Great piece of writing on Tim Lee by my guy Pat Fenton.
Insightful stuff from Pete Hamill.
Click on link below.
Pat Fenton via the Irish Echo.
No, no, no, I’m not telling you to go out and break someone’s leg because they said something about you behind your back or maybe they owe you money. There’s a universal phrase “Break a leg” in theatre used to wish a performer “good luck.”
Journalist, playwright, good friend and writing mentor Pat Fenton will be at Farrell’s this coming Sunday along with actors Jack O’Connell and Honor Molloy. The trio will take us back to Pat’s old Windsor Terrace neighborhood performing a dramatic reading of three scenes from his play “STOOPDREAMER.”
Pat intimates the dreams, trials and travails of just ordinary people trying to find the American dream in post WWII.
Irish-American stories about a lost part of Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, that existed around 17th Street and 9th Avenue before Robert Moses drove the Prospect Expressway through the very heart of it in 1953, and divided it forever.
215 Prospect Park West
Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. 11215
Sunday, April 13th. 2 P.M. to 2:45.
Admission is free.
If you can’t make it, don’t worry, like Pat told me, “just pour a pint and pretend you are back in Farrell’s for the reading.”
Yo Pat, Break a Leg brother!
Just been informed that my friend Pat Fenton will be doing a reading of his play, “Stoopdreamer,” at Farrell’s the day after the neighborhood reunion. Here’s Pat…
On the day after the Windsor Terrace, Holy Name, neighborhood reunion, I’ll be inviting anyone who is free and hanging around for awhile in our neighborhood to join me at Farrell’s Bar on 16th Street and 9th Avenue where I will be doing a reading of my play about Windsor Terrace, Stoopdreamer. It’s Sunday, April 13th at 2 P.M.. It will run for about a half hour. The play recently had a successful, full reading at the Cell Theatre in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, and is currently being planned for a full production there. As the date gets closer there will be more info on it. Admission is free.
I can’t think of a more better place to come home to, Farrell’s Bar. Cheers!
By Pat Fenton
This New Year’s Eve night as the old year winds down, I’m talking to an old friend from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn who I grew up with, Bob Rice….
Like all of humanity, we replay our lives on this eve of the changing year. We’re young again for the short hours between the old year and the new year, and the Scotch and the beer.
“Imagine being able to walk back into the Hilltop Lounge on 18th Street on New Years Eve again, Pat,“ he says. And I do imagine it:
And I’m 18 again for this New Years Eve night.
Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn in the early 50’s was a neighborhood of bars on every corner. Holy Name Church, Pete Smith’s Funeral Home and the Sanders Theater on 15th Street. On one side of 17th Street and 9th Avenue where I came from, there was the Shamrock Bar and on the other corner there was McNulty’s. Over on Prospect Avenue and 8th there was Val’s Bar, and a block away, Boops’s bar, where a young, undiscovered Pete Hamill drank. And over on 16th Street there was Farrell’s Bar. Up in the Hilltop on New Year’s Eve, we would be slow dancing with pretty women to Lee Andrews and the Hearts singing, “Long Lonely Nights.”
Man, the place is jumping tonight. All you can here is the ching, ching, ching sound of this bowling alley game as you walk in. You slide a metal puck down at the plastic cut out pins, and as they fly up the game starts to flash scores as it makes this ching, ching, ching sound. There’s Jacky Malone doing the Cha-cha with Tony the Rigger’s girlfriend, Eileen. All the red plastic-covered booths that surround the small dance floor in the back room are full. Everyone is drinking pitchers of Rheingold beer, smoking cigarettes and talking.
Here comes Jenny and her sister Rosy too in the front door. She’s a good-looking woman, Jenny. Jenny’s husband has been in jail for at least three years now, so she walks around the corner from 18th Street where they live just to get out for a while. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the 50s, probably one of the last times that there will be such a large group of white guys in jail, and nobody really knows why.
Man, you can hardly move in here tonight. They’re lined up three deep at the bar. The guy who is pouring drinks tonight is this older guy, Phil. He looks just like that actor Cesar Romero. Everyone kids him about that. He’s grinning ear to ear, loves a big crowd like this. They’ll be plenty of tips tonight, he’s thinking. He just hopes that there aren’t any fights. Last week someone threw a chair through the front window. It ruined the whole night for Phil.
Phil grabs a handful of house red quarters with red nail polish on them from a jar, and hands them over to someone who is standing near the jukebox.
“Hey play Louie Prima and Keely Smith. Play, “I’m just a Gigolo,” Phil yells out as he starts to sing and shake his hips back and forth.
“I’m just a Gigolo and every where I go people know the part I play… Oh, I ain’t got nobody…..”
