Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?
Well, not quite. The first guy, Murtagh, belongs to John Murtagh, a Republican member of the Yonkers City Council who is indeed a lawyer.
But the other two guys were comedy outlaws—George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. How can those two standup legends possibly be connected in any way to Murtagh?
Well, they are…sort of.
Murtagh told me today that he was reading Carlin’s posthumous biography “Last Words” and saw that Carlin gave his family a “twofer.” First the he comedian mentioned Murtagh’s father, also named John, who was the presiding chief judge in the 1964 Lenny Bruce obscenity trial.
By all accounts Judge Murtagh gave no quarter to the comedian, who was convicted by a 2-1 judicial vote. The judge who sided with Murtagh was reportedly convinced to do so only after being threatened with a banishment to night court. The dissenting judge later resigned in disgust.
Prominent liberals of the time came to Bruce’s defense with a petition. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to four months in a workhouse. Later his conviction was overturned.
The second connection to the Murtagh family is McGuire’s Chop House in upper Manhattan, which was owned my Murtagh’s grandfather. Carlin’s father frequently got drunk there.
Here’s an excerpt:
My first home—the Vauxhall, 780 Riverside Drive at 155th Street—was, according to my brother, “opulent.” Expensive new furniture, a sunken living room, a dramatic view of the Hudson River and—Amanda, a very large, strong black woman who was actually capable of backing my father down. She became Patrick’s and my protector when Dad got out of line—which was plenty. The bar at Maguire’s Chop House on Upper Broadway got regular and strenuous workouts. Meanwhile my mother had settled into her Marie Antoinette period, sitting at the dinner table, tinkling her little bell to cue Amanda that the next course should be served. In fairness to my old man, that sort of behavior in a New York City cop’s daughter would be enough to drive anyone out to the boozer for a few pops.