I walked by the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street, the other morning. The windows were boarded up and the menu holders affixed to the outside were empty. By all appearances, the bar was permanently closed, another victim of Covid. It must have just happened, I thought, feeling a wave of sadness. I'd passed by Christmas Day and the lights were still on. Before breaking out the black crepe, I wrote to the Killarney Rose, not really expecting an answer. But I got one: The Killarney Rose will reopen as soon as the city lets them.
Why all this feeling for a dive bar on an out-of-the-way street in a neighborhood I rarely spend time in? A bit of background:
I stumbled upon the Killarney Rose about a dozen years ago, when I was wandering through the Wall Street area, thinking how I needed a catchier title than "A History of Modern Pornography" for the book I was working on. I looked up and saw I was on the corner of Beaver and Broad. It was like a sign from on high—a literal one. That's it, I thought. That's the title: Beaver Street.
Though it would be years before the book was published, I knew then I had to have the launch party on Beaver Street. I walked the length of the street, from Broadway to the intersection of Wall and Pearl streets. The Killarney Rose was the only possible venue. I walked in. The bar had two floors, and the upstairs room had the look and feel of a private club. It was perfect.
The owner agreed to let me to use the room free of charge, as long as I could bring in enough paying customers to make it worth his while.
"Not a problem," I said.
MC Byron Nilsson delivers the opening monologue at "Bloomsday on Beaver Street," June 16, 2012.
On the night of June 16, 2012, Bloomsday—the day that James Joyce's Ulysses takes place—I launched Beaver Street at the Killarney Rose. Hosted by the indomitable Byron Nilsson, "Bloomsday on Beaver Street" was a celebration of literature that had been branded pornography. Before a packed house of hungry and thirsty supporters, musicians (including my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott) played rock 'n' roll, actors read from Ulysses—Laralu Smith's reading of the Molly Bloom passage was a highlight—and I read from Beaver Street. The presence of "Subway Vigilante" Bernie Goetz, who had an abiding interest in the subject matter, added a surreal touch to the evening's festivities.
Lexi Love reads at "Bloomsday on Beaver Street II," June 16, 2013. Photo © Michael Paul.
The celebrations continued, in 2013, with "Bloomsday on Beaver Street II," another night of music, theatre, and literature. One memorable moment was adult actress Lexi Love's highly emotional reading from her favorite book, Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, by Cookie Mueller.
Then, on December 14, 2019, the Killarney Rose was the scene of "Bobby on Beaver Street," the launch event for my latest book, Bobby in Naziland, featuring myself and six actors, many of whom you may have seen on stage, TV, and/or in the movies, reading choice passages from the book.
Susan Barrett, at "Bobby on Beaver Street," December 14, 2019, reads about her brother, a character in Bobby in Naziland.
Finally, on January 25, 2020, Mary Lyn Maiscott celebrated her birthday and the release of her song "Middle Child" at the Killarney Rose.
Less than two months later, life as we knew it ended. But the Killarney Rose, despite all outward signs, did not. All we can do in this still-new year is wait for its resurrection. It can't come soon enough.