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Wednesdays with Wade: Tinker Bell Talks!

Wade Sampson shares some of Disney historian Jim Korkis’s notes from and interview with original Tinker Bell model Margaret Kerry.

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I’d like to take this column to give a very big plug to Margaret Kerry’s new website. For those readers who liked my earlier column on Disneyland’s first Tinker Bells, then this will be a “must visit” site for you. (And Disney Archivist Dave Smith explained why “Tinker Bell” is two words because in the Disney animated film, Captain Hook refers to her as “Miss Bell”.)

For those of you not familiar with Margaret Kerry, Margaret’s career goes back to when she performed in the “Our Gang” series and films like Eddie Cantor’s “If You Knew Susie”. “The Charlie Ruggles Show,” one of the first network television family sitcoms on ABC, cast Margaret as the eldest daughter, Sharon. The final episode was her character’s wedding and honeymoon and it turned out to be a major media event.

Later, Margaret married Producer *** Brown and found a new career as a voice over artist in her husband’s uniquely animated productions. She is the voice of Spinner and Paddlefoot and the females in the first animated series to feature SYNCHRO-VOX (which is basically human talking lips superimposed on a cartoon drawing,) “Clutch Cargo”. “Captain Fathom” and “Space Angel” followed. Margaret can also be seen in many of the live-action segments that open and close the 139 episodes of “The New Three Stooges,” as well as be heard in the animated portion voicing all the kids, females, and various odd characters.

However, for readers of this website, Margaret’s most memorable theatrical performance was to be the live action reference model for the character of Tinker Bell in Disney’s animated “Peter Pan” at the tender age of twenty-two. Despite Walt himself in a magazine quote leading the public to believe that Tinker Bell was inspired by Marilyn Monroe, animator Marc Davis very loudly and frequently emphasized that it was Margaret who provided the physical inspiration.

Margaret is currently finishing up her autobiographical scrapbook entitled “Tinker Bell Talks: Tales of a Pixie Dusted Life”.

In October 2003, I got to accompany Disney Historian Jim Korkis as he walked Margaret around the World Showcase at Epcot. Margaret is a member of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society and made her first trip to Walt Disney World for the re-dedication of the Roger E. Broggie engine. Jim was one of the speakers at the event but he is also a great interviewer who is often able to get unique stories out of someone. If you don’t believe me, check out his Ward Kimball interview that will be appearing in the second volume of “Walt’s People” out this summer. Jim got Ward to share stories that have never appeared anywhere else.

So to help publicize Margaret’s site, I asked Jim if I could share some of the notes he took while talking with Margaret that afternoon. However, those notes really don’t capture the experience of walking with those two and seeing Margaret wearing her “original Tinker Bell” nametag and so generously giving her autograph to those around World Showcase who recognized Jim and Jim proudly introducing her and quietly stepping back so the spotlight could shine on Margaret. (Jim even cleverly had some Tinker Bell pictures with him for Margaret to shine for her many fans.)

In his e-mail, Jim said, “Anything to help Margaret! She is a delightful, intelligent and classy woman who will never age. She has more energy than the eighteen year olds I mentor. I have been patiently waiting for her book since we discussed it over lunch at the Germany pavilion at Epcot. I still treasure the card of sympathy she sent when my father passed away several months ago. I hope that this brief glimpse at our conversation will encourage readers to not only visit her website but to buy her book. And tell Margaret I am sorry I missed her birthday and next time I am the one paying for the lunch!”

So here are some of Disney Historian Jim Korkis’s notes of Margaret Kerry’s memories from that sunny afternoon in October 2003:

“I had an agent who sent me over for the Disney audition for PETER PAN. How do you audition for animation and for a character who doesn’t speak? At home I had a room set up…my dance room…with all these mirrors and a bar, etc….so I got this little record player and put on an instrumental record and I worked up a pantomime to the beat of the record of making breakfast. You know, carrying eggs and maybe dropping one, etc. So the next day I went to the studio and took the record player and put on the record and did this mime I had created. I believe there were three people there…probably Marc Davis and Gerry Geronomi and somebody else I can’t remember right now. Anyway, they gave me some direction of ‘look up as if you see such and such’, etc. Now my memory is that they offered me the job there and then but it may have been not until I got home that I got the offer.

