In no special order of sort-of-amazingness…
1) Most amazing of all – He is still alive AND he still has his hair!
2) Although he was reared in Brooklyn by his adoptive parents who gave him the name John Farrell, John was, in fact, born in Ireland during the grim 1950s. Given that Farrell moved to Ireland from New York in 1981 and was to live there for the next two decades, it is surprising to learn that he was not aware of his having been born there until 3 years ago, when his mother died. (Farrell successfully performed a monologue about it at Dixon Place: 3 Lies About Brooklyn)
3) As an outgrowth of his role as a consultant for Improbable Investments, Farrell came on board when the property was acquired and refurbished in 1999/2000 with a view to it’s becoming a boutique b ‘n’ b in the Hamptons. He was subsequently called in to rescue the 2004 season. He went on to also manage the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He ran the place in the manner of a generous host opening his doors to a select few friends. Sometimes this required discret attentiveness (as when Carl Bernstein stayed with his then new bride, Christina) but sometimes it involved throwing exclusive parties as he hosted for Calvin Klein, Black Entertainment TV and Moet-Chandon (among others)
4) At the age of 17, John was awarded a full scholarship to Columbia College in New York.
5) Two of Farrell’s former theatre students in Dublin went on to win prestigious Tony Awards in New York City: Brian O’Byrne and the late Tom Murphy
6) Sid Vicous was never popular in New York City. Still, after witnessing the alleged altercation between himself and Patti Smith’s brother, Todd, at Hurrah’s soon after he posted bond for the murder of Nancy Spungen, Farrell found himself taking Sid’s side. He says: “Sid didn’t do it. The broken Heinekein bottle was Todd’s. Sid was drinking what looked like a gin & tonic and was still holding it after Todd came at him. I was standing about three feet away from him and it was a pretty thin crowd that night.” Farrell was very excited to testify in Sid’s defense as he imagined his hero, Patti Smith hurling abuse at him from the back the courtroom. Sadly for Farrell, Sid was dead within a few days and the case never went to court.
7) When Riverdance returned to Ireland with a gala opening at The Point Theatre, actress Maureen O’Hara was invited to be the guest of honour: Farrell was selected to be her walker. Despite having a lovely night with the still feisty and funny screen-legend, Farrell was baffled as to why he’d been asked. Although the radio show he worked for, The Gerry Ryan Show , was deeply tied-in with promoting the event (Gerry himself had hosted the Eurovision Song Contest the year before, where Riverdance began it’s life as the 12 minute interval act) John knew his skills as a bodyguard were risible. He was told in advance that she liked her whiskey. So did he. Farrell wasn’t asked to bridle her – just to be sure she didn’t fall down. Only afterwards was he informed that Ms. O’Hara had asked personally for him, having heard Farrell on the programme and finding she liked his voice.
8) At 22 John was the civilian escort of Miss Nancy Shields Divine at the 1976 International Debutante Ball at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. Dubbed the United Nations of Coming Out Balls, this invitation-only fixture has long been considered the most prestigious and exclusive debutante ball in the world. It’s patrons have included included Prince Ivan Sergeyevich Obolensky, H.R.H. Princess Chantal of France, H.S.H. Princess Marie-Christine of Liechtenstein, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, the Count and Countess Christoph von Habsburg and H.R.H. Princess Maria Beatrice di Savoia. A private dinner was hosted by Miss Divine’s family at the Union Club prior to the ball. (If you’re interested in what happened afterwards make a note to see 3 Lies About Brooklyn the next time it is performed)
9) Yes, it’s true. Farrell is so tired of being asked about this episode that he wanted to clear it up here. Back in 1979 he and Haring used to attend the St Mark’s in the Bowery open poetry readings, though each were attempting something closer to performance art. “It was like bringing whiskey to an A.A. meeting. Everyone else hated us, so naturally, that drew us together.” Although Farrell describes it as a “brief affair”, he answers when asked how long it lasted, “Twenty-minutes? Half-an-hour tops.” He quickly adds, “In New York in 1979, twenty minutes really bordered on the long-term. Besides I totally loved his subway stuff – and did so long before knowing he was the culprit. It flattered him and, as we all know, flattery is an eternal “aphrodisiac.”
10) In 1978 he escorted legendry New York transsexual night club entertainer, International Chrysis to a select dinner at Le Caravalle hosted by Salvador Dali which featured a Russian Service. Following dinner the guests made off in two limos for Studio 54, though John’s limo had to make an unscheduled stop in a less salubrious neighbourhood as Chyrsis needed to stop off and collect something prior to our making the grandest of entrances and being personally escorted to the VIP section by Steve Rubell.
11) Everyone in Ireland is familiar with Senator David Norris’ one-man show about James Joyce. He’s toured the world with it, a defacto ambassador for Irish arts and culture. But did you know that Farrell directed the first version of it for a benefit performance at The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.
12) He is likely the only person to have been at both the final performance of Hello, Dolly! (27 Dec., 1970) which was to prove Ethel Merman’s final Broadway appearance, (Weirdly, it was the only show I knew of that closed following a matinee) AND the world premiere of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’s seminal Opera, Einstein on the Beach at the MET on 22 November, 1976. (And, yes, he did see David Bowie going into the gents)
NOTE: WITH SO MUCH AMAZNIGNESS TO GO AROUND THIS PAGE WILL ROTATE BOTH TRIVIAL AND LIFE-CHANGING TID-BITS ON A REGULAR BASIS!
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