A Touch of The Whore
|"God Bless Dinny Daugherty"--stage whispered 'Bloomers' Connolly--"There wasn't a touch of the whore in him". The year was 1947 and it was one of many requiem toasts given by his fellow longshoremen in the crowded kitchen of his home in Charlestown Ma. The six-room flat in a three-storied building--called a '3 decker' by natives, was filled beyond capacity. John F Kennedy, a future president of the United States is holding a paper cup full of Bushnell's finest whiskey and listening to the stories of the deceased Dinny Daugherty. Billy Sutton the coordinator of the John F Kennedy for US House of Representatives for Ward 11--covering Charleston and North Cambridge--is teaching the young Navy officer the basics of all politics--that it's local and people like to be asked. As he maneuvers his man through the bizarre decorum associated with an Irish wake one 'Peaches' Flynn, a massive 6 foot 4 broken nosed ex pug--has his arm around the young candidate--telling him how 'Bloomers' earned his nickname. "When working a Freighter, he found a crate full of silk underwear and quickly donned 60 or so panties--later in the day--dead drunk--he fell over the side and was hospitalized for immersion--and by law,--his possessions were itemized". Peaches then topped off JFK's drink and began singing and encouraging the group to join in:
There were writers, there were fighters, lots of dynamiters.
There were beer wine and whiskey and a cake;
There were men in high positions, there were Irish politicians.
And they all got drunk at Steve O'Donnell's wake. (wiki:)
JFK thought better of asking 'Peaches' how he came by his 'moniker' but was to adopt the 'whore' phrase and use it many times over the years describing his political and private enemies.
The House wake, common in the Irish enclaves of Boston, Chicago, and New York until the mid-forties; is the result of the Irish diaspora of the 1840s and was usually a necessity, not a preference. With its unconventional custom and eccentric behavior, it is considered by many as being ribald and disrespectful. They fail to understand that the bereaved are the children and grandchildren of the 1st Holocaust. Their parents and grandparents religion left them vulnerable to the British extermination plan. The Irish home wake was many things--a reunion from geographical separation--a job possibility--a rekindled romance or match--a resentment resolved--and for many, to eat or to drink more than you could afford. Of course with alcohol being the 'social lubricant', the noise decibel 'was off the wall', the people expressing their condolences are competing with a kitchen full of loud--well-imbibed mourners. The halls and stairwells are packed with humanity far beyond capacity, with drinks and sandwiches and children appearing and disappearing. Everybody talks, it's a cacophony of well-wishers, disagreements-sports-talk-and the life-blood of any Irish interaction--gossip. The funeral home with its solemn funeral director and his three or four aged creeptonian ushers somberly instilling a death-row atmosphere on the proceeding has successfully put the 'Irish home wake to rest.
In the late forties, Joe Kennedy prevailed on his second-oldest son Jack to run for political office. Everyone knew that he had been grooming his son Joe for a political career; unfortunately, his plane went down in flames over Europe on a WW2 secret mission. In early September 1947 James Micheal Curley, the Representative of Ward 11 announced he would not seek re-election--his 'stepping down' coincided with the rumors of the Kennedy interest in his office. His future improved dramatically when his personal and financial difficulties seemed to abate. Curley's overextended mansion-like home in Jamaica Plain became mortgage-free--he received pardons from then-President Truman and a pressured State Legislature awarded him a lifetime retirement pension. Being a one-time Governor of Massachusetts--having served two terms US House of Representatives--Four-times Mayor of Boston--part of his last term In a Federal prison--he had his share of enemies and was considered by many to be a rogue and political fraud. It was rumored he won his first election by alluding to his opponent as a "notorious heterosexual" and despite the railings and outrage of Bostons Catholic Cardinal O'Connell and the four largest area newspapers who continually demanded his 'scalp'--the Irish Catholic voters continued to put him back into Office. There were many who championed him, as did Edwin O'Connor in his best-selling novel 'The purple Shamrock'. The novel showed a kind and benevolent Curley with 'A slight touch of the whore'. It became a nationally popular movie called 'The Last Hurrah' starring Spencer Tracy
When Joseph Kennedy, in a rare political appearance, announced the candidacy of JFK--the unique platform included a direct appeal to women voters. Cambridge councilman Mike Neville--the initial favorite in the House race--would be the first casualty of that direct appeal to women. At the Invitation of Rose Kennedy and her daughters, over 1400 ladies from North Cambridge and Charlestown were invited for Tea at the Hotel Commander Grand Ballroom in Harvard Square Cambridge. The chance that any of these 1400 women ever being at this hotel other than working there were slim. They came--with eligible daughters in tow--to meet the young bachelor candidate. Rose Kennedy spoke for her son, as her daughters Eunice, Patricia, and Jean 'worked the room'; with father Joe and brothers Bobby and Ted in the background, These 'Tea's were held in Knights of Columbus halls and church basements--displaying the beginnings of that formidable machine that would capture the Democratic party and eventually the presidency. JFK won his first race by 10,000 votes.