“Anyway, they said, ‘at your convenience, please come in on Monday’ and that sounded odd to me so I pushed it and said ‘How about 10:00?’ and they said ‘Fine’. So I showed up and was in a bathing suit….and tennis shoes! You can see it in a publicity photo or two and they offered to get me ballet slippers and I told them I had those at home and I would bring them in the next day and I did.

“They called me ‘Two Take Tink’ because I would get it right the first time and then they would have me do it a second time for ‘safety’. I was so young and foolish. I could have made a lot more money messing things up so they would have to do it over and over. I am the one who suggested they bring in Roland Dupree to body double Peter. Roland was a terrific dancer but never grew beyond five foot five so never became a romantic lead dancer.”

“Kathyrn Beaumont (the voice of Wendy in the film who also participated in the live action sessions) makes a separation between then and now. The work she did for Disney was back then. I went to her classroom when she was a teacher and told stories and did voices for her students…but only under the stipulation that I never reveal to them that Kathyrn had done any work for Disney.

“I did a voice for one of the mermaids and they encouraged us to ad-lib and come up with our own lines and I ad-libbed a little lisp for mine. There were three of us. June Foray and someone else. (Jim’s note: “probably Connie Hilton”) I also did a voice reading for the Indian squaw but June ended up getting that and I also did a couple of lines for Michael but I don’t think they were ever used. I think they had me do them for safety reasons…just in case.”

Jim is not just an expert in Disney but in a host of other areas and their conversation wandered into all of Margaret’s career and some wonderful anecdotes including the fact that she loved doing “The Charlie Ruggles” Show” but had never seen an episode. Someone had some kinescopes and showed her four shows and she said, “Damn, I was good! And nobody ever told me. The director, unlike a movie director, was up in that glass booth and he never told me if I was doing well or not.”

One of the announcers was Hal Smith and he was doing a live commercial for Dr. Ross dog food and the animal was so hungry he gulped down the food and threw up on Hal. Hal just picked up the puppy and petted him and said, “Did you eat too fast because you just love Dr. Ross dog food? Don’t worry, Dr. Ross will take good care of you, etc.” without missing a beat.

One time, Margaret and her husband took their two children to the Brown Derby on Hollywood Blvd. at Christmas and Hal came out dressed as Santa and saw the kids and started talking to them and Santa just knew everything about them. He even called Margaret’s daughter by a pet family name. The kids were enthralled. Hal even made sure he didn’t finish by going to his car in the parking lot but walking the other way until they were all out of sight.

Her first husband was *** Brown who produced “Clutch Cargo”. As I mentioned earlier, Margaret did voices with Brown’s “SYNCHRO-VOX” system. They had a strap around the top of her head to hold her face still and they painted white around her mouth (and different color lipstick for each character) and had a cardboard circle matte around her face when they filmed. She vaguely remembers that the lines must have been off to the side for her to see and read.

She also remembers that Brown was developing several series including one that was very similar to “Jonny Quest”. One that she loved was “Golden Eagle” about this World War I fighter pilot who donned the goggles and flight mask (like a superhero) to become the Golden Eagle in this World War I plane. The plane would even scream when it went into a dive like a screaming eagle. They had a “horizontal multiplane camera” where they could have put a picture of a plane on a glass plate and moved it across so it looked like a plane flying.

Margaret also claims to have developed the concept of a series that would take place in an animation studio, “The Company We Keep”, which she claims was stolen for “The Duck Factory” (and why isn’t that early Jim Carrey tv series on DVD?). It would have been loosely based on animation personalities that she knew and at the end of each episode would be pencil test animation.

I am sure these and many more stories will be in her book. When Jim talked with her, she was about three-quarters of the way through and told him she was going to throw it all out. She felt it was pretty boring stuff and that if she did it in more of a scrapbook format, then she could just tell the stories and share the pictures she wanted to and skip over the “boring stuff”. If you had been there listening to Jim interview Margaret, you would have quickly realized that in Margaret’s life, there was nothing boring!

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling

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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit  ExpertGriller.com prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont

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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage

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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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