Saturday, July 27, 2013

From The Archive: "But You Can Call Him Molly"

Alrighty, folks.

As of today, we are roughly five months out from our 40th anniversary. That's right. 1974-2014. Forty years. Big deal? Maybe.

Regardless of the implied weight of history that comes around during decade marks, the impending birthday does have us looking back to our roots. One thing's for sure: when you've been lucky enough to count the motley vanguard of the New Orleans media scene amongst your friends for a few decades, you end up with some pretty interesting historical documentation.

So. Beginning with this here blog post, we're going to go ahead and share with you some glimpses of yesteryear, including (but likely not limited to) a number of entertaining profiles of our founder: Jim Monaghan, Sr. We hope you enjoy! (And if you don't, well, there's plenty of other weird stuff on the internet to waste your time on. Why are you still here?)

But You Can Call Him Molly
New Orleans Magazine: February, 1979
by Clarence Doucet


Photo by Rosemary Buckley
Jim Monaghan is a modern ribald classic; Uninhibited, irreverent, and wary of conventional mores. He says his idea of culture is seeing a lady of the evening attempting to charm a prospect on a foggy night in Pirate's Alley alongside St. Louis Cathedral.

Irreverent? Monaghan's plans on the eve of last December 25 included burning a Christmas tree in effigy. The tree was decorated with cash register tape.

"Go ahead, say anything you want," he says. "When you have a sweetheart personality like mine, anything's okay."

Monaghan has cashed in on what he calls his Irish lineage ("that's not linen," he emphasizes. "It's l-i-n-e-a-g-e.") to be come one of the French Quarter's best known saloonkeepers.

A native of Zanesville, Ohio, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1956 to 1965, explaining, "I stayed that long because I had little things called mouths to feed. Don't forget, the Republicans were in office."

Once out of the service, he began selling welding supplies in an eight-state area in the Midwest. "Of course I sold welding supplies. How else would all those bridges have fallen down if it wasn't for me?"

In late 1970 he got "tired of Chicago, cold weather, freeways, and Mayor Daley." One day, he explains, "I was on I-94 going to Addison, Illinois, and it was snowing like hell. On the radio there was an Eastern Airlines commercial narrated by Orson Welles saying I should fly the wings of man to New Orleans and once there, drink cutsie-poo coffee and eat doughnuts called beignets at the Cafe du Monde. So. Carol and I came."

Jim and Carol Monaghan shopped around and ended up buying a pastry and sandwich shop on Royal called Patio Royale. Later in 1971 he purchased a place on Toulouse off Bourbon known as Hurricane Billiards. "It was a lovely name, wasn't it. The place was a cesspool of filth and a punch-up parlor especiale."

He got rid of the pool tables, called the joint Molly's Irish Pub, and made Irish coffee the specialty of the house. That's when the Notre Dame football team came to town and they made Molly's Irish Pub their headquarters (and they have ever since on subsequent visits) putting enough extra bucks in the cash register to pay for the 1972 license.

Monaghan opened (and closed) two other places in short order. The problem with one, Jon Jason's, was that "the French Quarter wasn't ready for a fondueria. The customers kept getting food all over their clothes," he says.

The second fatality was Easy Eddie's, a jazz parlor on St. Peter Street.

He also opened Fritzel's with Gunther Suetter, who later bought out Monaghan's interest.

"Next came Decatur Street," he says, referring to the joint that is his favorite, "Molly's at the Market," the old Sammy Joe's Bar in the 1100 block.

He bought the place late in 1973 an in 1974, the bar and upstairs apartment suffered heavy damage from a fire. Monaghan had a large, heavy sheet of plastic placed on the second floor above the bar so he could keep the joint open, but debris and water would sometimes fall downstairs.

Monaghan also purchased the Abbey. He is part-owner of Al's Backstage.

A man who likes to drink with his customers, it's not unusual for him to be banished from his own bars.

"Of all the joints," he says, "the only one I haven't been kicked out of yet is the Backstage. That's probably because it's new and I always go in there incognito. They think two doctors own the place and that I'm one of them."

His activity does not begin and end with selling drinks. A few years ago, he and Eddie Griffin, another bar owner, formed the Downtown Irish Club with eight members. Today, the organization boasts some 300 members.

Also, he introduced Irish coffee to the Food Fest, and each year he has an Irish coffee booth at the Children's Hospital fair with all the profits going to the hospital. "We help crippled children walk with Irish whiskey," he says.

Monaghan also likes to spring surprises on people, particularly Carol. Sometimes they backfire.

On the morning of her birthday a few years ago, he called her from Molly's at the Market. There was a crisis, he said, his voice agitated. The crisis was no surprise. She had to get down there right away. More agitation. This, too, was not surprising. When she arrived, though, she was greeted by a brand new car, wrapped and with ribbons, occupying half the Market's floor space.

On another occasion; when Carol was returning to the city, Monaghan and a friend arrived at the airport wearing only black raincoats and shoes and socks. (They did have shorts on underneath.) The plan? To greet Carol with a "flash" as she entered the terminal with the other travelers.

The plane was late.

Monaghan and his friend had to sit in the airport lounge in their strange outfits for an hour and a half waiting.

Sometimes his outspoken nature comes close to getting him in trouble. He and the same friend, out for a night of revelry, decided to sleep in Jackson Square, passing it at 6 a.m. as the gates were being opened. A short time later, a uniformed policeman woke them.

A bewildered Monaghan asked, "How come you let the hippies sleep here and successful businessman you make move on?"

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Good Man Remembered: RIP, Asa French

In the words of the Erin Rose:
Photo Courtesy of Mollie Wallace
"As of June 30th at 11:06pm, a fine human being, great friend, NOPD officer for 28 years in the French Quarter, a Father by the name of Asa French has moved on to greener pastures. We will forever miss that Vivacious Coonass. And his fried turkeys, too..."

Asa French will be remembered with a visitation from 4pm-7pm on Sunday, July 7 at Leitz-Eagan  funeral home, 4747 Veterans Boulevard in Metairie.

At 2pm on Saturday, July 13th, Asa's life will be celebrated with a second line through the French Quarter. The parade will be led by the Storyville Stompers and will begin and end at The Erin Rose, 811 Conti Street.