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Requiem For A Mad Man Part II

The Continuing Saga of Brendan Kelly Tap Dancer

            This was , I’m guessing , 1992. But then  four years elapsed , time heals etc. and Brendan was onto his new thing  : Art Knockoffs and  Time Capsules. He and “his new backer” –the fabulously wealthy Park Avenue socialite Baron Von somebody ( there indeed was such a man , but his name escapes me ) were going to shake up the art world and after that the world in general with these concepts. As usual Kelly was way ahead of his time. The art process Giclee printing  would prove , years later, to be revolutionary and hugely profitable. (And I could see the potential because I had been an art publisher for years with Hammer/Knoedler Galleries  , and  a supplier to  Abbeville, Times Mirror, as you might recall ) And I knew I could sell it with or without his help — given time ,that is,  when the process matured. Which I , in fact , did –years later.  Kelly’s timing was Not  superb, as usual –three years before the damned process  took off. And here also,  is an illustration of another of his fatal flaws : he did not understand, incredibly,  that when you lie to people over and over again they tend not to believe you.

            In any case, he asked me if I could think of a first rate designer to design their logo and letterhead . And , of course, money was no object—worse came to worse , the Baron would have to sell off a slave  or two and free up funds. Money in the bank !

I recommended Deck Rees , chief designer for , and good friend and client. Kelly and the Baron , of course, stiffed him . I made up the $2000 or whatever it was out of sheer guilt, plus — I absolutely needed business from Murdoch’s Fox News ( or News Corporation– whatever Deck  was putting together at the time)   End of story.

            Of course , it was definitely not the end of story.

            Four years later I was  executive producer , head writer, ad sales and janitor for a financial drain called Out of Ireland  . Getting any financial  support for what was essentially a vanity project for Irish tourism was like pulling back molars. I was hemorrhaging cash (just as your father predicted I would  )  Into the breach strode Brendan with promises of backing by Aer Lingus , Allied Irish Bank , Tony O’Reilly of Heinz Ketchup ( a personal friend of his !-which I ignored  ).  At this point I was unwilling to give him business cards and I could see that stung . But I said sure- 25% off the top the moment the client’s check cleared , no hondling  ,  as long as he kept the card price –not the dead rabbi’s discount.[2]

            Within hours , it seems, Kelly walked into NBC sales  with some other lowlife—that  white haired scare crow who hustled inserts with him back in the day  , the same–   and announced to all and  in sundry that he was the board chairman ,  executive producer emeritus  and financial backer of Out of Ireland  . And that on the  basis of this illustrious success  they should fund his Millennium  Time Capsule Project which would tell the story of every person in America , and possibly China (Jiang Zemin , the General Secretary , and he shared a bowel cancer scare and were in correspondence) and the time capsules would be buried next to the Nevada Federal Nuclear Waste facility so no one would be tempted to dig them up for 10,000  years, and not incidentally, they should put their own DNA into one of the capsules because — who knows ? –in 10,000 plus years our descendants might be reconstituting DNA like we do frozen orange juice and it will be like a private sector version of the resurrection and therefore  without all the Virgin Mary and Holy Ghost bullshit, kowtowing to St. Peter etc.  and their insider  price for that would be?  Bagels, nada , zilch if they acted today. I have to admit   it did not sound all that crazy to me — I’ve been known to bet on the Jets

       Unfortunately for him, and me, three of the five people sitting at the table were not only old friends but one  had been actual lover and the other I’d been trying to get into bed for a decade –Gina Smith ( also RIP in a car crash soon  after the meeting )    They pretty much called him a liar, but here’s the thing . Joanne Cini, SR. VP of Broadcast Sales , the ex,   also immediately called me to ask if I was the liar ! –but that’s another long story. Suffice it to say after we dated , every statement I made to her required a verifiable witness and written affidavit , notarized [3] A Democrat, need I say more..

            Later, that same day,  Kelly called to tell me , in no uncertain terms, that I had poisoned the well against him and that we could no longer be friends. He was blubbering , but not enough , and not convincingly …

            And so those were the last words we ever spoke to one another. And yet  when I heard from you about his death   all the bad memories suddenly evaporated  and were replaced only with outrageous good times : scenes of high comedy , hours of  deep philosophical meanderings …. Plus  ,  his encouragement  to me , through thick and thin , which meant far more than he could ever have guessed  

        Even now, I can recall   in living color  a bus trip with all the celebrities of Irish commerce to QVC Shopping network in West Chester , Pa. The trip was incredibly boring , traffic jams the whole way, air conditioning busted.  Kelly and I, both,  looking to get something going—anything , including a fight—ended up   entertaining  the bus with SNL type skits, Kelly’s priceless impression of Richard Pryor , and an impromptu Friars Club  roast   of this bullet headed geek –funny guy , name ?—who was head of the Irish  Trade Board. In any case this little twerp on the bus was David O’Sullivan –the guy who ran the agency on W. 47th where another ex –  Orla O’Malley worked — told everyone in “the Irish community ” that Kelly and I were snorting cocaine on the bus. And O’Reilly testified to a judge ( and worse, to my mother !) that I was a cocaine abuser and had ruined her reputation, the chances for income in the advertising community etc. and that Sullivan could be subpoenaed for proof.   I really don’t give a fuck, btw , about that . I hated Out Of Ireland  and loathed O’Reilly at that point.[4] As Jim Murray , the LA Times sportswriter , said to me when he first viewed the show “Stay away from the Irish. They’ll break your heart every time . Or worse. Break your bank account. “

