I had a great time last night at Irish American Writers & Artists Inc.’s Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s honoree is the legendary writer of fiction and New York Post columnist Pete Hamill. The man who defined, with wonderful words, the Brooklyn childhood of my parents and grandparents’ time was honored by many speakers, planned or unplanned.
One of my favorite New York Irish personalities Malachy McCourt said kind things about Mr. Hamill and promptly broke into a Northern Ireland song (where Mr. Hamill’s parents were born) of Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?.
Martin Scorsese autobiographer and famous writer of books like Galway Bay, Mary Pat Kelly came to the stage and honored all the great work of the women in the Irish arts and beyond.
The New York Times’ Dan Barry gave a wonderfully symbolic speech called “Scones for Pete Hamill,” about the time many years ago Mr. Hamill asked for a scone, which sent the young Barry on a frantic search.
IAW&A president Larry Kirwin, who is also the legendary frontman of the Irish rock/punk band Black ’47 also gave a nice and very typically Irish/NYC speech about how wonderful it is to be a liberal, and how hard it is to be a writer due to the commercialization of the arts.
Then, out of nowhere came Governor Andrew Cuomo! Governor Cuomo swooped in to say a few words for Pete Hamill who so influenced his thoughts as a young man.
Then! Legendary Irish actor Brian Dennehy came up to the podium and read from Mr. Hamill’s work, causing everyone in the crowd to grab a tissue.
Finally, famous sportswriter Mike Lupica introduced Mr. Hamill with more praising. When Mr. Hamill was finally brought up to the stage, he grabbed the microphone and in typical Irish-NYC black humor, says:
“All these nice words and there’s no corpse in the room?”
For me, I will always remember Pete Hamill’s book The Gift. A young man coming back to Brooklyn after bootcamp with only two wishes, to marry the girl he loves and to be loved by his father. Both ignore him throughout the book, but when his father recognizes and shows love toward the young man, the gift is given sweetly.
Pete Hamill is a man who has defined what it is to be a writer for me. When I received my degree in journalism and wanted to be a novelist and to write about the Irish in New York, I was following Mr. Hamill’s path who was very popular in my Irish-American, New York household.
Thank you to the Irish American Writers and Artists Inc. for a great night of Pete Hamill.