The food blogs are all lately abuzz about Kenmare, the latest project from restaurateur Joey Campanaro. I wonder if Joey realizes what a piece of ignoble, if rather funny, 19th-century political chicanery he is furthering by naming his eatery after Kenmare Street.
I'm guessing Campanaro never heard of "Big Tim" Sullivan, one of the most powerful Tammany Hall chieftains to ever break the law in the name of the People. Sullivan, a slum kid, rose up (through saloon-keeping, naturally) to control New York City politics and vice for most of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, his hands in every pie from gambling to extortion to prostitution. He helped pass the still-in-operation Sullivan Act, a state law that required a permit to carry or own a concealed weapon, in 1911. Sullivan did not do this for idealistic reasons. He did it to guarantee that his bodyguards could be legally armed, knowing that most people couldn't afford the $3 registration fee. The law was also used by Sullivan to plant guns on folks who gave him trouble. Sullivan kept the judging public at bay by placating them with sinecures and boat rides and free Thanksgiving turkeys. His body later harbored syphilis which sent his health down the drain until he was judged incompetent and committed to a sanitarium in 1912—this was no surprise as he had fathered six illegitimate children.
Anyway, back to Kenmare. Sullivan was so corrupt and self-oriented that he actually had a New York street named after the town in Ireland where his dear old mama was born: Kenmare. Why it has never been renamed, I can only imagine. So, through Campanaro's unknowing efforts, the legacy of Big Tim (that's that old villain, below, to the right) lives on.