“A rousing, rollicking night of fund-raising, hell-raising with hilarious songs and stories about libraries and librarians and books.” –Tom Mahon
By Karen Daly
Photos by Cat Dwyer
The stars came out for IAW&A’s first fundraising Salon, The Amazing Library Variety Show on Tuesday, May 19 at The Cell Theatre. Mark Butler, the show’s producer and host, corralled members to donate their time and talent to support the work of the NYC-based grassroots advocacy group, Urban Librarians Unite (ULU). The Show, which brought out an SRO crowd, was a testament to the generosity and breadth of talent in IAW&A and to Mark’s artistic, organizational and hosting skills. And dare we say it was truly an amazing night?
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy announces raffles prizes
In keeping with IAW&A’s mission to encourage full participation in and access to the arts, the night’s proceeds will go to Urban Librarians Unite, which has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “Guerrilla Librarians Making Noise.” ULU Founder and Executive Director Christian Zabriskie described the group’s work. They operate a Save NYC Libraries Campaign and the Volunteer Library Brigade that brings books, maps, Wi-Fi, and free eBooks to city sidewalks and parks. Their Hurricane Sandy Children’s Book Campaign distributed over 20,000 books through free mini-libraries in areas of Brooklyn and Queens where libraries were damaged by the storm.
ULU’s Christian Zabriskie and Lauren Comito
Richard Butler as Dewey Decimal
Richard Butler and Jon Gordon
A surprise visit from library lover, Mr. Dewey Decimal, singing the jazzy “Librarians Really Dew It for Me” set the night’s upbeat tone. Dewey’s identity was later revealed to be Richard Butler, an actor, director, and acting coach with over 30 years experience working in the New York City and San Francisco Bay areas. Richard has played everything from a presidential assassin in Sondheim’s Assassins to a frumpy Baltimore housewife in Hairspray to Santa Claus in a cocktail dress. As a director, he has worked on both established and new plays, including In the Wilderness by IAWA treasurer John Kearns, and Bad Christmas Sweater, The Laundry War, and other plays by his brother, IAWA Secretary Mark William Butler. He is currently directing Mark’s dystopian comic fantasy, Heaven Is a Beer Commercial, to be performed as part of the Manhattan Rep Summer One Act Play Competition in early June.
Best-selling author, social historian and journalist T.J. English read a selection from his new book about Whitey Bulger that is scheduled for publication in September of this year. His books include The Westies, Paddy Whacked, Havana Nocturne and The Savage City. His journalism has appeared in such national publications as Vanity Fair, Esquire, Playboyand Newsweek, among others. Along with his accomplishments as a writer, T.J. is one of the founders of Irish American Writers & Artists and served as the organization’s President for two years.
We note with pleasure that IAW&A’s first President, Peter Quinn, attended the Show, so all three IAW&A chiefs were present.
Irish native, adopted New Yorker Maxine Linehan, actress, singer and recording artist whom The New York Times calls “fiercely talented” sang two original songs. As a cabaret and concert performer, Maxine has performed at Town Hall, Lincoln Center, 54 Below, The Metropolitan Room and Birdland. The Huffington Post says Maxine’s new album “Beautiful Songs is “glorious.” Find her at http://www.maxinelinehan.com
IAW&A Treasurer and Salon Producer John Kearns chose a short excerpt from his novel, The World, in which the protagonist, called “The Youth,” goes to the library to discover his Irish identity. In his introduction, Mark complimented John for his fantastic work in running the Salon, our organization’s signature event and expanding it to such faraway lands as Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, St. Louis and Connecticut!
Uniquely talented Marni Rice, a chanteuse-accordionist, sang in French. An author and composer, Marni’s original plays with music have been performed in French and English at Theatre Festivals worldwide. In 2012 she co-founded the Xio Evans- Marni Rice Experimental Dance Theatre to create original musical and dance performance works dedicated to issues of social justice. They are currently co-teaching a dance-theatre class for children at a NYPL in the Bronx. http://www.dejouxmusique.com
Stand-up comedienne, actor and IAW&A Board Member Sarah Fearon brought the laughs with her routine. Sarah describes herself as a native New Yorker by way of Northern Ireland. You may have seen her get whacked in The Departed. Or you may have seen her this spring at the Irish Arts Center “Sundays at Seven” comedy night. Sarah has a play in the Players Theater Short Play Festival opening June 18. So far she is keeping her New Year’s resolution of returning her library books on time!
