Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Irishman

Call it a Cleveland Goodfellas without the glitz.

Kill the Irishman gets so much right: the guys and their clothes and the grittiness of those parts of this town in that era. The filmmakers didn't try to stylize the scenes or the bombings with tricky camera angles and the resulting realism serves the based-on-a-true-story content perfectly. Ray Stevenson absolutely nails the role of Danny Greene. The Celtic music lacing the score is simply wonderful.

Oh for chrissake. If for no other reason, go to see the cars.

Shondor Birns' bombed out 1975 Lincoln Continental Mark IV
courtesy of CSU's Michael Schwartz Library, special collections

I was just a kid in the mid-1970's when the mob bombings took over Cleveland, but I surely remember that Mafia guy getting blown to bits on 25th Street (photo above). For months and months after the killing, I'd peer out the car window looking for an overlooked finger or spatter of blood every time we drove through the intersection of 25th and Detroit. The mobsters were at once a world away and in my backyard, murky in the background and bloody before my eyes.

Danny Greene
courtesy of CSU's Michael
Schwartz Library, special
Because this is Cleveland, where local sports are a study in epic tragedy, where the gray permeates everything, and where you learn to be the butt of jokes at a very early age, Kill the Irishman was actually filmed in Detroit.


Okay, fine. It's just another Cleveland injustice. I'll swallow it whole and move on. And for the most part the filming locale worked seamlessly. Old time Clevelanders, however, will know where the filmmakers have dropped a stitch.

Take the Theatrical.

Completely unlike it was portrayed in Irishman, the Theatrical was a legendary club on Short Vincent. It was big and brash with a huge kidney shaped bar that surrounded an elevated stage. The club was housed in one cavernous room, with tables and booths flanking that incredible bar. Giant figures graced the two-story walls: demure chicks in hoop skirts and devilishly exaggerated harlequin men lunging for them. There was a coat check. Attendants in the ladies' lounge handed you a towel and made sure the bottles of hand cream and cologne were properly arranged.

The Theatrical on Short Vincent

During college breaks, I pushed beers at a weird little joint called the Park Pub in the basement of what is now Reserve Square apartments. I used to go braless and wear cute little outfits with high heels in order to garner better tips (sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't). When my shift was over I would occasionally sashay over to the Theatrical to meet a friend or wait for my ride. The bar proper had four sections, each serviced by a regular bartender who was as legendary as the Theatrical itself. Everyone had their favorite. I always sat in Jim's section. I'd settle in as he'd straighten from his perfect bar lean, amble over and snap open his Zippo to light my Marlboro before pouring me a big icy tumbler of Canadian Club and soda.

"Hey Jim, can I have a paper and pencil?"

"Sure thing, girlie."

Girl from Ipanema? I'd jot on the paper, then hand it to Jim, who would in turn deliver it to the house pianist, who, if he had no other requests pending, would stop in the middle of whatever he was playing and start playing Girl from Ipanema.

On his break, the pianist (whose name I am purposefuly omitting) would ask me to dance. We'd step onto the dance floor and start swaying to and fro. He wasn't terribly attractive, but his sexuality was unmistakable as his cologne wafted between us. The fabric of his suit against my chin felt formal and expensive. When he'd pull me close, I'd look up into his eyes.

"Your lips are less then an inch from my own," he once remarked.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he would become aroused during these interludes, which were as pure and erotic as anything I can recollect. He would push hard into my torso as we moved ever-so-slowly against one another. He never once kissed me.

That's what it was like. Back then. At the Theatrical. In Cleveland.

yeah, yeah, yeah ...

And a few endnotes on Kill the Irishman:

-The Goat grew up in Lyndhurst, just down the road from where Greene was murdered. The Goat's dad grew up in rough-n-tumble Collinwood, Greene's notorious stomping grounds.

-Some documentary footage from Cleveland Mafia historian Rick Porrello.

-Comprehensive coverage with photos and video from WEWS.

-To the editorial team of Irishman: Why the hell didn't you cut the kids at the end? You really really should have cut out the kids at the end.

Now go and see the movie. You will not regret one minute of it.

The aftermath of the car bombing that killed Greene in Oct. 1977

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 October 1977 bomb photo and Theatrical Restaurant photo also courtesy of CSU's Michael Schwartz Library, special collections and credited at the bottom of this post because the IT Department here at the Offices of Erin O'Brien was unable to properly caption them.

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Danb said...

You? Braless in a bar? Holy shit.


Leslie Morgan said...

?Erin Go Braless? Happy Green Day, O'Brien.

Hope said...

Love that he never kissed you..might have changed that whole story. Will look for the movie here in Co. thanks!!

Vince said...

Hay Ni Brian, happy St Patrick's day ya heathen.

Judy said...

Usually a kiss does not add to a wonderfully erotic moment...

Hal said...

I stopped reading at "braless."

Erin Go Braghless...isn't that how it goes?

glittermom said...

And right down the street on E 9th was the Roxy...

Ted said...

Great story! ("[L]ess then"? :)

How did I not know before there were Mafia car bombings in Cleveland in the '70s? I was in Ohio in those days and for years afterwards--granted as a non-Clevelander.

Big Mark 243 said...

Will check out the movie... that they chose to film the movie in Detroit confirms what I already knew... when it comes to Midwestern industrial decay, no one does it better than the Motor... each time I blew through Cleveland's so-called run down and decaying neighborhoods, I was like, 'Is this all you got?'

Once Known as The Badger said...

My overly fastidious ex-wife remarked once on a trip to Cleveland that she'd have to wash it first before she could ever live there. I laughed and said, "You're not from these parts, are you?"

Contrary Guy said...

movietickets says there's no place within 50 miles of Columbus showing this movie. Guess I'll wait for Netflix, as I do with most interesting movies.

philbilly said...

So I take my date to the Theatrical and we sit at the bar. I'm telling her what a great place it is as our Bartender is making our drinks. At the point where I say I haven't been there for a few years, the Bartender instantly quips "Just get out of the joint?", with a knowing nod. Hilarity ensues, he keeps us laughing and drinking for the evening, and I owe that man bigtime.