He bangs on the bar with his hand as he sings. Everybody is laughing now. Man, the place is jumping tonight. Happy New Year, Bob, we’re home again.
And a most happy New Year to all my actor and writer friends, and to all the rest of you who mean so much to me.
By Pat Fenton
The snow came hard that winter. It covered 17th Street and all of the rest of Windsor Terrace in a thick, blanket of white. Strings of stark, clear light bulbs hung over rows of Christmas trees in front of Mitchy’s Fruit Stand on Prospect Park West, and over on the corner of Prospect Avenue you could see the outline of the red bricked, Holy Name Church through the swirl of the snow.
It was the winter of 1961 and Billy Coffey was thinking of leaving the neighborhood. He was too young to understand what he would be leaving behind. He was 19 years old now and the 50’s were gone. And with them soon would go places he would never ever see again, places like the Royal Tailors on 5th Avenue where he was measured for his first pair of peg pants, the Shoe Box over on 19th Street, Bill and John’s Bar off the corner of 18th Street, Jack the Wonder Dairy’s grocery store on 17th Street, places like the Globe Theater on 15th Street, and the 16th Street Theater just off of 5th Avenue, and the Venus down on Prospect Avenue, and the Sanders on Bartell Pritchard Square, where he first saw Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as a kid on a “standing room only “Sunday afternoon.
It was in that long ago time in America when they actually had standing room only in movie houses, and people would announce “this is where we came in”, because, like dreams, the movies went on and on, and on. And it only cost a quarter.
Now, in bars like McNulty’s on the corner of 9th Avenue and 17th Street, men would stare down at the front page of the New York Daily News and read headlines of a wall being built by the Communists between East and West Germany, and news that Russia had built missile launching pads in nearby Cuba, and the headlines said that they were pointed at the United States.
The “Cold War” was becoming something more real now, and you could sense that change was coming to the culture of America. Where once there were empty lots all over Brooklyn where kids ran free as if they were in a rye field somewhere in the country, every square foot of the borough was being built on. And you couldn’t go to Coney Island anymore, too dangerous people said. Men were moving their families out to places like Levittown on Long Island, hoping to hang on just a little longer to the innocence of the fifties that they once knew in Brooklyn.
In early evening, just before the sunset started, he would sometimes go out the back door of the railroad room flat that he lived in at 483 17th Street, and climb up this ladder in the hallway that led to a hatch way. He would push it open and stand on the roof as he looked down toward the magnificent sky over the Brooklyn waterfront.
They called his neighborhood “The Hill” because it was located on the highest point of Brooklyn. You could see the Statute of Liberty from here. Just as the sun went down you could see the bright flicker of its torch and the weathered green of its copper robes. It was so close.
Some evenings he would watch in amazement as a giant cruise ship sliced passed it through the dark green of the water as it headed for the Verrazano Narrows, and far out to sea somewhere. And as he watched it go by he would slide a can of Rheingold Beer out of his jacket and punch a hole in with a can opener, and he would daydream about leaving here.
Maybe in the morning he would go down to Livingston Street to the Draft Board and push up his draft for the Army. He could be gone in a week.
That’s what he was going to do.
Some afternoons he would play this record called, “Far Away Places,” over and over again.
“Those far away places with strange sounding names keep calling, calling to me . . . They call me a dreamer, well maybe I am…”
He had this feeling that he wanted to pack up and leave, to travel, to see places that were far away from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. It was such a strong feeling that it scared him sometimes, but he knew that he just had to go.
When he came down from the roof he opened up a pint of Southern Comfort that he had been saving, and he poured some of it into a shot glass. It had a sweet sort of a taste to it that made it go down easy. Too easy. Maybe he would ask them to send him to France or even Germany, he thought. Then he reached over and started playing this song by Tommy Edwards on his record player, “It’s All in the Game.”
“Many a tear has to fall, but it’s all in the game. All in the wonderful game that we know as love…”
The song made him think about Janice Joyce. She was three years older than him, and he loved being around her. She had this dark, black hair and a face so beautiful she could have been a movie star. She used to drive around in this old 1954 Ford Customline with holes punched into the exhaust pipe so the car would make a lot of noise.
There were so many guys in his neighborhood that wanted to be with her, it always amazed him that she would come looking for him up in the old Irish bars of Prospect Park West. He would see her come up to the doorway of McNulty’s saloon wearing this suede jacket with tassels on the sleeves, and she would wave to him to come out, and he would. He would quickly slide his money off of the bar and go off with her.
Since she had so many boy friends, he never understood their relationship, but he didn’t question it either. She would ask him what songs he liked and when he would tell her she would tape them off of the radio for him. One of them was Johnny Cash’s “I guess Things Happen That way,” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only make Believe.” Sometimes he would tell her how much he liked it when she wore her hair in an up sweep and the next time he would see her she would tell him she was wearing it that way for him because she knew he liked it.