      But here was the amazing  truth :  Kelly couldn’t drink and didn’t much . Three beers and he was flying. People accused him of that old alkie trick of leaving a glass of wine on the table and hitting the flask in the men’s room . As they  did Senator  Daniel Patrick Moynihan –which brings up the following :    

       Scene : Paddy’s Day . 1995 . Grand Marshall Bill Flynn CEO of Mutual of America . The Out of Ireland crew  had gotten permission to videotape the gathering of Irish royalty  held in  David Sarnoff’s office at 30 Rock . The great Senator—and here I admit he was a genuine hero of mine [5]–reeking of whiskey at 10 AM   pointed out historical points of interest  on the magnificent Manhattan landscape below. Kelly mentioned that they had  met once before when they both  were attending the London School of Economics , but the good Senator let that one pass  –he was, after all,   raised in a Hell’s Kitchen  pub.  Also in attendance was Nicole Kidman –Kelly tried to get her phone number, jokingly she thought , but he was dead  serious and she (as Tom Cruise’s wife)  wasn’t entirely  disinterested. At age 57 Kelly was still 6’3″ , thinnish at the time  but well put together  and had a  great thatch of white hair . Women were fascinated by him .   But the quote  of the day was when he went up to Gerry Adams , president of Sinn Fein  and said . “I used to be able make a decent buck running guns to you guys but that’s  fizzled out  with all this peace talk bullshit. ” Then he  proceeded to hand   the pompous Mr. Adams his card and told him he could put together a magazine that would put Sinn Fein on the map . I thought Martin McGuinness( full time leprechaun , mindless twat and  now the First Minister Of Northern Ireland –if that don’t beat all  )  was going to try to reach up and  slap Kelly in his grinning face. Kelly pulled him to his chest ,  put him in a head lock and beat  a tattoo of noogies on his crown. And McGuinness would have shot him dead , then and there, given the chance.  Fearless. 

        Finally , I lied about not ever speaking to Kelly again. In the Fall of 2001 he called to find out if I’d lost anyone on 9/11[6] and we talked awhile . With bite my tongue trepidation I inquired after his life.  He told me he’d gained weight ( the downside of Manic Depression , which, truth be told, I am a martyr to myself ) , the lithium was killing his stomach and he was eating about 10 gallons of Yoghurt a day but on the plus side he’d recently been in contact with the Greek government and they were  fully tumescent on  the idea of a magazine and a floating pavilion in the East River devoted solely to goat products.

       Then there was this ” I ain’t gonna lie to you Billy , I called an old client and asked him to send a five dollar bill  to me in the mail. . The prick wouldn’t even do that.”  His last words to me  were  “You shouldn’t wear fishnet stockings if you look like a porpoise that was caught in one. ” I told him it was a retread but if he could put  it in iambic pentameter , to get back to me.

And hung up.

      I will regret to my dying day that I didn’t have the class to put the bill into an envelope and have it Fed-exed overnight. And I expect the powers that be will extend my time in purgatory for this grievous, but venial,  sin . So as my penance  I can only offer this trite remembrance and a fervent Ave Atque Vale to Brendan wherever you might be… brother . WBH 

[1] 1991 and  the run up to Clinton disaster , which I’m sure you look upon as the fucking  Age of Pericles, but no matter

  1. This is a prime example of one of his inside his own head jokes . The dead rabbi doesn’t pay anything –get it ? No.

[3] I would just like to know before I die how paying some rejectee from fast food  to put a stamp on a document verifies anything . No one knows—trust me.  

[4] I am going after the bitch if she is still running that travelling circus of AA candidates . I wrote all those articles she claims to have written for the Irish Times  and  Irish Independent and I made up every word . Not one of the quotes in any of those pieces were real people. Fuck her.

[5] We had met once before when we held an Art Fair in DC and he (Moynihan)  talked art knowledgably with everyone from OK Harris, Hirschl & Adler , Pace and even me and the reprehensible Maury Leibovitz , Armand Hammer’s hatchet man,  even though we were hustling Leroy Neiman prints and trying to palm off fake Faberge Easter Eggs and  patently stolen objects from Russia. When we approached Senator Pot Hole , A. Demato (sp). at some Georgetown   dive later that night he stared at us as if we were delivering a ransom note.  

[6] I had, and I told him about them—but that’s a story for another day , kiddies

William Benson Huber

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