December January 2007 Issue – Irish America Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 82361074 Business at Tiffany’s Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:30:49 +0000 Read more..]]> Jim Quinn, President of Tiffany & Co., talks to Patricia Harty about business at Tiffany’s, his Irish heritage and family, and his commitment to New York.

On that famous strip of Fifth Avenue where all that glitters is gold and silver, and shoppers from the world over come to buy at Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci, the jewel in the crown — its alluring window displays of fine jewelry seducing the passerby — is Tiffany’s.

Already a New York institution when Truman Capote’s novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s was published in 1950, the subsequent movie starring Audrey Hepburn ensured that the Tiffany name would enter into the lexicon of popular culture and forever be linked with elegance, style, and fine jewels.

“When you receive a Tiffany box, you already know that it holds a promise of good things to come,” says Jim Quinn, president of Tiffany, and the man responsible for retail, corporate, and direct marketing sales in this $2.4 billion company.

Quinn gives a demonstration on tying the white bow on the distinctive blue box, which dates to 1837 when Charles Lewis Tiffany decreed that all of the packaging and advertising of his newly opened Manhattan store should be in exactly the same shade of blue.

A star football player in high school and college, Quinn, 54, still looks the part of an athlete, while his silver-framed glasses (removed for our photos) remind you that he was also a top student. He possesses an understated elegance that one would expect to find at Tiffany & Co.

We met recently at 600 Madison Avenue, one block from the Fifth Avenue store. The company moved its executive offices out of the Tiffany building to free up trading space six years ago. It has just completed a floor-by-floor renovation, which it is celebrating with a special exhibit of its most important jewelry.

Meanwhile, on the third floor, the faithful are thronging to see the jewelry collection designed by architect Frank Gehry. “Only Tiffany could transform these remarkable ideas into jewelry,” gushes one reviewer. “The result is astonishing. Each of these forms engages both our intellect and our deepest emotions.”

Business Is Good

The collaboration between the post-modern Gehry, known for his sculptural “architecture as art” approach to buildings such as the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, which is covered in titanium, and Tiffany’s tradition of glamour and luxury, is a stroke of genius.

“It’s a fabulous partnership,” Quinn acknowledges. “Frank had notions for designing on a smaller scale, and had been interested in designing jewelry for some time. We didn’t know that when we approached him. Our design team here worked with him over the course of a few years to come up with this collection.”

Gehry’s participation, which is ongoing, is an example of how Tiffany’s marketing team is bringing a new level of recognition to the brand without compromising its integrity. And it’s doing it in ways that appeal to the older Breakfast at Tiffany’s circle, and taps into the younger generation, too.

“We have a fabulous business and we’ve got an enormous opportunity to expand. We’ve had a very good second quarter, and we are very optimist about the holiday season coming up,” says Quinn, who joined the company 20 years ago when Tiffany’s, although an American institution for 150 years, was still very new outside of New York City.

The company is now in 17 countries. It has 53 boutiques in Japan, a number of businesses in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and Australia, and is about to open a fourth store in China. It also has a substantial e-commerce business in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Japan.

“It has been great to be part of the growth,” says Quinn, who credits the continuity of management as one of the company’s unique strengths.

“Our senior team has largely been working together for fifteen to twenty years. We instinctively understand the character and nuances of the Tiffany brand, and how to be a proper steward of it.”

Having mastered the Asia/Pacific market, Tiffany’s is now looking at further growth in Europe, and recently opened a store in Vienna.

“Vienna has, in many ways, become a gateway to Eastern Europe. It’s a bit of a banking center for some of the Eastern European new entries into the European Union like Romania and Bulgaria. So it’s a good place for us to be. We can intersect with that new emerging wealth and introduce them to the finer things.”

Tiffany’s Ireland is also a definite possibility. “We’re pretty close. We’ve had discussions on locations — just a matter of picking the right one. Hopefully we will be there soon,” Quinn says.

One more reason to visit Ireland is something that Quinn would relish. “It feels more like home every time I go,” he says.


Quinn has had plenty of opportunities to visit over the last couple of years.

He was appointed Chairman of the North American Advisory Board of University College Dublin Michael Smurfit School of Business in September 2003.

Tony Condon, Director of Development UCD College of Business & Law, calls Quinn “a superb chairman who brings outstanding business experience to the role. He expands and strengthens the board with high-caliber people, and drives them to ambitious but achievable goals.

“He is a great asset to the school on many levels -– helps us find students, helps our students find jobs, helps with financing, and helps with introductions to senior business people and academics.”

For his part, Quinn says that being associated with the leading business school in Ireland is a wonderful honor. “I really enjoy it. I’ve been on the North American board for eight or nine years now, and during that period the school has significantly raised its profile and its prospects, not only in Ireland, but in Europe and the United States.

“We have a board that has wonderful areas of accomplishment in the business world that the school can draw on for different programs and activities. The folks on the board are great fun to be with, too. They enjoy a pint and a round of golf once in a while,” he adds with a smile.

Quinn’s Irish heritage was one of the reasons he initially became involved with the Smurfit School.

“He is a true American but aware where his roots are, where his people come from,” Condon says of Quinn, whose “people” come from Offaly and Westmeath on his father’s side and Kerry on his mother’s.

“All four of my grandparents were from Ireland. They all passed away before I became an adult, but I remember thinking as a child that they talked funny,” Quinn recalls.

His parents grew up in Irish Catholic communities, one in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn, and when they married and moved to Staten Island it was into a similar community.

“It wasn’t until I went to Ireland –- almost 30 years ago — and saw all these people who looked like the people I grew up with, that I realized how Irish the guys in the neighborhood were.” Much to his surprise, he felt instantly at home in Ireland.

“Something about the use of the language and the sense of humor — it’s just so easy being there, because it’s a country you can get your arms around pretty easily. It is like going to the next parish,” he says.

Quinn’s wife, Diane, also has Irish roots — the Ahernes from Dromcollogher, Limerick, and the Brodericks from Milford, Cork — and she was with Jim on that first trip, a year after they got married.

The two had met in college. “She was a freshman and she didn’t take any notice of me for quite some time. She was very busy,” Quinn laughs. “We actually started dating after my sophomore year and got married as soon as I graduated. She was ahead of me in school, so she helped me finish up.”

It seems entirely appropriate that the president of Tiffany’s should be a romantic, and Quinn admits, after a little gentle prodding —“Yeah, I’m a romantic. I’m actually a surprisingly emotional person. I keep it well hidden most of the time, but I can look at my kids and get misty.”

The “kids,” Brendan, 22, and Jenna, 17, are young adults, and now that Jenna is getting ready to go away to college, Diane, who had a career in information technology before becoming a stay-at-home mom, has decided to earn a degree in marine biology. “She wants to help preserve the environment, particularly in South Jersey where we have a summer home,” Quinn says with admiration.

