Taxi rank, Dublin, late ’80s:
I’m waiting for my date outside Mulligan’s on Poolbeg Street. Along bounces Johnny Logan. He’s at the peak of his success, “What’s Another Year?” is everywhere. Well-wishers wave from across the street. He’s everybody’s darling, the toast of the nation. Johnny’s long golden locks are ironed. He wears leather flip-flops, stone-washed jeans and a yellow cardigan, open over a white tee-shirt.
ME: Hey Johnny. How’s the form?
JL: Farm? What do you mean “farm?”
ME: Sorry, acoustics. Form.
JL: The form is tippity-top.
ME: Okay, tippity-top. Gig tonight?
JL: Nah, yesterday. Out on the town tonight.
ME: Hence the lemon cardigan?
JL: Not bad is it?
JL: It’s really not too much, is it? Be honest.
ME: It really suits you.
JL: Ah! Thanks man! What’s your name by the way?
JL: See you again, Kev!
ME: What’s another year?
Paris, later ’80s:
I’m serving pints of porter to boorish ex-patriots in an Irish pub named “A La Gloire du Goblet de Godot de Mauroy.” People call it “Molly’s.” It’s a popular haunt for ex-foreign legionnaires, German au-pairs, and International Herald Tribune reporters. It’s the type of clientele that only rarely causes problems. The owner of Molly’s is a seven-foot-tall, ginger-haired Irishman called Anto. Anto has Marty Feldman eyes and is married to Veronique, an Air France stewardess since when it was still politically correct to call them so. They spent their honeymoon on Guadeloupe. Those were days.
Guadeloupe, mid ’70s:
Anto is an accomplished snorkeller. Fins on, goggles on, snorkel on:
ANTO: “Vero, I’ll be back for lunch.”
VERONIQUE: “Oui cheri, bye, bye.”
But he doesn’t come back for lunch, or dinner or anything… until 3 days later. Vero is not a happy newly-wed. Anto has alcohol poisoning, sun-stroke and raves constantly about easy money, green iguanas and Roman Polanski.
ANTO: “Underwater collision. Paddling, fish! … tuuuuuuuuurrrn, whack! whup!! glug!!! Fins lost, goggles off, snorkel in ear. Heads through water. ‘I know you!’ – ‘Ah, oui?’ – ‘You’re Roman Polanski!’ – ‘Oui, monsieur. Echanté’ – ‘I’m Anto.’
Anto and Roman Polanski share other passions apart from snorkelling: poker, Jacques Brel songs, but mostly clear rum over brown sugar and freshly crushed limes. Polanski invites Anto for a boat ride to the neighbouring island, “L’Île des Saintes.”
[fun note: The island is populated by conspicuously Caucasian-looking, dreadlocked Rastafarians. When, after the 1789 French revolution, it becomes clear that Napoleon will not grant autonomy to the French province of Brittany, three shiploads of Breton fishermen leave, sail west, and settle on the Caribbean island.]
Tourists flock to “L’Île des Saintes” to catch a glimpse of the endemic endangered green iguana. Polanski knows exactly where to find it: the garbage dump. While waiting for the iguana, Anto suggests a hand of poker to pass the time. They use bottle caps for tokens and polish off a pint of rum. Polanski loses half a million (old) French francs when he pays 11 Old Jamaican caps to see Anto, who had raised him 4 Captain Morgan. Anto turns over two pair: aces and eights, all of them black. Sacré bleu. Polanski offers an IOU but Anto insists they sail straight to the American Express office at Point de Pitre. Polanski acquiesces. He pays his debt and they part on cordial terms. Anto uses his winnings to appease Vero, who has a stormy marriage ahead, and buy Molly’s Pub on Rue Godot de Mauroy.
Paris, late ’80s:
It’s a quiet Tuesday evening at Molly’s. Two hammered Herald Tribune hacks prop up the bar. I’m alone behind the bar and polish glasses. Background music: “Her name is Rio and she dances on the…” Door opens, enter Johnny Logan with dark leggy mysterious beauty on arm. I realize immediately that he is cheating on his wife, as I know for a fact that he’s married to a short rotund Irish woman. After my first encounter with JL, my friend JD confided with me that JL was in fact having an affair with a (female) staff-sergeant in the Israeli army. QED.
HIM: Bonsoir! Half a Guinness and a packet of cheese ‘n’ onion, please.
ME: Coming up. And for the lady?
(Lady – sultry, pouts, looks away disapprovingly)
HIM: Eh, nothing mate, thanks.
(short interlude while I attend to Guinness)
ME: Here you are, sir. That’ll be 28 francs, please.
HIM: (hands over 30) Keep the change.
ME: Cheers, thanks. Nice jacket, by the way. Last time we met you were wearing a lemon cardigan.
HIM: We’ve met? Sorry, you’ll have to remind me.
ME: Couple of years back in Dublin. I wouldn’t expect you to remember. It was just after the Eurovision Song Contest, outside Mulligan’s.
HIM: Mulligan’s? Yeah, I know Mulligan’s. But, sorry mate, no recollection.
ME: No big deal. Enjoying Paris?
HIM: Much more, now I have a Guinness. What’s your name by the way?
HIM: Sláinte, Kev!
ME: Cheers buddy!
HIM: A lemon cardigan? I’m sure I’d remember a lemon cardigan.
ME: Hey, what’s another year?
Molly’s, 4 days later (7PM Saturday):
I arrive for my shift to more tumultuous laughter than is usual, and some applause. I take this to indicate that:
A) My ex-girlfriends are in the general vicinity, drunk and fighting, again.
B) Manchester City Football Club has humiliated itself, again.
C) I am the butt of an insider joke.
D) All of the above.
Anto is busy providing anecdotal input to a group of girls from a local travel agency who, having ignored me since I arrived in Paris 6 months previously, now suddenly seem keen on making my acquaintance. I notice Johnny Logan and his Israeli lover (back again!), together with an unidentified older couple, at table twelve. I approach FERGUS (chef du bar), BRENDAN (barman), CHARLEY (commis du bar), and ROSIE (waitress).
ME: Hi guys, busy Happy Hour?
FERG: An interesting one, Kev. Do me a favour? … Three Midleton Whiskey and a Perrier?
ME: Sure, coming up … (short interlude) … here you go. Hey, I see Johnny Logan’s back again … with his parents, maybe? … funny … (his Israeli lover sitting with what’s maybe his folks? Hmmm).
CHARLEY: Yeah. Coincidence, isn’t it?
ME: Why’s that then?
CHARLEY: Just that, eh … so is Simon LeBon, from Duran Duran? I mean … at table twelve.
ME: Huh? Where these drink going?
FERGUS: Table twelve Kev, table twelve.
Table 12, (shortly thereafter):
HIM: Hey, Kev. Busy today, ehh? This is my mum and dad.
HIS’s DAD: Hello Kev. What a great little bar. Your place is it?
ME: (slightly tongue-tied) Ehhh, I ehh, um …
HIS’s MUM: Do you have crisps, dear?
(background music, louder than usual: “Her name is Rio and she…”)
HIM: Arrghh! Wish they wouldn’t do that.
ME: Erhhh …
HIM: You okay Kev? Look a bit pale. Jasmine, doesn’t Kev look pale?
ME: Erhhhh. I … eh …
HIM: Want to sit down Kev?
ME: … have a confession to make.
HIM: (suddenly quite serious) Huh?
ME: It’s just that, … I thought you were….
HIM: You thought I was…?
HIM: Erhhh? What?
ME: Erhh … nothing. What flavour crisps would you like?