By Corey Kilgannon
May 3, 2019
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.