Scholarship Boy

“We were all expected to be at the top of our class.” Quinn says of growing up with his two brothers and a sister. “There was no other place but first. It was pretty clear from the beginning.”

His father had changed his own life through education and it was something he wanted for his children.

“My father was a New York City cop and the sole provider for my grandmother because his older brother had gone away. Dad got drafted and when he came out, and this is true for a lot of that generation of Irish, the GI Bill changed his life.

“He went to Fordham and then Columbia and became a high school teacher. He was the first in his family to go to college. And when his younger brother graduated from high school there was no question but that he was going to college too. And then of course, all of us kids went to college, and in fact, we all went to graduate school.

“I think that’s a fairly typical Irish immigrant story, of the third generation standing on the shoulders of the two before and having the benefit of a great education,” Quinn concludes.

Quinn attended Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island, which had, and continues to have, an astounding reputation – 99 percent of graduating students go on to college. Farrell also has a reputation for having a powerhouse football squad.

Quinn was a star player. He was recruited by a number of leading universities, including Colgate, Williams, and Rensselaer, and he was a good enough student to be accepted by all of them.

Hofstra University, on Long Island, also wanted Quinn and they were resourceful enough to get him. “Hofstra recruited me as a football player but [the coach] encouraged the school to give me an academic scholarship, so between that and a New York Regents’ scholarship, I was able to go away to college.”

Quinn has not forgotten the opportunity afforded him, and through his role on the Smurfit board and his continuing connection to Hofstra, he is helping to ensure that other students have a chance to change their lives through education.

“Both Diane and I were very fortunate to get academic scholarships to Hofstra. We met there and built a life. A few years back we decided to endow a scholarship, and now a couple of students are benefiting. It’s become an important part of our lives.”

Quinn admits that when you are as busy as he is, “you have to pick your spots where you want to devote your time and attention outside of your family life.” One place that combines his love of his Irish Catholic heritage and his love of New York is the Museum of the City of New York.

“The museum is putting on an exhibition in 2008 called Catholics in New York in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the archdiocese of New York,” says Quinn, who is chairman of the committee for the exhibition.

“Catholics are having a pretty hard time of it now,” he admits, adding, “a lot of it is self-inflicted.” But “We’ve got to remind ourselves that there are many Catholic institutions doing wonderful work. I’m a big supporter of the Catholic Home Bureau [a children and family services organization], which does fabulous work. Catholic school education – I’m a product of that. We can’t lose sight of all the good things.”

The museum also commemorated the recent anniversary of 9/11 with a special exhibition.

“There was a wall in front of Bellevue Hospital where many of the injured went and many personal messages were posted, so we preserved that and built an exhibition around it for the fifth anniversary,” Quinn explains.

Love of Language

Quinn earned his degree in journalism from Hofstra, but with a wife and young children to support, he realized that he was unprepared for the business world, so he went to Pace University at night and earned an MBA.

Though his career didn’t take him down the road of the written word, he has a love of language that he says is his most Irish trait.

“I love language and theater and good fiction, and the Irish have a particular gift for using language in creative and surprising ways. I don’t think I use it as well as I hear it, but I may have a little bit of it.”

It was a love that was fostered when he was a young boy.

“There were books everywhere. You never left the house or took a subway ride without a book or a magazine in your pocket. That was part of the culture,” he recalls. “I always keep a bag next to my desk with books and magazines I want to read. I travel a fair bit. So I get to read quite a bit on those trips.”

One book he enjoyed is Peter Quinn’s (no relation) “phenomenal” Banished Children of Eve, about Civil War era New York, as seen through the eyes of the Famine Irish immigrants.

Though he has a soft spot in his heart for Ireland, Quinn is one hundred percent a New Yorker.

It’s been some time since he read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but he identifies with Capote’s opening lines: “I am always drawn back to the places I have lived, the houses and the neighborhoods.”

“I love the city. When I was in high school I used to work summers here. Later I was a postal clerk in the Chambers Street Station, downtown, and I worked as a janitor. I was a union member of 32D before I started wearing a suit to work.”

It was “in the stars” that Quinn would find work at a company that is so central to the heartbeat of the city. Unlike many companies which have moved their manufacturing out of the city, and in some cases, out of the country, Tiffany has workshops in Pelham and Westchester, New York, and still produces some of its most important pieces in its jewelry studio on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

“Our jewelers have perhaps the nicest working space in the world, with northern light coming in and the view of Central Park,” says Quinn. “It’s really something to watch them produce these amazing pieces right in front of you.”

Who can forget that scene of Audrey Hepburn staring into the Tiffany window in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? The actress later wrote a letter to the company remarking, “Class doesn’t age.”

Now the company that is so much part of New York’s history will play its part in the renewal of lower Manhattan. Tiffany & Co. will soon open a store on Wall Street, and Quinn will be there for the ribbon-cutting.

As Holly Golightly said, “Nothing bad can happen to you at Tiffany’s.”

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The First Word: Epic Journeys Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:29:24 +0000 Read more..]]> I remember as a young immigrant strolling down Fifth Avenue and stopping to look in the windows at Tiffany’s. I was enthralled.

I lived in the Bronx and most evenings after my shift I headed to the subway or took a Checker cab with the other waitresses, girls from all over Ireland.

Like generations before us we were “brought up to leave.”

We emigrated in our thousands, leaving behind Ireland’s dismal economy and the Troubles in the North. “Did the last person leaving Ireland turn out the lights?,” a witty U.S. Customs’ officer commented as I passed through immigration. Back then, there was not even a faint glimmer of the bright future that was to come.We had not even begun “Our Epic Journey of Affluence” (see Declan Kibert’s Last Word column, pg. 112) that is now the talk of Europe. The North was in turmoil and would continue to be for a long time.

That summer of ’72, I met girls whose brothers had been interned. Bloody Sunday had happened the January before. (The 17-year-old uncle of boxer John Duddy, who is featured in this issue (pg. 96), was one of those killed.

But all has changed, and changed utterly. The fact that a record-breaking 17 percent of our Business 100 honorees are Irish-born speaks volumes about Ireland’s success and the entry-level at which today’s Irish immigrants are joining the American workforce. And the North is poised for lift-off. With a true power-sharing government imminent, its economic future looks bright. See Turlough McConnell’s story about the new Titanic Quarter in Belfast, pg. 90.

As always, when compiling our Business 100 list we are reminded of Irish-American contributions to Ireland’s economy miracle and the cause of peace.

Dan Rooney, whose Pittsburgh Steelers, won the 2005 Super Bowl, is one such Irish-American (see Michael Quinlin’s interview, pg. 68). A founding member of The American Ireland Fund, Dan has also been helping with business initiatives in Newry, Co. Down.

