I ONCE KNEW A DARK AND SECRET PLACE, WHERE ONE COULD DRINK ILLEGALLY AFTER A PERFORMANCE. CONVENIENTLY, IT WAS JUST ACROSS FROM THE GATE THEATER
As I have mentioned previously, my mother was outrageous, charismatic, and unstoppable. As a consequence, whenever we went to the Gate theater, after we had gone back-stage, we would troop across to Groom’s Hotel to have a drink or two. ‘We’ typically consisted of my mother, step-father, my sister Maxine, and myself; and sometimes we had a friend or two along.
I won’t attempt to describe Ireland’s liquor laws in those days, but the gist, as it relates to this story, was that this was illegal for at least two reasons. Firstly, it was after hours; and secondly I was a minor throughout this period; as was Maxine, who is younger than me by nearly two years. On the other hand, the owner of the hotel was the secretary of Ireland’s main political party, and government ministers often drank there. As a consequence, the Gardai (Ireland’s police) rarely raided the place even though they knew perfectly well was was going on. Unlike the U.S., Ireland does not pride itself on being a nation of laws. It is more a nation which understands human nature. It is one of Ireland’s most attractive qualities.
It was legal to drink after hours if you were resident in the hotel. Accordingly, although Grooms only had something like twelve rooms, many dozens of the regulars were technically booked in there – including a useful sprinkling of judges. If all had slept there at the same time, they would have had to have been packed in like anchovies. Looking back on it all, I suspect the rooms were put to other uses. The theatrical life is fueled to no small extent by sex.
I loved Grooms because it was a chance to see all kinds of famous actors close up, and more often than not, one or more would join us at our table; if we could get a table. Sometimes, the place was as crowded as a Tokyo subway car in rush hour – and I speak from first hand experience in both locations.
Not only local actors went there, but visiting actors invariably found their way there too. We had quite a crop of these because we had a movie studios some miles south of Dublin, Ardmore Studies, (it is still very much in action) and there was normally a film being shot there. My favorite, that I can recall, was Robert Mitchum, who came to Ireland on a number of occasions – and spent considerable time there filming Ryan’s Daughter directed by David Lean of Lawrence of Arabia fame.
Rumor has it, Mitchum once punched someone who was pestering him in the back room of Groom’s Bar, but I fear I missed that particular incident.
They say you should write about what you know. Thanks to my outrageous mother and the theater, I came to know a great deal at quite an early age; and some of it was even legal. That said, I was never tempted to become an actor despite the glitz, and the glamor, and the numerous truly stunning women.
My first serious girlfriend was an actress; but book writing captured me instead. Nonetheless all my published books have been optioned for the movies.
My eldest daughter, Kira O’Reilly, is a successful performance artist, and my eldest son, Christian O’Reilly, is an award winning playwright and one of his works has been filmed. One way or another, show business seems to be in our blood.
The black sheep of the family, my son, Shane O’Reilly, is a banker. Zut alors! What can one say!