LAUNCH or a WAKE?

Two years ago, I launched the paperback edition of TITO’S DEAD, an event that was attended by many of my close friends and family and a whole bunch of great supporters who turned up to wish me well. Among them were Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley, Boyzone star, Keith Duffy,  former Irish film censor, Seamus Smith, former World Snooker champion, Ken Doherty, Philomena Lynott  (mother of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott), Dr Patrick Treacy, Michael Jackson’s physician, Sean Arkins (The Original Rude Boys). It was a night to remember and good turnout for a former gossip columnist, even if, with a few notable exceptions, former newspaper colleagues were conspicuous by their absence. The greatest honour of the night, for me, was the arrival of film director, Terry McMahon, to launch the book. Terry is an uncompromising trailblazer in the film world, of whose talent the world is just getting scant glimpse, so far.

And when I say uncompromising, I mean that sincerely and in every literal sense of the word. Here’s what he said…

Film director, Terry McMahon launched Tito’s Dead on Thursday night. Here’s how he did it

Over twenty years ago, me and a good mate of mine, the working class playwright, Ken Harmon, were drunk enough and dumb enough to end up in one of those swanky wanky wannabe famous Dublin nightclubs. We were living in bedsits in the same house at the time and Ken had his hair dyed a ludicrous blue for a profit share play he’d been cast in. I’d already been arrested earlier that evening for jumping over the counter of a bar and pulling a pint for him when the bar staff refused to serve him. Citing “racism” – turns out blue hair is a race now – I pulled the pints, left the money on the counter and, as we sat down to drink them, the doors burst open and some of Dublin’s finest gave me an early lesson in immediate retribution.
They released me a few hours later and, in the days before mobile phones, it proved surprisingly easy to relocate a blue haired lunatic. So here we are in this semi-celebrity high-priced low-life shithole. Ken’s blazing blue hair is clashing with his red tracksuit bottoms and my chip on the shoulder is clashing with my stammering shyness. The management take one look at us and wonder what the hell they’re hiring bouncers for. All I want to do it get out but, to Ken’s inner Peeping Tom, the place feels, and I quote, “like a fishbowl of fanny” and he’s made eye contact with some woman with a fetish for blue and he’s convinced he’s getting some action.
“You could have been in a cell for the night,” Ken says to me, “instead you’re here as my wing man, with and a chick who might just want me, and, for all you know that chick might have a friend who might just be desperate enough to give you a sympathy hand-shandy.”
He didn’t actually say any of that but his hair kind of did. And before I can respond, Ken plunges deep into the heaving mass of dancing degenerates and I’m alone in a crowd.
And that’s when I clock the most relaxed man I’d ever seen. Sitting alone but not lonely in the only area that wasn’t heaving with wannabes. It’s not cordoned off with that red rope horseshit we use today but somehow everybody knows the territory is sacred and nobody goes near it. He’s wearing a hat. Wide brimmed. Indoors in a nightclub for Christ’s sake. The chip on the shoulder whispers in my ear, “Total wanker” and I make towards the exit.
But Ken has clicked with the colour fetishist and he drags me, her and her desperate friend – how did he know – towards the sacred area, explaining, “Come on, they kept the best seats for us!”
The dude in the hat barely raises an eyebrow as Ken and his newfound lady friend waste no time getting to grips with each other’s tonsils. The desperate friend wedges her pinky finger into her ear, vigorously burrows deep, pulls it back out again and examines the freshly exhumed mucus under her painted fingernail. I vomit a little into my mouth, which she interprets as desire, so she curls her lips and tells me the only thing her hand is going to be doing to my testes tonight is ripping them off if I even look at her. She didn’t actually say any of that but her earwax kind of did.
All the while the dude in the wide brimmed hat hasn’t moved but you can sense he’s taking everything in, like Polonious told him, “Give every man thy ear but few thy voice.” Most of us mere mortals don’t understand that to actively listen requires complete physiological engagement but this dude was already the Mister Miyagi of listening.
One of the bouncers did a double take when he saw us and, here we go again, I knew we were getting thrown out. But Miyagi calmly and silently raises a finger and, I shit you not, the bouncer vanishes. The color fetishist pulls her mouth off Ken, points to the sage in the wide brimmed hat and says, “I know him.” Miyagi tilts the hat upwards, no more than a millimeter, and pierces her with the most laid back eyes ever to grace the face of an Irishman. “Oh my God,” she says, “you’re, you’re…who are you?”
That was the first time I met Dermot. He likely doesn’t remember it because I discovered later that was just his style. Wrote for the society page in The Herald. No bile or attacks. Just observations. A lot said in the subtexts of single sentences but no spite. And often threw a bone to a complete unknown. A social diarist he was called. But with him there was no hierarchy. No red rope separation. No need to be top dog making everyone sniff his ass before deigning to piss on them. Warm, open and nonjudgmental, he made that nightmare night a pleasure and I have spoken to many people over the years for whom he did the same.
Saw him several more times over the years and he never lost that uncommon ability to listen and learn and teach all at once. Then I heard he gave it up. Things were changing in Ireland and those red ropes were being used to hang people. Fame at all cost and every cost irrelevant. Social diarists were replaced by gossip gimps. Character assassins. And the uglier the blood splatter the better. It wasn’t a place for listeners. No empathy? No problem. No talent? No problem. No qualms about turning facts to faeces? No.
Perhaps he could have stayed to teach the parasites a thing or two about people but they already knew who they wanted to be and some dude in a wide brimmed hat who harbored dreams of Hemingway was not it. So, like the bouncer in the nightclub, Dermot vanished from the social scene; except he vanished into the real world. The world of the writer.
Writing is hard. Okay, I know you’re not a soldier facing death every day or a worker breaking rocks but real writing is fucking hard. Anybody in the room who has tried to write a book beyond the vacuous knows just how hard it is. Your mind plays tricks on you. The world torments you. Everything that matters is on hold. Burdened by the reality that 99% of people who want to write a book never begin the first page. 99% of people who begin a book never finish the first chapter. 99% of people who begin chapter two never finish the book. 99% of people who finish the book never publish. Think about that statistic. This book would not have existed if this man didn’t have the dogged courage to fight against the demons of doubt, defeat and death itself.

Charlie Bukowski wrote about it in a short piece called :
So You Want To Be A Writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Unlike most of us, Dermot did it. Think about how few of us have the courage to create something out of nothing. Something for other people. Something to impact their reality and inspire their dreams.

Then think about buying this beautiful bastard’s book.

Then think about Christmas being only a few months away and buy another copy for some other degenerate fuck.

Ladies and gentlemen, the author of TITO”S DEAD, Dermott Hayes.

 

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9 thoughts on “LAUNCH or a WAKE?

  1. Excellent, Dermott! Thanks for sharing this. I am already the proud owner of the book, and it is on my soon-to-be-read list. If I read more than two books at a time when I am novel writing, I begin to lose track of things…Lol

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