Meanwhile, Jim Quinn, president of Tiffany & Co., whom I interviewed for this issue (pg. 40) is chairman of the North American Advisory Board of The Smurfit Business School at UCD. He and his colleagues on the board are helping to ensure that Ireland’s graduates are well-equipped for the future, whether they stay at home or choose to emigrate. The fact, that Tiffany’s & Co., is looking at opening a store in Dublin, surely, as Jim says of the company’s distinctive blue box, holds “a promise of good things to come.”

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Lord of the Dance Marries His Lady Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:28:18 +0000 Read more..]]> Lord of the Dance creator and star Michael Flatley threw open the doors of his magnificent, historic castle in Cork earlier this month to marry his leading lady, dancer Niamh O’Brien, in front of 250 family members and friends – and anyone else who wanted to wish the couple well.

Chicago-born Flatley, 48, and O’Brien, 32, a native of Co. Meath, were married on Saturday, October 14 by Father Aidan Troy, the noted Belfast-based priest, at St. Patrick’s Church in Fermoy, Co. Cork, just a couple of miles away from Flatley’s fabulous home, Castlehyde.

The newly minted Mr. and Mrs. Flatley were cheered on by hundreds of Fermoy residents both inside and outside the church. The Flatleys, as they have been doing for years — he as the fast-footed innovator who created his own entertainment empire via Lord of the Dance, she as a dancer who has been part of his shows for more than a dozen years – gave their guests exactly what they wanted as they posed for an endless stream of photos, shook dozens of hands and reveled in the glory of all the well-wishers.

“When would we ever get a chance to see something like this again?” one local who lived in Fermoy all her life enthused from her prime seat about 20 rows back from the altar, which was festooned with fresh roses and other colorful floral arrangements. “The one thing about Michael Flatley, he’s a marvelous guy. He knows where he came from.”

The ceremony was set for 2 p.m., but Irish weddings aren’t known for starting on time, and this one didn’t get underway until 2:45. The excitement that preceded it was worth the wait, and one could have been forgiven for thinking that we were witnessing the start of Lord of the Dance as opposed to a Mass.

The groom cruised up to the church behind the wheel of his Mercedes convertible, best man and brother Patrick by his side, hopped out and greeted his fans as he made his way inside, shaking hands and posing for photos along the way.

When he finally made it past the vestibule, the groom was greeted with a wild standing ovation – so much for the gentle admonition from St. Patrick’s parish priest and co-celebrant Father Anthony O’Brien reminding guests beforehand to keep the noise down as they were in God’s house! It took a good 10 minutes before Michael and Patrick made it to the altar, as everyone wanted a piece of the groom, who was clearly thrilled to bearhug and high-five his invited guests who had come from all parts of the globe.

Niamh’s arrival was more understated, but she was the picture-perfect bride who dazzled in a stunning antique lace gown sprinkled with crystals, specially made for her lithe dancer’s body by the American designers Badgley Mischka.

The Mass was a memorable one led by Father Aidan Troy, who has been at the forefront of peace efforts in the North. (Troy and Flatley met up at Irish America’s Top 100 Awards in 2003, when Michael was Irish American of the Year.) The music came courtesy of a full orchestra, specially created pieces by Lord of the Dance composer Ronan Hardiman, a local soprano and last, but certainly not least, the Chieftains, Michael’s old pals from back in the day.

The Flatley and O’Brien families were very much part of the proceedings. Niamh’s two sisters were her chief bridesmaids; Tara Flatley, Michael’s red-haired niece from Chicago, was the flower girl, and two nephews were pageboys. The readings were done by family members as well; all of Michael’s crew traveled from the States, including his Chicago-based parents Michael Senior (originally from Sligo) and Eilish (a native of Cavan), and his three sisters, Annie, Thomasina and Liza.

“I have a feeling that any cardinal or bishop could have been asked to say this Mass, but you shopped local!” said Father Aidan, to the delight of the natives in the church who stood up and applauded for about the seventh time during the Mass. Father Aidan also came bearing gifts – a personalized blessing for the couple from Pope Benedict.

When the ceremony ended, the bride and groom signed the registry, posed for some family photos on the altar and slowly made their way outside.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Michael told the reporters waiting for their quotes. “I married the most beautiful lady in the world today. I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

Niamh, definitely not used to such media attention, stood silently and beamed before making a getaway with her husband in Michael’s Rolls Royce to nearby Castlehyde for the second act, an opulent celebration featuring the finest food and drink money could buy, in a home that is absolutely breathtaking.

Security was tight at the castle, as black-suited men with earpieces roaming the grounds made sure everything at the 200-acre estate was just as it should be. The setting is postcard stunning, with a driveway at least a mile long surrounded by gardens and trees before the home itself, with its lush lawns and fountains, comes into view. Flowing right through the estate is the serene River Blackwater.

Castlehyde was the home of the first Irish President Douglas Hyde, and the mansion was built in the early 19th century. It fell into a state of total neglect until Michael purchased it in 1999 for $3 million and took on a mission to restore it to its former grandeur.

The end result of all that work – and the $50 million tab – is simply awesome. Castlehyde is massive – at least 100,000 square feet spread over four levels and dozens of rooms, and that doesn’t include a separate outdoor gym, garages and swimming pool. Everything in it is custom made, and Michael made a point of restoring everything he could, including the floors (every old wide plank was taken up, refurbished and laid back down), the windows and all the ornate moldings.

Michael was intent on having his guests enjoy just about every bit of his castle. The couple stood in the drawing room to personally greet all of their guests as they came inside, and an army of waiters stood by to offer wines, champagnes, and any other drink desired.

The celebration was spread out over many rooms, and guests were free to explore as they wished. Food and drink came fast and furious – oysters on the half shell, caviar, Irish salmon, and on and on and on. And that was just for starters!

A buffet was laid on later in the evening, featuring filet mignon, venison, lobster, pumpkin risotto, Irish spuds, and more gut-busting delicacies.

Did we mention dessert? There was a separate buffet featuring all kinds of decadent treats – swan-shaped pastries , hot toffee pudding, chocolates, crème brulee, and of course the four-tiered traditional wedding cake decorated with red roses.

There was all kinds of music in the house. The couple did dance, of course, but they kept their Irish shoes in the closet and did a slow dance to the song “Fly Me to the Moon.” The band was excellent – they played a souped-up version of “Danny Boy,” among other classics – and once they finished, the entertainment continued with an impromptu session just outside the fully-stocked mahogany bar featuring the Chieftains and Michael, who brought out his flute for the occasion and played and played and played. The craic, as the Irish say, was mighty!

