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By Laura Anderson

Remembering Gene Wilder

Famous for handing out golden tickets in Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder also played a character who was fond of the black stuff. The legendary American actor may have passed away this month but for many Dubliners his visit here in 1969 will live long in the memory.

The old ‘gravediggers’ bar, the John Kavanagh, hosted Wilder and his crew for the filming of three scenes in Quakser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx, where the hapless hero downs a few pints of stout as he woos Margot Kidder’s character.

Owner Ciaran Kavanagh said the arrival of Hollywood at his family’s bar was quite a major event in the bar’s history. “My father and my uncles ran the bar back then,” told Kavanagh. “It was a big deal for them to have Hollywood come to Glasnevin. They told me that Gene Wilder was very friendly to everyone.”

The old pub, nestled by the gate to the historic Glasnevin Cemetery, dates back to 1833. It has been in the Kavanagh family for seven generations, first opened by Kavanagh’s great, great, great, great, great grandfather. Since the filming of Quakser Fortune the John Kavanagh has moved up in the world, developing a film career of its very own. It was featured in a film abour playwright Sean O’Casey, called The Young Cassidy and more recently it served as a period backdrop for the detective series, Quirke.

Meanwhile, RTÉ’s Joe Duffy’s Liveshow heard an excerpt from Wilder’s memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger, in which Wilder details his trip to Dublin to film. The actor wrote about shooting in the “poorest parts” of the city, and enlisting one of the local children, a boy named David, to act in a scene.

“It would mean money for his family. That afternoon he was my sidekick in a very short scene. He just held my hand, and I led him wherever he was supposed to go,” the comedian wrote. After a month of filming, David’s mother “hinted” that she would like Wilder to adopt David and bring him back to the US with him. “His mother wanted David to have a chance in life,” he said.

The actor talked it over with his then-wife Mary Joan and stepdaughter Katharine, and got the go-ahead from the Irish government – on the condition that the boy keep his own name and be raised Catholic. But Wilder wanted to ask David what he thought first:

“I took David for a picnic in the Wicklow Mountains to find out if he would even want to come with me and live in America. After the most delicate probing, David said “Naw, I don’t want ta do dat.” And dat was dat,” the comedian finished.

The Long Hall

Meanwhile, just over four kilometres south of Glasnevin, a second historic pub is gearing up to celebrate a monumental milestone in its lifetime: the Long Hall pub is approaching its 250th anniversary. According to Marcus Houlihan, owner of the Long Hall, the bar license was granted in October 1766. 

“We couldn’t let the 250th birthday pass without marking the occasion,” said Marcus, who plans to throw a birthday party for the beloved pub. The Long Hall was opened just seven years after Arthur Guinness began brewing his famous ales, and 25 years prior to the birth of Powers Whiskey. It has witnessed a great deal over the course of its 250 years, having been a favourite haunt of Bruce Springsteen as well as the late Phil Lynott.

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