Neil Boyle, Molly Malone’s and Pretty In Pink

DEVON band photo 2Knee-deep in the pursuit of rock and roll dreams, I faced the ’80s like so many other pavement-pounding, hair-sprayed, idealistic artists of the era: driven, sartorially questionable and usually broke.  Too many years on the road with various cover bands, covering not only the Top-40 of the day but most of the west, mid-west and southwest by car and van, had left me weary of musical circles headed for nowhere. It was clear the time had come to get serious about my destiny.  I was to be a rock n’ roll star.  I needed to get on with it.  That meant an original band and a job to support it.

I landed back in my Art Deco one-bedroom on the infamous Argyle Avenue, a wide boulevard that, in the 1980’s, had the dubious distinction of being the only gang-infested ‘hood in the otherwise very tony hills of Hollywood.  When I wasn’t dodging bullets or avoiding eye contact with various ethnically diverse gang members hell-bent on terrorizing us lily-white denizens living snugly (smugly?) at the foot of the Hollywood sign, I was writing my first songs, rehearsing with the first band that was literally being formed around my voice, my words and my name, and looking for that perfect job that would afford me rent and rehearsal space and still be time-flexible.  That could only mean one thing:  waitressing.

My guitarist’s girlfriend at the time, a gorgeous punk goddess from Scotland who worked at the Troubadour and wore torn fishnets and black eyeliner better than anyone I knew (and who would later mentor me in the fine art of “truly living rock & roll” – meaning I was in leather, belts (many), rhinestones and Spritz Forte from the minute I awoke to the weary moment I lay my head down to sleep…more on that in another entry!), presented a solution.  Besides the very hip Troubadour gig she wrangled for all it was worth, she also had a part-time shift at a local pub; one she wanted to phase herself out of…was I interested? Not really, no, but…OK, fine.

Molly Malone’s, down on 6th and Fairfax, in one of the many hearts of Los Angeles; very casual, lunchtime menu, just cocktails at night.  Small enough room, easy enough uniform, loose enough management style (i.e., lots of staff and management drinking shenanigans) and on most nights, plenty enough cash to pocket.  As good as it gets. Nowadays Molly Malone’s is a bona fidedly hip music venue with an expansive stage area, an impressive dinner menu and a respectively spiffed-up decor; back then it was a smoky, scruffy, one-room pub where the hard-core drinkers came to suck down Jameson shots and Black n’ Tans and get into fist-fights that ended with sweaty man-hugs and often — to my mercenary delight — loose wads of cash knocked under sticky tables. It was a wild place filled with Irish immigrants, wannabe Irish (particularly on St. Patrick’s Day), off-duty (and occasionally on-duty) LAPD, and a contingent of rock n’ roll hipsters (a harbinger of the evolution to come).

Sidebar: one night as I bent over a table with beers and shots, one of those hipsters glanced up, looked me over and with a cocked head and squinted eye finally asked, “Has anyone ever told you you look just like Lorraine Devon?” No.  No one ever had.  I guess the tux shirt and serving tray were too great a disguise. Turns out they’d seen my band at The Lingerie or Sasch or Madame Wong’s or somewhere. Fans. “Thanks,” I gushed, delighted to be recognized. “I’m glad you liked the band.  Actually, if you’re interested, we’ll be playing again at — what?  Oh, yeah, sure, of course…one Harp, two Guiness, four Irish coffees, got it!”  Yep. It’s only rock n’ roll.

Anyway, back to my story…Somewhat anomalous to all this rowdy, irreverent carrying-on was the almost daily presence of the esteemed “in-house” artist, Neil Boyle. Tall, white-haired and bearded, Neil, with his dignified mien, quiet, observant manner and ubiquitous glass of mineral water, somehow both fit the venue and stood outside of it. Always seated next to Molly’s owner, the late Angela Hanlon, either at the bar or a table near the stage, sipping his non-alcoholic beverage (surely an oxymoron in an Irish bar…and I can say that; I’m a quarter Irish!) while tapping his foot to The Mulligans (Ken O’Malley, Terry McCartan & Denis Murray) or patiently listening to some random, nonsensical chatter from a usually tipsy table-mate, Neil exuded grace. He was the classiest guy in the joint. Always. And it was understood that he was to be accommodated.

Angela would often request, even on the busiest nights – and I the only waitress – that I get up on stage and sing “The Rose” because Neil liked it. Despite the clear loss of income for both me and the cash register whilst I warbled that melancholy favorite in lieu of slinging drinks, she wouldn’t stop requesting until it became a demand and before she snapped in a fit of pique, I’d get up on that thumbnail stage with whoever was playing that night and sing “Some say love, it is a river….” like the quarter-Irish heartbreaker I am.  It may as well have been “Danny Boy”…Angela would cry and Neil would listen quietly and smile as if he was genuinely moved by the serenade, which, odds are, he was. ‘The Rose” is a good song.