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Irish Eye on Hollywood Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:27:14 +0000 Read more..]]> Donal Logue is best known for the years he starred in the solid, if not exactly brilliant, sitcom Grounded for Life. His character was named Sean Finnerty, and Logue’s own name certainly is Irish. Yet his Harvard degree, his California-dude affect and the fact that his movie roles have been extremely diverse never made Logue seem all that Irish. But indeed, Logue’s parents were immigrants. And many Hollywood insiders feel he is on the cusp of a major breakthrough. Logue currently stars in a new ABC TV hit called The Knights of Prosperity. He also has several star-studded movies in the works. It’s only a matter of time before Logue gets the part that turns him into the next Philip Seymour Hoffman, as actor/director Ed Burns told The New York Times recently. Burns (also the son of Irish immigrants), who directed Logue in his recent The Groomsmen, will direct him in his next movie Purple Violets. Logue will also be seen in the 2007 films Zodiac (about a San Francisco serial killer) and Ghost Rider (a comic book blockbuster starring Nicolas Cage).

Speaking of Ed Burns, he will be seen in the December release The Holiday. In that film, an American woman with a poor romantic past meets up with a British woman with similar problems. Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black also star in The Holiday, which is directed by Nancy Meyers, dubbed the “Queen of Chick Flicks” for directing Something’s Gotta Give and What Women Want.

Aidan Quinn recently agreed to star alongside Anna Paquin in an upcoming HBO movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, about the way American Indians were run off their land in the late 1800s. Until then, Quinn is awaiting the release of two movies he shot. The first is 32A, a coming-of-age tale set in late 1970s Dublin, which also stars Jared Harris and Orla Brady. His other recent film is End Game, a presidential assassination thriller starring Cuba Gooding Jr., James Woods and Burt Reynolds. Look for DVD releases if neither of those Aidan Quinn films hits theaters.

Definitely worth checking out on DVD is the psychological thriller Boxed, about an Irish priest mistakenly kidnapped by the IRA. The winner of the Best Feature award at the 2003 Boston Film Fest, Boxed stars Tom Murphy and is available at

The next Harry Potter movie will be the culmination of a dream come true for a young Irish girl named Evanna Lynch. The 15-year-old, a die-hard Harry fan, was one of 15,000 youngsters who showed up at an open audition in London. There, she earned a role in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, due out in the summer of 2007. Lynch stars as Luna Lovegood, a loner who ends up fighting evil alongside Harry and his pals.

Irish-American actress Jennifer Connelly’s next role will pair her with Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond, set amidst the bloody unrest of 1990s Sierra Leone. Children under the age of 10 have been used in the wars spurred in part by the diamond trade. Djimon Hounsou (who starred in Jim Sheridan’s New York Irish immigration tale In America) also stars in Blood Diamond.

In America is the closing film of the Irish Arts Center’s ongoing Film Series which runs through December 16 in Manhattan. The series also features Pavee Lackeen (December 6), Dancing at Lughnasa (November 22), a documentary about playwright Brian Friel (November 22) and John Ford’s classic The Informer (November 11).

On the TV front, Harvard grad/3rd-generation cop/best-selling author Ed Conlon will likely see his gritty, brilliant memoir Blue Blood turned into a TV show. X Men Last Stand director Brett Ratner is producing a pilot based on Blue Blood.

Now for Irish film festival news. David Gleeson’s Irish thriller The Front Line was selected for the Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea. Then the film made its U.S. debut at the Hamptons International Film Festival in late October. The Front Line tells the story of an African immigrant security guard who turns the tables on Dublin gangsters during a bank robbery. Eriq Ebouaney (Kingdom of Heaven), James Frain (24) and Gerard McSorley (Omagh) are among the stars. Gleeson previously directed the critically acclaimed Cowboys and Angels.

Meanwhile, a film festival celebrating the work of young filmmakers from Scotland and Ireland was held in Edinburgh in the fall. Damien O’Donnell, Adrian Meade, Bernard McLaverty, Perry Ogden, May Miles Thomas and Douglas MacKinnon were among the Irish/Scottish talent who attended. Organizers said the festival is a part of a sustained move by the Consulate of Ireland to step up links with Scotland, given the talent in the respective film industries and unique cultural links.

An Irish 3D animated film, produced by Galway’s Magma Films and which may eventually make its way to the U.S., premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in September. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling and Me tells the story of Ratso, an ambitious rodent confined to a duckyard. He eventually persuades everyone that he is the father of the world’s ugliest duckling. The Ugly Duckling and Me (written by Irish author Mark Hodkinson) features Irish actors such as Morgan Jones, Paul Tylak and Barbara Bergin.

In other voice-over news, Liam Neeson will reprise his role in the first Chronicles of Narnia movie. The follow-up, entitled Prince Caspian, is expected to hit theaters in time for Christmas 2007. Before then, look for Neeson – as well as Pierce Brosnan and Anjelica Huston – in the moody Seraphim Falls, which was screened to much acclaim at the Toronto film fest. Word is that this very Irish Western might be released as early as the beginning of 2007, though no U.S. release date has been set.

Colin Farrell has at least two big movies set for next year. The first is The Kingdom while the other is the highly anticipated I’m Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan, in which numerous A-list actors (including Cate Blanchett in a gender-bending role) portray the famous songman.

The Dillon family remains very busy. After getting nominated for an Oscar for 2005’s Crash, Matt Dillon made three movies in 2006: You, Me and Dupree, Loverboy and most recently Factotum, an intense starring role very much worth checking out on DVD. A recent fawning profile in Parade magazine noted that Matt grew up the second of six children in an Irish-Catholic family in New Rochelle, New York. Another one of those Dillon kids was brother Kevin who, along with fellow Irish-Americans Kevin Connolly and Adrian Grenier, recently finished season three of the much-hyped HBO hit Entourage, which many industry insiders say has become HBO’s savior while viewers await The Sopranos final season in 2007.

Finally, an Irish-American filmmaker to look out for is Maureen Foley. Her latest effort American Wake (which has played at numerous Irish festivals as well as the Democratic National Convention) looks at a fireman and a musician, as well as at Ireland and America. Jack (Billy Smith from the Showtime Irish series Brotherhood) has become a hero firefighter, but after losing a close friend is feeling adrift. Niall, meanwhile, is a renowned fiddler whose father offers him a difficult, life-changing choice. Foley’s grandparents were from Inis Meáin and Inis Mór and she grew up in Massachusetts. Her previous film was Home Before Dark. To learn more about this up-and-coming Irish filmmaker go to

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Nearly Lost, But Not Forgotten Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:26:30 +0000 Read more..]]> A mong the many victims when a major city experiences near death are the personal artifacts of the families who called it home and the history of the people and ancestors who came before them.

That’s how it stands today in New Orleans. Lost in the ineffectual largesse of governmental bureaucracy and the dreadful minutiae of insurance contracts are quite literally thousands of monuments which before the storm were carefully and lovingly maintained by heritage societies.

A mere stone’s throw from one of the major levee failures in the Lakeview neighborhood rests a monument erected by the Irish Cultural Society of New Orleans. Dedicated on November 4, 1990, it was built to honor the estimated 8,000 to 20,000 Irish immigrants who died during the construction of the New Basin Canal beginning in 1832.

