Richard the Driehaus
By Mike Houlihan
He was my Hail Mary in a chaotic life of show biz risks taken while walking the tight rope over a pond of snapping gators.
I was tapioca in 2009 and driving a limo to survive. The bank was threatening foreclosure. I’d moved my office in the Loop into my basement, put my house up for sale, and stopped answering the phone at home to avoid those Indian guys who kept calling to talk to “Mr. Hooligoof”.
A Hells Angel repo man had banged on my door at 5AM screaming for me to “surrender” my 2002 Caddy. As I dropped a car full of cheap Germans and their concrete luggage at the hotel, one of them flipped me a finski with a big stupid grin on his kisser. I cursed them as I drove away. “I am too old for this crap!”
And then my cell phone rang. The Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust wanted to know if I would consider a “matching challenge grant” to finish my film, OUR IRISH COUSINS.
It wasn’t the first time Richard Driehaus had saved my ass, and it wouldn’t be the last, but the timing couldn’t have been better as I broke out my rosary in thanksgiving for the guy who gave me a reason to believe.
We first met in the year 2000 when I was looking for investors for my politically incorrect, south-side “noir comedy”, MICKEY FINN, at the Royal George Theatre. My old friend Roger Guerin introduced me to billionaire philanthropist Richard Driehaus, who dropped twenty grand into the play and showed up on opening night to party with us into the night. Critics cringed and the play closed quicker than a honeymoon gone wrong.
Richard took the tax write off, and remained a friend, inviting me to his annual 4th of July parties to hobnob at his estate in Lake Geneva with the hoity toity and the hoi polloi alike. Richard was a sophisticate without guile or pretension and his parties were spectacular events with plenty of free booze, music and beautiful people. I took my son Paddy with me one year and we woke up the next morning, hungover in our bargain basement overnight cabin and Paddy said, “The whole thing was like a dream!”
When I was writing the “Houli in ‘da Hood” column in The Sun-Times I interviewed Richard in May of 2005 and we compared notes on our Southside Irish Catholic roots. He had started using his paper route money to invest in the stock market when he was 13 and the rest is history. He grew up in St. Margaret of Scotland, the next parish over from me, and had donated a million bucks to the nuns there when he made good.
(l to r): Mike Houlihan, Richard Driehaus, and Paddy Houlihan.
Richard told me, “It’s important to give something back. There is good in doing good. Money is like fertilizer, if you let it all pile in one place, it stinks.”
His generosity is legend, and he never forgot the lessons he learned at St. Margaret’s, St. Ignatius, and DePaul. He also took a liking to playwrights, poets, and dreamers. I was lucky enough to be among that group.
Richard died suddenly last Tuesday, March 9th. He’ll be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in heaven with his mom and dad, Saint Ignatius Loyola, William Blake, Father Danny Mallette, and Sister Henrika from oh so long ago at St. Margaret’s.
Back in September Richard invited me and my son Paddy to his home to talk about the future of Hibernian Media and our mission “telling stories to enlighten future generations while honoring our ancestors.”
He had just purchased a couple of hotels in Dublin and showed us pictures. But it wasn’t gold that made Richard happy, it was his love for his family. His good friend Marzena Mellin told me how he would light up after messages from his daughters Tereza, Caroline, and little Kate. He sure was beaming that day, showing us photos of Kate on his phone.
At his funeral mass Richard’s great niece Regina Rossi gave the eulogy, “He encouraged all of us to be a never fading star.” That he was.
Richard was proud to be a Southside Irish Catholic, “Everything goes back to the ‘hood, that’s where I came from.”
Remembering my old pal Richard H. Driehaus, Yeats said it best. “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”
God rest his lovely soul.
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Richard the Driehaus