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Donahue’s big night

Front row: Brian Dennehy and Phil Donahue; middle row: Marlo Thomas, Arlene Alda and Elaine May; top row: Rosie O'Donnell, Alan Alda and the 2014 O'Neill award recipient Patricia Harty.


By John A. Brennan

If playwright Eugene O’Neill was a dweller on the threshold at the gathering in The Manhattan Club in New York City on his birthday, Oct. 16, he would undoubtedly have felt that he had died and been resurrected in Ireland, the land of his noble ancestors. The large space above Rosie O’Grady’s famous Manhattan restaurant was filled to capacity with an audience eager to pay homage to the world-renowned and cutting-edge talk show host, Phil Donahue. Mr. Donahue, accompanied by his wife, Marlo Thomas, was there to receive the well-deserved honor of being chosen as the 2017 recipient of the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Hosted yearly by the New-York-based national non-profit, Irish American Writers and Artists, Inc. (IAW&A), the 2017 award ceremony was a who’s who of multi-talented individuals who trace their lineage to Ireland. First, the Notre Dame Glee Club a choral group from the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Donahue's alma mater, serenaded him and then IAW&A vice-president Mary Pat Kelly gave the opening address. Larry Kirwan, IAW&A’s president and leader of the famous Celtic Rock band, Black 47, welcomed everyone in his inimitable style. Irish Consul General Ciaran Madden addressed the audience stressing the importance of the evening's gathering. What followed was an unforgettable evening of raucous laughter and sheer enjoyment of just being Irish and just being there.

Alan Alda and Brian Dennehy, who kicked off with the first of many of the evening’s accolades. Elaine May lit up the room with her beautiful smile. Comedienne Rosie O’Donnell brought the house down with her razor-sharp wit and Mr. Donahue’s wife, Marlo Thomas, in turn paid homage to her husband in song. IAW&A members Maria Deasy, Brendan Costello, noted poet Eamonn Wall and IAW&A treasurer and salon-producer John Kearns did the introductions while Mark Butler and several of the other IAW&A members worked tirelessly behind the curtain ensuring a smooth, enjoyable time for everyone in attendance. Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy read a congratulatory message for Phil Donahue from Gloria Steinem and Malachy McCourt did the honor of presenting Mr. Donahue with the award.

Later, Malachy McCourt, our spiritual godfather and guru, as former IAW&A president T.J. English dubbed him, closed the show with his rendition of the timeless classic, "Will ye go Lassie, go.” Needless to say, this brought the audience to their feet once again. It’s no wonder that last night’s memorable event, an event filled with laughter, cheering and standing ovations, will be one for the ages, making everyone glad to have been a part of it all.