Carolyn Scanlon, the wife of the deceased Henry Scanlon, one of the past presidents of the Society, explains that they erected the monument to honor the thousands of Irishmen who died of Yellow Fever and the harsh work conditions over the course of the six years of its construction. At the time, Irish labor was considerably less expensive than slave labor, and with the constant influx of these immigrants coming through the port, they had a never-ending source of bodies. She states, “These men who were working for an incredibly low wage and maybe a shot of whiskey, would die and then were simply and unceremoniously buried in the levees along the banks of the canal they were building.”

According to Margaret Ramsone, the Program Coordinator for the Society, the original planning for the monument took two years. They raised over $20,000 through local fundraisers to erect a large Irish Cross, built from Kilkenny Marble, in the center of the monument. “We were honored to have the Irish Ambassador to the United States on hand for the dedication in 1990,” she said.

The canal eventually lost its economic viability as a waterway between downtown New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain and was completely filled in by 1950, with much of it converted to a large park, where the monument now sits. After Hurricane Katrina, and the over nine feet of floodwaters were finally pumped out from the surrounding neighborhood, the New Basin Canal Park became a monstrous holding area for flood debris.

Day in and day out, hundreds of trucks would pour onto the park grounds and deposit their loads of personal belongings, televisions, appliances, plaster walls and heart of pine wood floors only to be ground together into unrecognizable heaps of waste. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also took over a large tract of the park for holding and drying the bottom soil from the dredging and construction of the new floodgates at the nearby 17th Street Canal.

“By some miracle someone actually went out and roped off the monument site,” states Kevin Gilheany, the current President of the Irish Cultural Society. “It’s now completely surrounded by hills of canal mud and completely overgrown. But with so many of our members flooded out and still scattered to the four winds, unable to return to their homes even today, we’ve lost a lot of the people that we would call on to help maintain the monument. Many of the ones who have returned are living in their FEMA trailers and are getting up there in age.”

The Irish Cultural Society of New Orleans was founded almost 30 years ago; the exact date is difficult to track down, since the group’s historical documents were lost in the flood. The Society was originally formed to promote Irish heritage events in New Orleans through an affiliation with the Irish American Cultural Institute. Gilheany describes how the group was “funneling Irish musicians, poets and professors through the city. We were constantly putting on Irish plays and dances.”

Another big loss for the city was O’Flaherty’s Pub in the French Quarter, which became a headquarters of sorts for these displays of Irish culture. Although the pub did not experience any flooding, the dearth of tourists coming through New Orleans brought about its demise.

Today, many of the city’s historic Irish pubs have reopened and on St. Patrick’s Day this year, the traditional parading went on through the Irish Channel neighborhood. But much more still has yet to restored and revitalized. On November 5, the 16th anniversary of the monument’s dedication, Carolyn Scanlon and Margaret Ramsone laid a wreath at the base of the cross.

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Quote Unquote Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:25:20 +0000 Read more..]]> “I’m so proud for Ireland, bar that clown on the last green.”

– Paul McGinley speaking after Europe retained the Ryder Cup for a third successive time. The “clown” was a streaker who ran across the putting surface, prompting McGinley to concede a 20-foot putt to halve the match with J.J. Henry in an unprecedented gesture of sportsmanship.

“The time for action is now, the time for peace is now. . . . take any and all necessary steps towards securing a lasting peace and reestablishing the elected government of Northern Ireland.”

– New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn urging Northern Ireland political parties towards immediate action. – The Irish Voice

“Mel kept coming to the door with his cheesy grin going, ‘Hi!”

– Courtney Love, who has been clean for 15 months, told Good Morning America that Mel Gibson helped her get sober. He showed up at her door with an addiction counselor, and when her starstruck drug partners took off to get burgers with Gibson, she was left alone with the drug counselor, who persuaded her to go into rehab. – AM New York

“To further scholarship is an integral part of what motivates me, and what I derive the most gratification from is when I learn that the University has used the material and that students have used the material.”

– Leonard L. Milberg, who donated his Irish theatre collection to Princeton University. It was his fourth literary gift to Princeton, as he donated a collection of modern American poetry to the University in 1988, a collection of Irish poetry in 1994 and a collection by Jewish American writers in 2001. – News At Princeton

“My father sold meat during the day and shoes at night so that his kids could go to Catholic school.”

– Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who gave the keynote address at the annual Ireland Chamber of Commerce Dinner in New York in October.

“We do not have a smoking ‘cow’ at this point.”

– Kevin Reilly, an official at the California Department of Health Services, after a matching E Coli bacteria strain was found in cattle feces near a farm that is a suspected source of the contaminated spinach that killed seven and sickened dozens in the U.S. – Newsweek

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Irish Actors, Scholars & Playwrights at Princeton Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:24:03 +0000 Read more..]]> Distinguished Irish actors, theater directors and other luminaries gathered at Princeton University Oct. 13-15 for discussions, readings and performances highlighting the “Players & Painted Stage Symposium.”

Among the many speakers were Irish actor Stephen Rea, known for his Oscar-nominated performance in The Crying Game; Irish actress Fiona Shaw, who has been called the best Shakespearian actress on stage today; and Irish director Garry Hynes, the first woman to win a Tony Award for theater direction.

A performance of playwright Brian Friel’s Translations, directed by Hynes, ran concurrently with the symposium, and will soon open on Broadway. The symposium celebrated the donation to the university by alumnus Leonard L. Milberg of an expansive Irish theater collection that includes more than 1,000 plays, photographs, playbills and other works, documenting the history of Irish theater dating back 160 years.

Milberg’s collection, which includes the unpublished manuscript “The Cooing of Doves” by playwright Sean O’Casey, was donated in honor of Irish poet Paul Muldoon, who called Milberg “the embodiment of the true lifelong learner.”

Joe Dowling, former director of the Abbey Theatre, and current artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, delivered the keynote address, and discussed the differences between Irish and American theater.

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Roots: Quinn Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:23:23 +0000 Read more..]]> The family name Quinn or Quin is an anglicized form of “O Cuinn,” meaning “of Conn.” O’Cuinnde notes lineage from the legendary High King of Ireland, Conn of the Hundred Battles. Conn is derived from the Irish word, ceann (head) signifying a person of intellectual ability. Traditionally, Catholic families of the O Cuinn family spell their anglicized name Quinn with two “n”s whereas Protestants spell the name Quin with one “n.”

There are five distinct septs of Quinns found throughout Ireland. The most prominent sept of Quinns is the Dalcassian sept of Thomond in County Clare. The Dal gCais (Dalcassians) was a small kingdom ruled by the descendants of Brian Borumha (Boru). The Quinns of this sept descended from Ifearnan, the son of Corc who was 15th in the ancestral line from Cormac Cas the son of Oillio Olum. Niall O Cuinn was the first of this sept to use the surname. He fought and died in the battle of Clontarf in 1014 on the side of Brian Boru.