One of the top “trad” musicians in the country, Tony DeMarco played two reels that had our collective feet tapping. Tony has been performing and teaching the Irish fiddle for over 30 years, and is acknowledged as a master of the New York/Sligo fiddle style. Find his performances at http://www.tonydemarcomusic.net
Internationally known tenor Karl Scully delighted us with his rendition of Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pigeons in The Park.” Karl was for six years, one of The Irish Tenors who recorded two albums and performed in hundreds of venues in Europe and the US. As a soloist Karl has performed all over the world including Carnegie Hall and the Avery Fischer Hall. One of his very first gigs he starred as Count John McCormack in the film “Nora.”
Daisy Kearns sells raffle tickets to Seamus Scanlon
IAW&A President Larry Kirwan recalled the book selections at the library in his native Wexford, and read a section from his brand new book, A History of Irish Music. In this hilarious excerpt, Larry described Black 47’s being asked to back-up one of Shane McGowan’s first post-Pogue gigs. In addition to being founder of the rock band Black 47, Larry is an author, playwright, Irish Echo columnist and solo performer.
ULU Chair and Director of Operations Lauren Comito charmed the crowd with a song she wrote about the trials of a librarian. Lauren accompanied herself on the ukulele.
Honor Molloy can be counted on to thrill salongoers with her presentations and she did again tonight reading Backwards Library, a piece about summers, libraries and time. Honor’s autobiographical novel Smarty Girl tracks her life as a mischievous little gurrier running the streets of Dublintown.
John Paul Skocik
A popular Salon presenter who performs his own compositions, singer/songwriter guitarist John Paul Skocik performed two original tunes. You can find John’s songs on iTunes and other online outlets, under his former band Girl To Gorilla.
Jon Gordon played a soulful solo of “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Jon, winner of the Thelonious Monk award, is a world-renowned artist and one of the most successful, accomplished and in-demand alto and soprano saxophonists of his generation. Jazz Improv magazine calls him “an elite musician of our time.” Jon has often played and read from his memoir, For Sue at our Salons.
Cathy Maguire sang two beautiful songs, one country-inflected, one Irish. Cathy began her career as a successful child star in Ireland. She’s back in New York, by way of Nashville, where she studied and worked with country music stars. Her CD Ireland InSong explores the ten most famous Irish songs.
Near the end of a very full program, host Mark Butler described Malachy McCourt as a man “who needs no introduction” but Mark introduced him anyway, for the thrill of saying: “Writer, actor, storyteller, singer – that’s right singer – radio personality, legendary innkeeper, Salon founder and godfather, teacher, inspiration, mentor, and most recently – Facebook assassin -the only one and one and only Malachy McCourt.”
Malachy began by quoting Henry VIII, who said to his wives, “I won’t keep you long.” But he did. He told how two poor urchins in County Limerick, he and his brother Frank, read library books under street lamps because there were no lights at home. Encouraged by the lively reception, he went off on a riff about labels, about snakes and God, Adam and Eve, pausing to thank God he’s an atheist, which slid smoothly into St. Patrick chasing the snakes from Ireland. Salon newcomers were treated to the “full Malachy.”
Frequent Salon contributor Tom Mahon sums it up perfectly: ”Then Malachy sang and asked us to sing along and we sang, feeling that this is fine, don’t let this end, but it did. Yet we felt better after a rousing, rollicking night of fund-raising, hell-raising with hilarious songs and stories about libraries and librarians and books.”
On behalf of IAW&A, our sincere thanks to all the performers for contributing to a wonderful night and a great cause; to superb pianist Ryan Shirar; to the artists who donated their work for the raffle; to our generous members, guests and volunteers; to the helpful staff of The Cell Theatre; and kudos to impresario Mark Butler!