BarInterior by Neil Boyle

But beyond a kind, music-loving demeanor, Neil’s most profound contribution to Molly Malone’s was his art.  His beautiful, evocative, incredibly special art. Over 70 of his oil paintings hang in that little bar to this day.  How unexpected to find that kind of exceptional work in a dark, hole-in-the-wall bar but Molly Malone’s was – and is – literally wallpapered with it.  For an artist whose pieces command phenomenal fees, who was always in demand for murals and commissioned work, and whose many pieces hang in galleries and museums around the country, the prestige of showcasing such valuable art was undeniable to Molly’s.  Some patrons came in simply to view Neil’s paintings.  It was a draw.  Literally.

The largest painting was of Angela Hanlon. It hung in clear view over the entrance and depicted her in all her youthful, lovely splendor. Other paintings were of bar scenes, street scenes. But most were of the people and faces that came and went through the swinging doors of that pub; the regulars, the Molly Malone’s coterie. And everyone who walked through those doors wanted to be one of the faces Neil painted, everyone.  Few were. And you had to be asked. There was no appealing to him, no requests, no hinting; no prancing around commenting on “how nice it would be to be up on these walls.”  No one got up there unless Neil wanted to paint them and put them up there and to be asked, to be chosen, was an honor like no other.

Almost three years in, near the end of my tenure there, on the morning of a soon-to-be riotously busy St. Paddy’s Day, Neil quietly approached and said, “I want to paint your picture.” Stunned, I blushed pink and stammered something about “how honored I am to be asked” or some other such blathering nonsense but the truth was, I was…honored to be asked.  I sat down at one of the booths, put my elbow up on the green and white checkered tablecloth, my white tux shirt and string tie neatly arranged, my big ’80’s hair properly fluffed and Neil took my picture.  I can’t remember how long it was before the subsequent painting appeared on the wall at Molly Malone’s but at some point it was there. Dead center on the main wall.  Lit with a pin spot.  And immediately a conversation piece.  Because while Neil painted most of the Molly Malone faces in palettes of brown and caramel and black and yellow, me, he painted in pink. Pretty in pink. And it was truly was one of the most beautiful paintings on that wall.  Not because of my face (necessarily!), but because Neil imbued it with a color and glow that made it stand out from the earth tones surrounding it and that alone made it unique.  Someone there suggested that it seemed to communicate his affection for me. Maybe so.  Maybe because I sang him “The Rose.”  Maybe because he liked my blonde hair.  Maybe because I kept him in mineral water.  Maybe it was just because he felt the wall needed some pink. Whatever the reason, it is a beautiful painting and, as far as I know, it still hangs prominently on the main wall of Molly Malone’s.

LorraineDevon by Neil Boyle 1984

Neil died in February of 2006.  Not too long after that, my brother, Tom Amandes, was acting in a TV pilot being shot, coincidentally, at Molly’s.  At one point Tom called to tell me they had blocked one of his scenes and without realizing it, had placed him directly under the Neil Boyle painting of a woman in pink…yep, that one.  He sent me the snapshot taken by the prop person.  I can’t find that photo today but I do have a beautiful print of my painting.  My friend, Tina Romanus (who Neil also painted at some point later…though not in pink), had asked Neil make one for me and he did.  It’s hanging on my own wall.  Still pretty in pink.

Included paintings and for more information on Neil Boyle: www.neilboyle.com; Ken O’Malley (The Mulligans): www.kenomalley.com; Tom Amandes:  www.tomamandes.com. Visit Molly’s at  www.mollymalonesla.com.

Photo of Neil Boyle by Scott Burdick, www.scottburdick.com.
Molly Malone’s photo credit www.yelp.com
DEVON photo courtesy of Lorraine Devon Wilke

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

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57 thoughts on “Neil Boyle, Molly Malone’s and Pretty In Pink

  1. CrisC

    Lovin’ this slice of LA “Lor.” It’s helping me catch up, if you know what I mean. There is something about waitressing in a big city that is almost mythological in generating great narratives.

    My own stint in Chicago at various Loop coffee shop/cocktail joints during college summers brought me into contact with the same varied clientele and, indeed, one artist who etched two small pieces for me while his coffee sat cooling (yes, black waxy pages with white designs etched). Very efficient, very amazing and I’ve never been able to shed them although I never had another contact with the man.

    So glad I’ve bookmarked you as daily read! I may start up my blog again – inspired and amused and stimulated – what more could I ask?

