A Beer Run From N.Y.C. to Vietnam Ends Up in Hollywood – The New York Times

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It’s Friday. What have you done lately for the birds of New York State? There’s new legislation that’s literally for the birds.

Weather: Mostly cloudy, with a chance of showers (again). With temperatures in the 50s, you’ll need a jacket. Expect yet more rain over the weekend.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until May 27 (Memorial Day).

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John (Chickie) Donohue reading from his book in 2017.CreditNicole Craine for The New York Times

It’s possible that John (Chickie) Donohue, 77, has told his “greatest beer run ever” story in every bar in Inwood over the years.

Now the saloon tale will be seen on the big screen.

The story — how a patriotic bartender’s suggestion prompted Mr. Donohue to make a daring visit to Vietnam in 1967 as a civilian to deliver beer to his soldier buddies — has caught the attention of Peter Farrelly, who directed the Oscar-winning film “Green Book.”

Mr. Donohue’s beer run will be Mr. Farrelly’s follow-up film for Skydance Media, the production company behind such blockbusters as “True Grit” and the “Mission: Impossible” series.

Skydance’s president for production, Don Granger, acknowledged that Mr. Donohue’s story was an unusual choice for the company, made on a “leap of faith” because it was compelling and original.

Mr. Donohue is nothing if not original. He is a saloonkeeper and a former sandhog, one of the urban miners who dig train and water tunnels deep in New York City’s bedrock.

He has spent decades relating his beer-run story, often to incredulous scoffs from friends, strangers, even some relatives. But once people saw his photos and met his soldier buddies, who backed up the tale, he said, “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”

[It was the ultimate saloon tale: Read more about the beer run.]

Mr. Donohue finally wrote up the story in 2017 in a self-published book called “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” written with Joanna Molloy, a former New York Daily News writer.

Now that Hollywood wants it, he said: “It’s a hoot, it really is a hoot. I certainly never expected the whole thing to get this far.”

The story was well known among members of the Sandhogs Local 147. Mr. Donohue promoted the book by doing readings at union meetings and for veterans groups.

Mr. Donohue’s story began in 1967, as he was attending funeral after funeral of friends who had died in the Vietnam War.

He was drinking in Doc Fiddler’s, one of many Irish bars in Inwood, in Upper Manhattan, when a bartender blurted out that someone ought to go to Vietnam to buy the troops a beer for their service.

Mr. Donohue did just that. He had served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a merchant seaman. He got a job as an oiler on a merchant ship bound for Vietnam, shipping out with a duffel bag full of beer and a minimum of information on a half-dozen friends stationed there.

He began his odyssey, using his wiles to visit various military companies to surprise his friends. The journey entailed gutsy navigating through military officialdom and hitching all sorts of rides on jeeps and planes.

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Mr. Donohue delivered beer to soldiers in 1968.Creditvia Rick Duggan

“The best thing is that all five of my buddies survived and came back alive,” Mr. Donohue said. “Now they’re finally getting a place in the sun.”

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CreditShannon Stapleton/Reuters

The Times’s Jeffery C. Mays reports:

In the merry, merry month of May, Mayor de Blasio will finally have his say: Will he or won’t he be running for president?

For months, the mayor has openly flirted with a 2020 run, with his status evolving from “not ruling anything out” to “sooner than later” to “soon.”

Yesterday, Mr. de Blasio put an actual time stamp on “soon.”

“I’m going to make my decision in the month of May, and then I’m going to tell you my decision,” he said.

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CreditVictor J. Blue for The New York Times

Becoming Catholic in the age of scandal: At Easter, thousands of people in the New York area converted to Catholicism even as sexual abuse allegations have rocked the church.

Tuition or dinner? Nearly half of college students say they are going hungry.

Once as pro-prosecution as any red state, New York is making a big shift on trials.

He was trained by Al Qaeda to bomb the subway. Then he switched sides.

Nearly $300 million in tax breaks were awarded to four companies with close Democratic ties.

[Want more news from New York and around the region? Check out our full coverage.]

The mini crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

A ban on private helipads — including Billy Joel’s — in a wealthy Long Island enclave. [The Wall Street Journal]

Who is stealing swan eggs from Prospect Park? [Brooklyn Paper]

“The Simpsons” try to make peace with the governor. Don’t have a cow, Cuomo! [Albany Times-Union]

The Shinnecock Indian Nation is warring with Southampton over two giant signs that would go over the gateway to the Hamptons. [New York Post]

Friday:

The Jane’s Walk festival celebrates the urban activist Jane Jacobs with 275 themed walks in New York City through Sunday. [Free, R.S.V.P. encouraged]

See the future of fashion at a show featuring wearable technology at the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch. 7 p.m. [Free with R.S.V.P.]

Join a conversation on the work of the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi at the Noguchi Museum in Queens. 6:30 p.m. [Free]

Saturday:

A block party celebrates Lincoln Center’s 60th anniversary. Live music, dance and more will span the campus in Manhattan. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. [Free]

The Cherry Blossom Festival is in full bloom on Randalls Island. 12 p.m.-4 p.m. [Free]

May the fourth be with you during a “Star Wars” marathon at Hotel RL Brooklyn. 4:30 p.m. Saturday through 11 a.m. Sunday. [Free with R.S.V.P.]

Sunday:

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with music and crafts at the Voelker Orth Museum in Queens. 2 p.m. [$25, food and drinks included]

Shop handmade and vintage offerings at the Home Décor and Furniture Bazaar in Manhattan. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. [Free]

— Ana Fota

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

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Najah Lewis, a singer from Brooklyn.

When it comes to talented street musicians, New York City has such an abundance of riches that its subways, streets and parks could serve as a recruiting ground.

That’s exactly what the James Hotel-NoMad in Midtown is doing by kicking off a monthly artist-in-residence program devoted to a different street musician every month.

For four Wednesdays in May, the hotel has chosen Najah Lewis, 25, a singer from Brooklyn who was performing in the Union Square subway station recently when a hotel staff member noticed her and offered her the chance to initiate the series.

Ms. Lewis gets a paid gig: an hourlong set to go along with hotel’s complimentary wine hour in its lobby on Wednesdays beginning at 5 p.m.

Ms. Lewis, who sings and plays guitar, has a repertoire that ranges from originals to R&B to jazz. For any aspiring star, she said, working the subways keeps you sharp and serves as great exposure.

“You really hone your craft by singing on the street,” she said. “New Yorkers can be a tough crowd, so if you get applause, you’re doing something right.”

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Dear Diary:

It’s 2:30 a.m. at Jimmy’s Corner bar near Times Square. Despite the hour, the crowd is lively. The only quiet one in the place is Jimmy.

A former prizefighter, he is drinking warm tea by the door, seeing all, saying little. Into this shrine to boxing walks a lone giant of a man, a mastiff among pugs. His head is bigger than any other two heads in the joint combined, and they all turn toward him for a moment.

Jimmy raises an eyebrow. A stool is offered, and the big man sits down. He hunches over on his elbows, making him more or less everyone else’s height.

Conversations, singing and laughter resume. The big fellow keeps to himself. He responds politely when spoken to, but does not engage in conversation.

After a single beer, his head begins to nod. He pays, rises and leaves. The door closes behind him, and the room goes quiet again.

A slight, bearded man in a trucker hat and flannel shirt who has been treading lightly for the past half-hour, whistles low.

“That was one. big. guy,” he says.

Jimmy winks.

“You could’ve taken him,” he says.

— Steve Gorka

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