The Earls of Dunraven were a family of Quins descending from the chiefs of the Clan Hy Ifearnan. This family prevailed from the 1600’s until 1984, at which time they sold the family’s Tudor manor at Adare near the River Maigue.

Edwin, the 3rd Earl of Dunraven, was a prominent archaeologist and scholar. His life’s work was to vindicate the Irish’s intellectual ability through demonstration of their architectural achievement. He died before his magnum opus was finished, but it was posthumously published in two volumes with over 120 magnificent illustrations.

During the 17th century, numerous Quinns served in the armies of James II and upon his defeat were forced into Europe. Many of these Quinns found new homes in France, particularly in the regions of Bordeaux and Pau. There is even a street named after the family in the Bordeaux area, Rue O’Quinn.

The Quinns have made their mark in the fields of arts, business, politics and sports. James Quinn (1693-1753) was a very serious theater actor in Dublin and London. He twice killed fellow actors. Once during a performance, he accidentally killed a fellow actor in a duel on stage, and the other over the pronunciation of a particular word. Anthony Quinn (1915-2001) was a talented Oscar-winning actor. He was the son of an Irish father and Mexican mother. He appeared in many movies throughout his 60-year career, including Viva Zapata!, Zorba the Greek, and Lust for Life. Another famous Quinn in film is Aidan Quinn. He has distinguished himself in such movies as Benny and Joon, Michael Collins and the television adaptation of the best-selling novel Empire Falls. Comedian/actor Colin Quinn rose to fame during his five years on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. He was named to Comedy Central’s list of 100 greatest standup comedians and has also appeared on our very own “Top 100 Irish-Americans.” Terry O’Quinn is yet another Quinn with thespian talent. He plays the character of John Locke on the hit TV series Lost.

Many Quinns have made an impact in the field of literature. Daniel Quinn is the author of the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award winning book Ishmael, which posits an alternative view of human history. Peter Quinn, a third-generation Irish-American, wrote the novel Banished Children of Eve which won an American Book Award. He previously worked as a speechwriter for New York governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo and his new book, Looking for Jimmy, A Search for Irish America, is out in March. John Quinn (1870-1924), although not a writer, was collector of original manuscripts and an important patron for major literati such as W.B. Yeats and James Joyce.

The Quinns have shined as leaders in American and Irish politics. Patrick Quinn, the grandfather of the aforementioned Peter Quinn, was a tenacious U.S. labor leader who was President of the Central Federated Union during the late 1800’s. Patrick was also a participant in the famous Pullman Strike of 1894 in Chicago. More recent political Quinns include Ireland’s Ruairi Quinn, who is currently a Teachta Dala for Dublin South East and the former leader of the Labor Party (1997-2002). Jack Quinn is a former Congressman from New York State and his son Jack Quinn III is a current New York State Assemblyman, while Christine Quinn is New York City Council Speaker.

The Quinn name is quite common in the city of Dublin thanks to Feargal Quinn and his chain of supermarkets, Superquinns. Feargal is a businessman, politician and author. He is an independent member of the 22nd Seanad Eireann – the upper house of the Oireachtas – and the first cousin of Ruairi Quinn. He is the author of the book Crowning the Customer (1990). Another prominent Quinn businessman and this month’s cover subject, James Quinn is the president and CEO of Tiffany & Co.

Dublin native Niall Quinn is perhaps the best-known athlete to carry the Quinn name. Niall Quinn is a former footballer and current chairman of Sunderland A.F.C. “The Mighty Quinn” scored an outstanding goal against Holland in the 1990 World Cup to help Ireland reach the quarter-finals. There were two John Quinns in American sports. One was a professional wrestler and the other was the oldest major league baseball pitcher to win a game and hit a home run. He retired at the age of 50 and was the last pitcher permitted to throw a “spitball” pitch.

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On the Waterfront Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:22:12 +0000 Read more..]]> History, Hope and the Port of Belfast

In the lives of cities, boldness and vision rarely follow catastrophe,” wrote architectural critic Paul Goldberger. The city of Belfast in Northern Ireland may be the exception that proves the rule. After a generation of Troubles, the citizens of the great port city have grown accustomed to peace and economic growth. Innovation is surging, as is its youthful population: the U.K.’s fastest growing region and one-third of its 1.7 million people are under 25. This is a citizenry poised for economic success.

A century ago Belfast was a hub of the Industrial Revolution, thriving on heavy engineering and shipbuilding, and the Port of Belfast was one of the world’s greatest docklands. When work began on the RMS Titanic in 1909, Belfast was at its peak, but by 2000 shipbuilding was down to a trickle and the Belfast docks lay almost idle.

Now, after a decade of peace and in response to the demise of the great shipbuilding days of yore, a new vision is taking hold on the docklands within walking distance of Belfast’s city center. These opportunities include the new multi-million-dollar Northern Ireland Science Park and the planned development of the Titanic Quarter, a 185-acre project that will become Europe’s largest urban waterfront development – more than twice the size of London’s Canary Wharf.

“This will become a major symbol of the economic regeneration of Belfast and Northern Ireland,” said Mike Smith, chief executive of the project. “Titanic Quarter will bring new life to a part of the city that is rich in both history and potential.” The planned £1.5 billion ($ 2.9 billion) development, which is expected to create at least 20,000 jobs over the next 15 years, will transform the area into a new maritime quarter with over 2,000 new homes as well as business, leisure, tourism and education facilities.

The project is being developed by the Port of Belfast and Titanic Quarter Ltd,, a division of Harcourt Developments. Patrick J. Doherty, who heads up Harcourt, has spearheaded the development of some of the largest properties in Ireland, the U.K. and the Caribbean. Support may also come from the Titanic Signature Project, which recently made the short list for the U.K.’s Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks Program; if selected, the Titanic Signature Project, developed by Titanic Alliance, could receive allocations of between £10-25 million ($19 -$47.5 million). Partners in the Alliance include Belfast Harbour Commissioners; the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment; the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Belfast City Council and the East Belfast Partnership.

“Titanic Quarter is exciting not just for Belfast but for all of Northern Ireland,” says Frank Cushnahan, Chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. “We see it as the catalyst for Belfast’s becoming the economic and leisure gateway to Northern Ireland. The size, scale and location make it unique on these islands and we are determined to realize its massive potential.”

Titanic Quarter’s lead architect, American Eric Kuhne describes the rationale for the design. “Other cities’ waterfronts have nowhere near the legacy of this site. During the latter stages of the Industrial Revolution, Belfast attracted some of the world’s best engineers, designers and artisans. The city was the center of innovative naval architecture and single-handedly invented luxury ocean travel.”