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    1. LDW

      Cris, again, thank you for your anecdotal response…seems like many of us have these colorful (or B&W!) stories to tell! I always appreciate your words – and the fact that you continued reading…that IS what it’s all about when you write one of these things, isn’t it? If you ever decide to start one up again, let me know and I’ll be one of your readers, too.

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  3. Enjoyed this very much Lorraine. I remember you coming to rehearsals with stories of Molly’s. I think you scared me from ever going in at the time but now I wish I had.
    The portrait – so lovely. So you.

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    1. LDW

      Thanks, Glennie…you should’ve come in – they had the BEST fish & chips, if nothing else! You should, see if the painting is still up there. Memories of our time working together always make me nostalgic…amazing time. Hope all is well. xxoo L.

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  4. Susan M.

    What a beautifully written piece. May I again reiterate that I cannot carve time in my busy life for the gazillion blogs other people want me to read. Oh, I try. I start reading, and I’m on to something else after I skim the first two paragraphs. But yours I find a guilty pleasure — some special several minutes that I spend soaking in your rich prose, and, even better, that I feel I’m spending with you! Brava and keep it up. Thanks for including me in your Molly Malone’s world and introducing me to a fantastic painter as well who recognized and immortalized your inner and outer beauty. xo

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    1. LDW

      Aw, Susan, always such great feedback, coming from a true artist and appreciator of words! I love that you’re finding the blog entertaining; that’s the whole idea, isn’t it? New worlds, new images, thoughts, etc. It’s people like you who make it a satisfying endeavor for me. Thanks, my friend. xxoo L.

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  5. Jake Drake

    Lorraine, Sweetness. So fun to be privy to your reminiscences as this is about two of my favorite subjects in the world–you and all things Irish! NB was a gentleman and obviously had a huge impact on the good old days at Molly Malone’s. As usual, thanks for sharing.

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    1. LDW

      Jakie, so glad you’re enjoying these little snapshots of my life and times…there’ve been some interesting people in them and I like introducing them when I can! See you soon! SwL.

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  6. Booker Haymer

    I enjoy what you have done here. I love the portion wherever you talk about you do this to offer back and yet I might suppose through all the reviews that this is doing the job for you also.

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    1. LDW

      Betty, I’m delighted you found the story…Neil WAS such a charmer and if anyone knew that, it was you (and the leprechaun image seems quite fitting!). I’m sure you must miss him and everything he was and to the extent that the rememberances of other people brings him just a bit to life in memory, I hope you’re pleased. Thank you so much for the visit and the comment. Lorraine

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  7. Aleida M.

    Howdy there…this is Aleida Merced. Just discovered your Post on google and I must say, this blog is great. I may quote some of the article found in your website to my local people…thanks!

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  8. Clark

    This could be one of the most compelling words I ever encountered in a long time, I’m talking about this section of your post “… (a harbinger of the evolution to come).

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    Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an idea to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand the value of that — instead of blah, blah, blahing about themselves. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

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  14. LDW

    Thanks, all, for the feedback, the memories, the comments, the compliments. I’m deeply appreciative of them all. Please keep reading and I’ll look forward to hearing from all of you again. LDW

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  15. Hello everybody, This page is high-quality and so is the way the topic was explained. I like some of the comments too although I would prefer everyone stays on the subject matter so that to add value to the point. It will be also encouraging to the person who wrote it if we all could mention it (for some of us who use social media such as a delicious, twitter,..). Again, Thanks..

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    1. LDW

      Elvina: Thanks, I’m glad you like the look of the blog. I think the visual is important, as it’s what draws your eye in when you first open the page. I’d suggest finding a theme you like (Word Press has many) and then design your banner/header artwork to work with that theme. Good luck! LDW

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  16. My grandfather was one of the few approached by Neil. His name was Richard Allen Clarke and he was a friend of Neil’s, a fellow artist, and a regular at Molly Malones sometime in the 1960s or 1970s. He had an affinity for shrouded bars, an ice-cold glass of Coors, and a classic Cheeseburger.

    He died 13 years ago tomorrow. I believe Neil’s painting of him still hangs behind the bar now, although it was previously closer to a large illuminated sign on the way to the kitchen. And judging by your description of Neil, I now understand why they were such good friends.

    Great piece.

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    1. LDW

      Nicole: A wonderful memory to share on a day in which you remember your grandfather (those cheeseburgers were good!). If I saw his painting on the wall, odds are I’d know it. I grew to love each and every one of those incredible faces Neil memorialized and that gallery at Molly’s truly made the place more special. Thank you for stopping by to leave a comment; really sweet to share a glimpse of a time and place we both knew; sympathies to you on tomorrow’s poignant anniversary. LDW

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  17. Oh, I love this piece. For everything it is. A little glimpse into your life back then. And, the painting! How I wish you had the original. But, I guess it is there for all of us to enjoy. Just lovely, Lorraine.

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