point,'”

Councilor O’Shea’s position cut little ice with Minister ÓCúiv. “It is An Daingean, full stop,” he said, adding that the change should be no more difficult than historical changes of place names like Kingstown to Dún Laoghaire or Queenstown to Cobh. ♦

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Donleavy Archive U.S.-Bound Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:53:59 +0000 Read more..]]> Author J.P. Donleavy (pictured right) is in negotiations with a U.S. university for the sale of his literary archive. The Brooklyn-born author who has been resident in Ireland since 1946 came to international prominence with publication of The Ginger Man nine years later. Donleavy did not wish to name the East Coast university but was pleased to find a purchaser for his work. “By releasing the archive now I can ensure that it will remain intact, well-minded and available in perpetuity,” he said.

The archive includes correspondence with other literary figures through the 1950s and ’60s and the original manuscript for The Ginger Man. His catalogue of work includes 11 novels, the last of which was Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton, which was published seven years ago. Donleavy, now 79, lives in Levington Park, an estate outside Mullingar, Co. Westmeath once owned by British actress Julie Andrews. ♦

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An Unforeseen Victory Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:50:57 +0000 Read more..]]> No one in the boxing world thought Ireland’s Kevin McBride stood a chance against Mike Tyson in the American’s latest comeback fight on June 11.

Prior to the Tyson fight, McBride, known in the game as the “Clones Colossus,” spent his days bouting fellow no-name boxers, and confirming his reputation as a journeyman fighter. It was widely expected that Tyson would clobber him in quick time and move on to the next bout to pay his creditors.

No one told this to McBride. “I went in there with a strategy and it worked, you know? I said I would shock the world and I did shock the world. I believed in myself and I told all around me to believe,” he told Irish America in a recent phone interview.

McBride garnered a taste for boxing at the age of nine, when he took up the sport to ward off local ruffians who used to pick on him for his speech impediment. From Clones, Monaghan, the same town that bred 1985 WBA champion, Barry McGuigan, he met with early success, and went on to represent Ireland in the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, after which point he turned professional.

When finally presented with the opportunity to fight Tyson, he employed both a strength coach and Boston hypnotherapist Patrick Brady to help him be in the best physical and psychological condition possible.

“I didn’t want to leave any stones unturned,” he admits. “We worked on thinking and talking positive to help the mind and help the subconscious. I also had my strength coach, I was benching 265 lbs and was as strong as an ox.”

When he finally stepped into the ring with Tyson, McBride weathered an early storm, but once he imposed himself in the later rounds he wore Tyson down.

“I used my weight. I took his best shots and I asked him was that all he’s got? I was hoping that was all he’d got,” joked the genial giant who had a nine inch height advantage over Tyson.

As Iron Mike saw the fight slip away from him, he resorted to roughhouse tactics, head-butting the Irishman and opening a cut on his left eyebrow. “I got 15 stitches, eight on the inside and seven on the outside,” says McBride.

“He’s a nasty man, that Tyson, trying to bite me, trying to break my arm, trying to bite my nipple.”

McBride is reveling in his victory, and his reputation as the man who stopped Tyson and probably ended his career. “Kevin McBride will be known as the man who retired the baddest man in boxing,” he said.

The “Clones Colossus” who sees himself as “the new Cinderella Man” has earned the possibility of a WBA world title fight against John Ruiz in September or October of this year. Boxing insiders are skeptical of his chances, but McBride is confident once again, he will prove the doubters wrong.

“People don’t realize that I am 32 years old, and I am just coming into my prime. I am going to retire all the heavyweights and walk down the street heavyweight champion, that’s my mission,” he said. ♦

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John Duddy Wins Again Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:49:46 +0000 Read more..]]> June 11 was a big night for the Irish in boxing. In Washington, D.C., journeyman Kevin McBride outlasted a fading Mike Tyson to put the final nail in Iron Mike’s career coffin. But Tyson-McBride was about the past. The future of boxing was on display at Madison Square Garden, where John Duddy of County Derry continued his climb through the middleweight ranks.

Duddy fought Patrick Thompson in an eight-round bout on the undercard of a title defense by World Boxing Organization 140-pound champion Miguel Cotto. Cotto is a hero in his native Puerto Rico and the fights were held on the eve of New York’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade.

“I’ve got a lot of Irish fans here,” Duddy said at the final pre-fight press conference. “I hope, when the night is over, I’ll have a lot of Puerto Rican fans on my side as well.”

He did.

Duddy had built a record of nine wins with nine knockouts in nine fights. Thompson was his most difficult test as a pro, and John responded with his best performance to date.

Duddy arrived at the arena two hours before fight time and sat quietly in his dressing room. Neither he nor trainer Harry Keitt spoke as Keitt taped Duddy’s fists.

“The entire day of a fight, I’m in a zone,” Duddy said afterward. “I don’t like talking. I’m focusing on what has to be done. It’s like a dream, really. The world gets narrower and narrower until all I see is the ring and me and my opponent.”

When the taping was done, Duddy examined his fists the way a gunfighter in the old West might have examined his guns. Then he went out and won every minute of every round. All three judges scored the bout 80-72 in his favor.

“I don’t mind losing the knockout streak,” Duddy said when the fight was over. “You get more respect from people when you prove you can go the distance. I can go ten or twelve rounds in the gym, but I was glad to do it in a fight.”

Duddy still has flaws. He doesn’t move his head enough, which enabled Thompson to land lead right hands. He also stands upright and is disinclined to bend at the knees, which leaves him susceptible to left hooks. That’s part of what has led critics to contend that “Clan Duddy” is made up of amateurs. But Keitt, Irish Ropes promoter Eddie McLoughlin, and advisor Jim Borzeli just keep doing their job.

“Everything is good,” Duddy said after the fight. “I’m on track; I’ve gone eight rounds now; and I’ve won in Madison Square Garden.” ♦

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When Bono Met Jenna Mon, 01 Aug 2005 13:48:54 +0000 Read more..]]> Last May, a horde of celebrities showed up at Madison Square Garden in New York to enjoy a spectacular U2 concert (part of their Vertigo tour). Prior to launching into the song “Miracle Drag,” Bono gave a shout out to one of Irish America’s previous Top 100 honorees, Dr. Kevin Cahill, infectious-disease specialist and former Grand Marshal of Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. During the concert, Bono also used the opportunity to declare his message of human rights, while showing Article 5 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on an enormous TV screen behind the stage.

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” it read. Among the star-studded attendees was one of the first daughters, Jenna Bush. While all eyes in the audience focused on her, the President of the Free World’s daughter continued drinking beer and having a good time. Jenna Bush smiled and clapped throughout Bono’s speech, and even though some of her father’s policies were questioned, she went to the after party and had a chance to meet and talk to Bono. ♦

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