The site will be a major force in creating jobs in information technology and services. The aim is to build a community centered on social interaction and shared values. The pattern of parks, streets and gardens and the localized retail, healthcare, and educational facilities will be a new focal point for Belfast. “We have already seen the success of the Northern Ireland Science Park at the docklands in delivering major investors such as Microsoft and Citigroup,” says Kuhne. “That is only the start of the growth that will be achieved here.”

The Port of Belfast is both a major center of industry and commerce and Northern Ireland’s principal maritime gateway to the U.K., mainland Europe and the Republic of Ireland. Approximately 60 percent of Northern Ireland’s seaborne trade, and 20 percent of Ireland’s as a whole, are handled at the port, which receives over 6,000 vessels each year. As many as 1.2 million passengers and half a million freight units pass through the port annually. Belfast is also Ireland’s busiest ferry port. Major imports for the North are handled – as much as 95 percent of Northern Ireland’s petroleum and oil products.

An overarching presence on Belfast’s waterfront is the shipping company of Harland and Wolff, whose twin cranes have dominated the city’s skyline for many years. Formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland and Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, the shipyard has built many types of ships continuously since then, the most famous being the RMS Titanic and her sister ships, RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. The trio of super liners – of the more than 70 ships produced for the White Star Line – was designed to provide a three-ship weekly express service and dominate trans-Atlantic travel.

During her maiden voyage (from Southampton, England, to New York) Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday evening, April 14, 1912, and sank two hours and forty minutes later, after breaking into two pieces. Despite the devastating consequences of that disaster, the pride, will and spirit of Belfast prevailed – as did Harland and Wolff.

During World War I the company built monitors and cruisers, including the 15-inch gun-armed “large light cruiser” HMS Glorious. During World War II the shipyard was also busy, building six aircraft carriers, two cruisers and 131 other naval ships, and repairing over 22,000 vessels. It also manufactured tanks and artillery components. The yard was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe in April and May 1941, seriously damaging the shipbuilding facilities and destroying the aircraft factory.

The growth of jet travel in the late 1950s and the consequent decline in demand for passenger ships dealt a blow to the British shipbuilding industry, which was already facing stiff competition from Japan. In 1989, through a management/employee buyout, a new company called Harland and Wolff Holdings was formed. By this time, the number of people employed by the company had fallen to around 3,000 – less than a tenth of its workforce during World War II.

For most of its history, Harland and Wolff’s workers were almost exclusively Protestant. Occasionally some Catholic workers reported discrimination and violent and threatening behavior. However, the past decade of peace in Northern Ireland has produced a new era of social, business and economic cooperation. Now, with peace and the opening of initiatives such as the Northern Ireland Science Park, the city is one of the leading locations for U.S. companies moving into Europe – companies that include Seagate, Liberty Mutual, Citigroup and Allstate.

The Northern Ireland Science Park, on 24 acres of docklands, is quickly becoming a new academic beachhead alongside the pumping stations and dry docks of earlier days. By 2009 the park will comprise four facilities with over 100,000 square feet of high-tech space. Citigroup has based one of its global technology centers in the Park; Microsoft has opened an office there; and biotech and energy technology ventures have also located there. Within the Park the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) is a new £40 million ($76 million) research center that is an off-campus site for Queens University, Belfast.

This year the Belfast Institute of Further & Higher Education announced its plan to build a new single campus for its 7,000 students in the Titanic Quarter, to replace the College Square East and Brunswick Street campus buildings. Construction will begin in early 2007 and is expected to complete in 2009.

“The relocation of their city center campus within the Titanic Quarter will give Belfast a state-of-the-art, purpose-oriented campus fit for 21st-century education and learning,” says Smith. “The decision sends the right message to foreign investors and local companies that Belfast has a world-class research center attracting higher education, colleges and specialists in the key areas of an advanced knowledge economy.”

Titanic Quarter is Northern Ireland’s energetic response to the great urban-design challenge of the 21st century and a noble effort to honor all that happened here. At a recent meeting at Harvard University, Mike Smith said, “Our city has a tremendous opportunity to become a major gateway to Europe at a time when the global business community is focusing so strongly and so positively on Northern Ireland. We plan to deliver that and at the same time ensure that Belfast gives one of Europe’s most spectacular waterfron

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The Continuing Education of John Duddy Mon, 01 Jan 2007 09:21:00 +0000 Read more..]]> Thomas Hauser takes a look at the Derryman’s biggest battle and the repercussions it may have on his career

On September 29, John Duddy fought Yory Boy Campas at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The fight was made by Team Duddy with the expectation that it would be the next step up the ladder for the popular Irish middleweight. Instead, it became a harrowing journey and a defining fight in ways that were both good and bad.

To his growing legion of fans, the 27-year-old Duddy is the fourth point on an Irish shamrock. A native of County Derry, he lives and trains in New York. All of his professional fights have been in the United States. Prior to facing Campas, he was undefeated with 15 knockouts in 17 fights.

Within the boxing industry, Duddy has become a much-talked-about phenomenon. Acclaimed sports artist LeRoy Neiman observes, “He has everything that the crowd favorites of the 1940s and 50s had. Good looks, charisma, an exciting style. There’s some real dazzle to him.”

Another source of Duddy’s appeal is his apparent vulnerability. He seems too nice and gentle to prevail in a sport as brutal as boxing. He looks like a fighter from an old-time movie. In other words, he doesn’t look like a fighter. His face is too pretty. His body lacks the clear muscle definition that characterizes many of today’s elite athletes. In public, he’s unfailingly cheerful and polite. Not only is he media-friendly; he’s friendly to everyone.

“It’s getting to feel as though, every time I go into a bar, it’s like a question-and-answer session,” Duddy acknowledges. “But I accept the position I’m in and the strings that come with it. I’m thankful that people seem to care about me and are interested in what I’m doing.”

Micky Ward, another favorite with Irish-American fight fans, once warned, “Don’t get into boxing unless you’re serious about it, because it’s a serious sport.” Duddy takes boxing seriously.

Eddie McLoughlin (Duddy’s co-manager) says, “When John first came to New York, he worked for my construction company and I saw the effort he put in. He pulled his load and more. And then, after a full day, he’d go to the gym and work just as hard.” Junior-welterweight contender Paulie Malignaggi shares the floor with Duddy at Gleason’s Gym and observes, “John is one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever seen.”

Meanwhile, virtually every promoter in boxing wants to do business with Duddy because he sells tickets.

“I’m pleased with where I am right now,” John said earlier this year. “The steps I’ve taken so far have been the right ones. I’ve shown that I’m not just a one punch fighter and that I can go the distance. I’m using my jab more and moving my head. Every time I get in the ring, I’m taking steps. They may be small steps, but they’re always steps forward. There’s a lot more improvement that I need, but I’m progressing nicely. A year ago, I felt like an amateur in a professional sport. I’m a lot more comfortable being a professional boxer now, and I’ve damn sure left my amateur days behind. It’s like a dream, really. I’m fighting guys now that I used to watch on television.”