The closest he ever came to making love to her was one Christmas weekend that the two of them were drinking a pitcher of tap beer in a back booth in Val’s Bar on 10th Avenue and Prospect. They slow danced to the sound of Tommy Edwards singing “It’s All in the Game” from the Wurlitzer Juke box in a corner of the bar, and afterwards she asked him to take her up to the top of Lookout Mountain in Prospect Park.
The two of them walked up the long rows of steps in the darkness of Prospect Park to the top of the mountain where you could see all of Brooklyn lit up in the Christmas night, and Billy reached over and started to kiss her. She pulled him close as he wrapped the hood of her parka around her to keep her face warm. It was such a clear winter night filled with stars, and Billy felt so lucky to be gently holding her face in his hands and staring at her.
As he drank the whiskey, he played the Tommy Edwards song over and over again. A little while later, he stumbled out of the building and made his way down to Helen’s Candy Store on 8th Avenue. He nodded to a few young members of a local street gang called The Jokers. He was about a year older than most of them, but he felt much older than that.
They sat lined up along the soda counter, some talking, some like Bengie just day dreaming as he stared out the front window. Along the wall was a comic book rack with rows and rows of comics like Archie, Daredevil and the Little Wiseguys, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man, last vestiges of the innocence of the 50’s.
All of them were slowly killing themselves by staying in Windsor Terrace, he thought. All of them were facing a life time of Irish working-class jobs in the factory row that lined the nearby Bay Ridge waterfront in a place called, “Industry City.” That’s where many of their relatives worked. That’s where they were headed. Or they could wind up in one of the local factories like National Metal Art on 19th Street where Billy wound up after he dropped out of Manual Training High School in South Brooklyn, eight hours a day of stepping on the pedal of a riveting machine as it slammed a rivet into the hinge of a bathroom hamper. And in the end the boredom and helplessness of it all would lead them to escape somewhere else with drinking in the Saturday night bars of 9th Avenue.
He leaned over the juke box as he punched in Gene Vincent’s,” Be -Bop- A- LuLa.” And then he walked out the door of the candy store and tried to get his balance as he hung onto the side of a car. A group of the Jokers came out of Helen’s candy store and threw his arms over their shoulders and walked him home.
The snow fell softly on them as they made their way up 17th Street. Across the street in Lenahan’s Bar, you could hear muffled laughter and men singing Christmas carols. In his head he kept hearing the words of the song, ”Those far Away Places,” and it saddened him, but he knew that he could never stay here. He knew that he might never see Janice Joyce again. And he was right.
“Those far away places with strange sounding names keep calling, calling to me.”
Days That Changed America Forever
By Pat Fenton
They brought a busload of us up from the 537th M.P. Company in Mannheim where I was stationed, to add to the security. This was in June of 1963, and President Kennedy was on his way to Berlin, where the next day he would deliver one of his most famous speeches. That was 50 years ago. As the character Emily in Thornton Wilder’s OurTown said, “It goes so fast.”
It was a beautiful, clear summer morning in June, good to be young then. And as I watched his motorcade head toward me at the crowd control post I was assigned to, a surreal mood filled the air. Every ten feet there were Military Police officers standing in front of a roped off area. As it reached where I was standing, it stopped and he got out to shake the hands of some of the Military Police. I came to attention and saluted him. Looking straight at me, he snapped back a perfect salute. I later found out that he was sitting in the same Lincoln Convertible that he would ride in through Dallas.
In July, a troop ship took me back home to Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where I was discharged. I still remember the innocence of that time, long gone now. As I walked through my neighborhood, with my duffel bag on my shoulder, people sitting on stoops looked up at my army uniform and waved, some even saluted.
What we were also watching was the loss of a more innocent time in America that would never come again. And as we looked up at it, we drank glasses of tap beer, and shots of rye whisky in an effort to ease the sadness. And it gave us comfort to be together as we watched something historic that we didn’t fully understand. It was at a time when there was only about 12 channels to choose from on television, and the most popular shows were “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” and “American Bandstand.”
We could see President Harry Truman, old now, standing in the drizzling rain as it fell softly onto the cold ground of Arlington Cemetery. And next to him, President Dwight Eisenhower. And there was the tall figure of French President Charles De Gaulle, and President Eamon de Valera from Ireland, all of them part of a sad, historic tableau now.
And we all watched it together for three, long, silent nights. At a time before cell phones, e-mail,Twitter, I Pads, before Face Book was invented, Brooklyn had come to a pause, music had stopped on most radio stations, except for classical music that some played in respect. A silence had set in across the boroughs of New York.
