Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bottoms Up. A Celebration of the Life of Matt McGrath.


A memorial was held for Matt McGrath at the Harp and Celt (25 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL).  Matt was just 48 when he died suddenly from cancer. Few people realized he was even sick. Perhaps he wanted everyone to remember him as the vibrant and active person he always was.  He played ice hockey regularly at the RDV Ice Den. His hot Irish blood was perfect for the heat of competitive sports. Matt's home was the birth place of so many local theater productions. Often the first readings of a script would happen on his back patio. During the day he was an accountant but in the evening, he became a theatrical producer. Rather than having friends remember him in a stodgy funeral home he insisted that they all get drunk and tell stories at his favorite Irish pub in downtown Orlando.

Matt was a bit of an enigma. This is how he described himself online, "Open minded, fun and outgoing guy, who has a very diverse set of interests. I like to stay busy and participate in many activities from softball and hockey, to theater and art." His home which was just a block from an Irish pub in College Park was the home base for many independent theatrical productions. I sketched in his "man cave", a personal pub complete with a stripper pole and rubber boobies hanging on the wall, on many occasions. Matt had friends in many circles. I bumped into one of his long time work colleges at the bar and at the front door of the bar I ran into the magnificent Irish musicians, Vicki Gish, Scott Vocca, and Kathleen Cavinagh, who perform at Claddagh Cottage Irish Pub (4308 Curry Ford Rd., Orlando, FL) on every other Wednesday. I never knew that Matt I loved their music. Odd that our paths didn't cross at that pub.

Someone got up to speak about Matt's love of Irish Music. Anyone with an instrument can join in and play at the Claddagh Cottage music sessions. Matt wanted to join in so much, that he brought a triangle. Someone shouted out that the reason he needed a triangle, was because he broke so man glasses by hitting them with a spoon. Now a triangle is no more of a traditional Irish instrument than say a cow bell. The regular Irish musicians humored him and performed traditional pieces that in theory could incorporate the triangle. Matt joined in, but he kept missing the beats, much to the amusement of everyone in the bar. It got so bad that someone stole the triangle to keep him quiet. The person telling the story had purchased a new triangle in Matt's honor, along with a fancy triangle stand. He got choked up as he explained that it will be framed and hung in the bar in Matt's honor. Brian Sikorsky told me that Patty Sheehan said she was going to make a bar stool in his honor. The Orlando Fringe will be renaming the beer tent, "The Matt McGrath Beer Tent" in his memory..

Brian told me of the day five beautiful actresses flew in from London for the Orlando International Fringe Festival. They were from Haste Theater Company and the play they were presenting was called Oyster Boy. Anyway Brian called them to see if they had landed OK. It turned out the they were already at Matt's house enjoying drinks. Brian laughed. Matt never met a beautiful woman that he didn't love. A slide flickered on the screen, showing Matt in a red T-Shirt that said, "You'll do."

The slide show was projected on a screen above the door for the duration of the memorial. Matt as a toddler who had just learned to walk, held beer bottle. Most of the photos showed Matt in the company of beautiful women, On an airplane, he had beautiful stewardess in each arm. So many of Orlando' beautiful actresses, dancers and models were draw to Matt like moths to a flame. One actress spoke about how Matt helped her with homework in exchange for his getting to see her breasts. An older woman with raspy voice got up to the microphone an shouted, "Matt was that rare bread of a man, he was a nice guy! Around Christmas, he shared the multiple presents he got for all of his girlfriends. He wanted to be democratic. Like I said, He was a nice guy."

Slides showed Matt jumping out of an airplane, on a zip line, swilling beer with busty German bar maids and traveling the world. He has "been to 5 of the 7 continents. Was lucky enough to see the great wall and the Spinx." He lived large and loved life. He mixed with different groups of people, that didn't tend to mingle together. Some of my dearest friends posed beside him. Even friends who preferred anonymity blossomed in his company. Some of Orlando's most beautiful women entered the bar in honor of a man who knew how to make them feel special. My favorite slide showed three men and a woman in a woman's bathroom with McGrath written across their bums. He wrote his name across so many hearts and asses. At the bar, some people couldn't stop crying. Others shaved stories and couldn't stop laughing. As the Irish musicians performed, Matt got his wish as we ate and drank in his honor, tapping our feet to the Irish music. Seize the day and love every moment, because our time is limited. Perhaps we can't live forever, but we can try to create something that will.


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