By Maureen Hossbacher
Gordon Gilbert, poet, playwright and frequent host of the salons, launched the first of 2023 at The Ellington restaurant, corner of 105th & Broadway, by introducing Gillian McCourt, granddaughter of IRISH AMERICAN WRITERS & ARTISTS founder Malachy McCourt. The talented teen charmed the crowd with an essay recounting a memorable day on the playground when she became aware of the diversity of her childhood friends. She followed that with an original song, accompanying herself on the ukulele. An up and coming singer/songwriter, Gillian will launch her first music video in February.
Next, Anthony C. Murphy entertained with a droll yarn about an episode of pancake gluttony prior to Lent. Born in Burton-upon-Trent to a mother from Staffordshire and a father from County Cork. Murphy is a Pushcart nominated poet and has performed at spoken word events in the UK and USA. He is the author of the novel Shiftless, available at his website.
IAW&A Board Member, John McDonagh, recently returned from a tour of Ireland with his one-man-show, “Off the Meter,” was on hand to hone a story for an upcoming segment of the Moth Radio Hour. The tension and laughs built as John recalled the harrowing incident of a woman about to give birth in the back of his cab insisting on pushing north to Lenox Hill Hospital on East 77th Street, while whizzing past several other hospitals in that famously medical section of NYC.
Ron Vazzano’s poetry collection, Muse Letters from the Front, will be coming out this year. Ron read two poems with an undercurrent theme of class distinction — the highly educated vs. those less so— and the question of who offers something more tangible and useful to our lives. He will be reading again at the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village, on February 11th, with the Italian American Writers Association.
An always exciting highlight of IAW&A salons is the occasional visit by consummate showman, Derek Dempsey. Derek opened with the Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road, followed by If I Can Dream, a song sung only once by Elvis Presley and inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.. Derek then performed his latest release, The Face in the Window (lyrics by Dempsey & Dasch), a modern and moving immigrant’s lament. Check out Derek’s website for his performance dates in and around town.
Retired NYPD officer and bodyguard to the famous, Al Gonzales shared another excerpt from his memoir The Wearing of the Blue. The gripping tale of a life-threatening confrontation between officer and perpetrator kept the audience transfixed right to its poignant ending. Al is also an award winning bagpiper who has played for royalty and VIPs such as Mary McAleese during her tenure as President of Ireland.
First time presenter, Brendan McCurdy read from his collection of poems: Musing on the L.I.E. —some humorous, others not so much —inspired by his regular road trips from the south shore of Suffolk County to the north shore of Nassau County. Selections included an interesting if puzzling poetic connection between traversing the Long Island Expressway and the artist Caravaggio. Well, maybe not so puzzling to IAW&A folks familiar with the drivers and traffic jams Brendan was describing.
IAW&A’s beloved and intrepid founder Malachy McCourt once again wrapped up the evening with a story, this one about his comedy debut in a Limerick talent show at the age of 15. Though the joke he told was pretty lame, the spark of his beguiling personality must have shone through even then, for he won the cash prize of £1. The rest, as they say, is history!