One of those guys was Campas. Yory Boy is 35 years old with the wear and tear of 96 professional fights. But he has been to the mountaintop and is a former world champion whose record coming in against Duddy was 88 wins against only 8 defeats, with 72 knockouts. And five of those eight losses had come in championship bouts against the likes of Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. It was clear that John wouldn’t beat Campas by just showing up.

On fight night, Duddy entered his dressing room at Madison Square Garden wearing pine-green sweatpants and a black T-shirt. It was 7:30 p.m, three and a half hours before fight time.

Duddy likes a quiet dressing room, and this one conformed to his taste. Wordlessly, he sat on a folding metal chair and took a sip from a bottle of water. For the next two hours, he would sit that way, focusing his thoughts on the violent world that was growing ever larger in his mind. Soon, only the man standing across the ring from him — the man who would try to beat him senseless — would matter.

Sometimes John clasped his hands; then separated them and ground a clenched fist into the palm of his other hand. At times, he rotated his head and shoulders slightly. His eyes were closed. He talked to no one.

“I hate the waiting,” Duddy has said of the hours before a fight. “I want to get it started. I don’t want to get it over with, but I want to get it started. There’s a difference.”

At 9:30, trainer Harry Keitt began taping his fighter’s hands. There was virtually no conversation between them. Occasionally, Keitt asked, “How does that feel?” Each time, Duddy answered, “Good.”

At 9:45, the taping was done. “Let’s get dressed,” Keitt said. Duddy put on gold-trimmed Kelly-green trucks and began to loosen up in the center of the room. As he moved, Keitt talked to him softly in the manner of a hypnotist.

“Back him up. Break him down. He’s too short, too slow, and too damn old. Break him down. Nice and smooth. Turn your punches over. Put him on his back. Break him down.”

At 9:55, Duddy sat down on the folding metal chair again, closed his eyes, and rotated his head in differentiating arcs. No one spoke. At 10:20, he gloved up, then went to an adjacent room to hit the warm-up pads with assistant trainer Orlando Carrasquillo.

“Speed and power,” Keitt intoned. “Break him down. Nice and smooth. Break him down.”

Then it was time.

Great fights don’t require great fighters. They require good fighters with great courage and heart.Duddy-Campas was a great fight.

In round one, Duddy seemed faster, younger, bigger, and stronger. He was the aggressor and won the round. Then everything changed.

Defensively, John is a flawed fighter. He doesn’t move his head enough or bend enough at the knees. When he retreats, he tends to move straight back while standing straight up. Too often, he carries his hands low.

Campas was aware of Duddy’s flaws; and in round two, he took advantage of them. John was rocked by punches from all angles. A right hand opened a horrible gash above his left eye. Another right wobbled him at the bell.

From that point on, Duddy-Campas was a brutal bloody war. Cutman George Mitchell struggled valiantly to stem the blood that was flowing from above Duddy’s left eye. But every round, as soon as the bell rang, Campas rained punches on the eye again. Some ring judges score blood more than they should. And in any event, John was taking a beating.

In round five, a head butt opened up another ugly gash, this one above Duddy’s right eye. Round after round, the fighters stood their ground, punching hard and punching back harder when hit. Both men were hit flush more often than a fighter should be hit. Each man seemed impervious to pain.

In round six, it appeared as though Duddy was on the verge of succumbing to exhaustion. His legs seemed rubbery and his stance widened. In round seven, Campas continued his assault. Blood streamed over John’s swollen face. He was getting beaten up.

Then, in round eight, the tide turned again. Duddy staggered Campas with a big righthand and rocked him again at the bell. In rounds nine, ten, and eleven, he poured it on. Like Duddy earlier in the fight, Campas refused to fall. In round twelve, incredibly, Yory Boy staged a rally of his own.

This observer gave Duddy the nod by a 115-114 margin. The judges confirmed his triumph with a more generous 117-111, 116-112, 115-113 decision.

After the bout, Duddy returned to his dressing room. His face was discolored and swollen. Gaping cuts that would require 24 stitches to close protruded above his eyes.

“I’m under no illusions,” John said. “It was a great fight for the crowd; like one of those old fight movies that goes back and forth, back and forth, ding-dong, ding-dong. But for me, it wasn’t so good. I got hit a lot. I have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do.”

But his eyes sparkled with excitement and he seemed exhilarated by it all.

“This is what boxing is all about,” he said. “This was more than I’ve ever experienced. It was one of the best personal experiences I’ve had in my life. The cuts were bad. In the past, I’ve had nicks and scrapes; never a cut like that. But if you panic in a fight, you don’t belong in a boxing ring. So I asked myself, ‘Are you going to run or are you going to stand and fight?’”

“Do you ever ask yourself why you’re doing this?” Duddy was asked.

“Every day. But I love it.” A whimsical look crossed John’s face. “People have been telling me for a long time that I don’t have the face of a fighter,” he said. “I guess now I look like a fighter. Anyone who sees me tonight will think there’s a mutant monster walking around the streets of New York.”

So . . .

What is one to make of Duddy-Campas?

For starters, it brings to mind the thoughts of former heavyweight contender Roland LaStarza, whose forte was slick boxing. “I once fought a perfect fight and nobody paid any attention to me,” LaStarza said after emerging victorious from a knockdown drag-out brawl against Gene Gosney. “This time, I almost get killed and everybody raves how marvelous I am. I was terrible, but I was sensational.”

On September 29th, Duddy fought courageously but there were times when he didn’t fight well. And while he was euphoric afterward, Harry Keitt was critical of his charge.

“John has to stop being stubborn and use his boxing skills more,” Keitt said after the fight. “As an amateur, John was a boxer. Then he came to the United States and knocked some people out and forgot about boxing.”

Duddy has the same sort of appeal that Arturo Gatti has. He can lose some fights and keep his following. But against Campas, John took more punishment than in all of his previous fights combined. If getting hit in the head was good for people, we’d all be told to hit each other in the head with hammers instead of going to the gym for exercise. And more to the point, if John keeps getting hit like he did against Campas, he’ll start losing fights.

Duddy had been slated to fight on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko versus Calvin Brock on November 11th. Given the cuts he sustained against Campas, that opportunity is gone. Most likely, he’ll fight next in January. Eddie McLoughlin is planning another card for The Theater on March 16th, the night before St. Patrick’s Day. “And I’d like to think,” says McLoughlin, “that John will be upstairs in the big arena fighting for all the marbles in 2008.”

Maybe. But for the moment, let’s savor the fact that, on September 29th, John Duddy did the hardest thing to do in sports. He was being beaten up by a professional fighter. He had every opportunity to quit. Yet he came back to turn the tide and win.

And Campas fought just as courageously as Duddy.

John Duddy versus Yory Boy Campas was a reminder that fighters are the tough guys in boxing. Everyone else is soft

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