Brian Heron was a singular man. More like a force of nature, that’s why it was shocking to hear he had passed away recently.
What a character! Grandson of James Connolly, lawyer, revolutionary, musician, organizer, cultural ambassador, founder of Irish arts centers on both coasts - just thinking about him is dizzying.
He had his grandfather’s eyes, though Brian’s were wilder, if less disciplined. Connolly rose up against an empire in an effort to improve the lot of working people. Heron sought to add joy and fulfillment to those same lives, while at the same time resurrecting a dormant ancient Irish spirit. A tall order, perhaps, but Brian gave it his everything.
Another relative of Connolly’s once said, “James might have been a great man but he was always getting people to do things they didn’t want to!”
Brian’s apple didn’t drop far from the tree. I once saw him persuade my brother – a man not known for his left wing sympathies – to hand out flyers for some radical group one freezing night on Seventh Avenue.
He persuaded John Lennon to write songs about the Irish struggle – in particular Sunday Bloody Sunday and Luck of the Irish. Brian, however, was far from impressed with these classics – he had hoped Johnny would create a new form of Rock & Roll Sean Nós.
It was his utter conviction that was so impressive, for Brian, though extremely likeable, never finished charm school.
One evening we acolytes - having fought the good fight at some rally or other – were promised tickets to a John Lennon concert at Madison Square Garden. As usual, we were late and there was no parking; undeterred, Brian drove his old postal van up on the footpath outside the Garden with the words, “Who’s going to tow the US Mail - or ticket it for that matter?”
Sure enough, after enjoying the show from the VIP seats, we found the van untouched and ticketless. Viva La Revolucion!
That van was to play a further role in my life. I was in those years somewhat turbulently involved with a beautiful Irish American Princess from the leafy environs of Westchester. My friends labeled her the IAP, which they less than charitably pronounced Yap!
She was not at all taken with Brian and considered him a bad influence on me. I can’t remember what that night’s particular tiff was about but we had argued until way past dawn when she had stormed off to her good job in mid-town.
Whereupon, as luck would have it, the phone rang - it was Brian urging me to pack my bags for a trip to Kansas City where revolution was in the air and comrades in short supply. Feeling that I needed my space - as we used to say back then - I signed on, wrote a tear-stained letter - that would have done justice to Dr. Zhivago - promising a speedy return, and awaited Brian.
Alas the Left is not known for making trains run on time, much less aging postal vans. Many hours later when I was just about to hop aboard the IAP arrived home from work, suitably penitent and full of affection.
At the sight of Brian and the packed van her mood changed drastically. She informed me that should I depart the locks would be changed forthwith and she would at last be free to bestow her favors on each of my many close friends who had propositioned her behind my back.
With that crushing underhanded blow delivered she sashayed up the front steps of our building in her usual ravishing manner. Brian shook his head sadly; not for the first time had sex bested the revolution. The van pulled off for Kansas City without me.
When I last saw Brian in Tampa we rolled around the floor of the Four Green Fields at the memory.
The last I heard of Brian he was planning a return to Ireland to run for president. That would, indeed, have been a great circle completed.
Rave on, Mr. Heron, you affected so many lives though many still have no notion. What better tribute? Viva La Revolucion!