And people were lost in the silence together, face to face, and they would never forget it. Something was ending, and afterwards television would never again seem like the fun it once was when we were young and watching Milton Berle on a Tuesday night in the 50s.
I suppose the man who knew that America had lost its innocence forever when President John Kennedy was assassinated, was the gravedigger who dug his grave, Clifton Pollard. He later told Jimmy Breslin that he was busy digging other graves in Arlington Cemetery on the day of the president’s funeral, but he decided to stop and go over to see the grave he dug the day before, and to see if he could get a glimpse of the funeral ceremony going on.
A soldier stopped him before he got there and told him that it was too crowded. But he came back later after everyone had left the cemetery, and standing alone at President John F. Kennedy’s grave, the newly lit eternal flame blowing in the wind, he had to know that America had changed forever. And, I’m sure, Breslin did too.
Our very own Pat Fenton is on the mic once again.
On September 17th Pat will be reading a short story he wrote that was recently published in the Galway Review, The Ghosts of Coney Island.
It’s a story of trying to go home again, and making it. It’s Billy Coffey’s memories which connect Coney Island to his father’s Galway, Ireland.
It’s all part of a bill, which includes the fine writing, and musical talents of The Irish American Writers and Artists Salon.
Place: Cell Theatre, 338 W 23rd Street, in the Chelsea area of Manhattan.
Time: 7PM to 10PM
Admission is free!
Get out and support an old friend from 17th street.
Our friend and Windsor Terrace native Pat Fenton, has written a wonderful story for The Galway Review.
Pat grew up in the neighborhood and has been a huge inspiration to this aspiring writer.
An outstanding guest piece from Pat Fenton. Pat’s one of the good guys who grew up in the neighborhood. And boy is he a fantastic writer!
I pushed up my draft in 1961, 20 years old, a high school drop out working a rivet machine in a factory in Brooklyn, and the Army seemed like a way out. I went in during the Berlin Crisis buildup, was sent thorough the military police academy in Fort Gordon, Georgia, and shipped out of the Brooklyn Army Base on the ship the U.S Rose to Mannheim Germany to the 537MP Company.
I got to stand a few feet from President John F Kennedy when he was on his way to Frankfurt to give that great Berlin speech. He was reviewing the troops at a first stop, and I was standing as part of the security on a black top when his open limo stopped, and I saluted him. Riding the back top, his Ray Bans on, he saluted me back. I still have the program from that day. It was the same limo he took everywhere, the one he would be assassinated on, I found out later.
I was 23 by then, and just a few feet from history; and the start-up of the Vietnam War. When I came home to Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn I spent my nights drinking in the Irish bars of 9th Avenue in places like Farrell’s on 16th Street, hearing the sad stories of all the young from our neighborhood who were being drafted and dying over there. And I think of them even more on this Memorial Day. God bless all of them, and to hell with the politicians who don’t fly an American flag on the front of their houses on this day.
A special mention goes out to Bobby Cain: “one of the people I served with in the 537th was Bobby Cain. And so typical of Brooklyn neighborhoods, I didn’t know him before I went in. We both went through the Military Police Academy in Fort Gordon, Georgia. When we both came home in 1963, we spent some time hanging out at the old McFadden Brothers American Legion Post when it was on 9th Ave off of 17th Street. ” Bobby Cain is all the way to the right crouched over. I heard that one of his sons goes into Farrell’s Bar.
My guy, and former 17th street resident Pat Fenton will be performing live…get out and check him out.
Tuesday night, February 19th, (THAT’S TONIGHT!) at the Cell Theatre in Chelsea, 338 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th avenues), New York, Pat will be one of the featured readers at the Irish American Artists and Writers salon.
Pat will be reading from a play he wrote about the writer Jack Kerouac.
Since its first appearance on stage at the Boston Playwright’s Theatre, “Jack’s Last Call: Say Goodbye to Kerouac,” has been recorded with a full cast on CD and aired on over 70 Public Radio Stations across the country.
Pat will be on the bill with T. J. English, who wrote the classic book of Irish American life in Hell’s Kitchen at a time when one gang ruled it all, “The Westies,” and his latest book, “Savage City,” actor Jack O’Connell who has appeared in “Mad Men,” and “Boardwalk Empire” and many other TV shows and movies will be reading.
Also, Larry Kirwan, leader of the Irish rock band Black 47 (there will be an excerpt from a film of a bus trip across Ireland with 3 busloads of his fans in 2003), and writer and newspaper columnist Mike Farragher author of “This is Your Brain On Shamrocks and his latest book, “50 Shades of Green.”
It all starts at 7:00 PM. Admission is free.
Donations to IAW&A appreciated.