A Historical What-Not

For what it’s worth, the official meeting place for South Side of Luck confabs, O’Connell’s Pub, had a brief historical note come into play today. It was 39 years ago that O’Connell’s shuttered in Gaslight Square. So, on August 15, 1972, the last surviving vestige of the Square closed up shop, and the South Side gained an institution. So, in a couple weeks, another anniversary, as the first day of operation in the new space hits a 39th birthday.

Just found that interesting. That’s all.

O’Connell’s Book Project(ed)

Here’s one of the summer projects I’ve been thinking about: a projected book about O’Connells Pub, one of my handful of homes-away-from-home. We’ve got a team in place, interviews lined up and a few leads to chase. But, no publisher, per se. Thankfully, these days, self-publishing’s stigma is going away, so that remains an option, too.

If you know someone with an idle press and a few thousand dollars, let me know. Or if you know a person with a particularly compelling story about O’Connell’s (engagement, first date, etc. and so on), send ‘em my way.

Following is our pitch letter, which you’re welcome to pass around.

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The Story of O’Connell’s Pub:
A Publication Pitch, Summer, 2011

In the spring of 2012, O’Connell’s Pub will celebrate a major anniversary. In an industry in which restaurants and pubs have little chance of making it to even a fifth birthday, O’Connell’s will mark 50 years in business during April, 2012. During those years, the restaurant and pub’s gone through a variety of changes, though the central elements of its success remain from the first days.

As the last major business to depart Gaslight Square, in August, 1972, O’Connell’s had already become a landmark. But over the next four decades, the spot would become even more successful, found at the edge of The Hill, at the bustling intersection of South Kingshighway and Shaw. Featuring a burger that’s consistently regarded as the best in St. Louis, an authentic Irish pub atmosphere and the affiliated J. Parker Antiques, O’Connell’s is rightly-regarded as a destination point in South St. Louis, bringing in out-of-town visitors daily, as well as a large cast of dedicated regulars.

At the heart of the O’Connell’s tale is one man, Jack Parker. Though he didn’t found the business, he was an early customer and became entrenched as the proprietor at a young age. An avid horseman and collector of Americana, Parker’s an interesting character, even without considering O’Connell’s. But within the bar, he’s an omnipresent figure, whether selling antiques to collectors from all through the Midwest, or visiting with his decades-long customers.

In order to explain the success of the long-running business, with a tie to the upcoming, half-century anniversary, three more-than-interested parties are looking to publish a book on the historic pub, with a projected release date tied to the 50th anniversary.

John Parker (project coordinator) is the son of Jack Parker. He’s been a presence at the Pub essentially since his birth, and has watched the place grow from a well-regarded, bohemian venue into a linchpin of South City’s rich dining-and-drinking culture. It’s his idea that the place have a fitting history written for it. Living in Chesterfield with his wife and three children, Parker is an avid supporter of (and participant in) the local arts community and looks forward to bringing this project to life over coming months.

Thomas Crone (writer) penned the first history book on the original home of O’Connell’s, “Gaslight Square: An Oral History.” He’s written for a variety of local publications, with editing stints at STLtoday.com and The Riverfront Times, and currently teaches writing and communications at Webster University. A South City lifer, he’s also a former O’Connell’s employee, having toiled there as a busser in his mid-teens. Today, his favorite barstool is just to the left of the server station, where you can find him on an all-too-regular basis. Info: thomascrone.com.

Kevin Belford (art director) is a longtime O’Connell’s fan and a commercial, editorial and fine art illustrator, whose work has appeared in any number of local and national publications. In appreciation of the long history of blues music in St. Louis, Belford tackled a massive project with his recently-published “Devil at the Confluence,” a history of that American music as it relates to St. Louis. Illustrating and writing the book, the Kansas City Art Institute graduate’s added a needed (and beautiful) resource to our knowledge of St. Louis’ rich music history. Info: kevinbelford.com.

Together, the trio hope to make the work lively, with accounts of the the many celebrities and local heroes who’ve come in to eat, drink and relax as history’s unfolded outside the walls of the pub. They look to combine text, period photography and original illustration in bringing the story to life.

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