By Maureen Hossbacher
Photos by Jill Caryl Weiner and Gordon Gilbert

Deni Bonet and W. Jay Wanczyk

True to the Irish tradition of happy wakes, the IAW&A salon on Tuesday 2/20, at the Ellington restaurant on 105th & Broadway, was an exuberant celebration of the late W. Jay Wanczyk.   A writer of mystery stories, regular salon participant and frequent salon photographer, Jay’s life was defined by his love for and loyalty to the communities and the arts that he cherished.  Headlining the evening was the musical duo of Deni Bonet and Chris Flynn who captivated the crowd with their profound musicianship, energetic performance, amusing anecdotes and  superbly crafted original compositions. (For upcoming shows check out their website www.bonetflynn.com).  Both dear friends of their super fan, Jay, who had regularly attended their shows in the tri-state area, they performed several of his favorite songs and instrumentals including an exquisite rendition of Danny Boy and Deni’s original pieces, Love is a Circular Thing and Off the Record.

Also on hand was Natalie H. Rogers, public speaking coach and author of Talkpower :The Mind Body Way To Speak Without Fear.  Natalie shared a humorous story about a competitive woman determined not to let her equally competitive but now deceased friend upstage her at her funeral.  The strategy:  an attention-getting hat.  She followed that with a poem entitled Souvenirs, its ending lines germane to the theme of the memorial evening:  “ . . . I had my chance to be happy/And I didn’t let it pass me by.” 

The salon also welcomed debut reader, Bridgid Moynahan, who read a piece called “Soft Day,” inspired by an Easter visit to a cottage in Wicklow when she was a child, and another entitled “Quiet Now, I’m Writing my Memoir,” reminiscent of her father, noted literary critic and novelist Julian Moynahan.

Next up was long time member Ray Lindie with more amusing tales of his adventures tending bar at some of New York’s prime watering holes, most notably Elaine’s restaurant, bygone haunt of the City’s A-list celebs and VIPs.

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IAW&A’s President Brendan Costello serving as host of the salon introduced one of his students at City College, Leya Ivanov, who read a poem and a memoir— “The 16 Points of Love Addicts Anonymous” for her mother, and “My Chinese Parent Company” for her father.  Leya says she “enjoys having outbursts of overt sincerity.”  She’ll get plenty of those when she returns, as promised, to the salon, perhaps with a few of her CCNY writer friends In tow. (A memorable Leah Ivanov line: “Being 19 in New York makes you 23”).

At intermission, Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy announced the 25th annual St. Pat’s for All Parade on Sunday, March 3rd, in Queens.  Of all the Irish events in March, this might be the most fun and is certainly the most diverse — it’s motto a line from the1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic: “ Cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”  Kathleen urged all present to join the unit marching under the banner of Irish American Writers & Artists on Sunday the 3rd.

For more info on the St. Pat’s for All Parade,

During the course of the evening several members took the mike to share warm memories of Jay Wanczyk, as did the entertainers Bonet and Flynn who performed again at the end of the first half and at the finale, rocking the salon room as well as treating diners in the larger restaurant to the kind of virtuosity and joy that would send everyone home happy — exactly as Jay would have wanted.  “Happy” was the word many used to describe this upbeat, gentle, supportive member whose smile and presence will be sorely missed.

Our next Salon will be on Tuesday, March 12 at The Ellington.