Brothel busts, drug buys, red carpets, celebrity chats and one memorable headlock
After nearly 22 years with the Sunday World Daragh Keany has had a varied career
My very first byline in the Sunday World was back in March 1996 when I was in the newsroom on Work Experience from school. I was 15.
I’ll never forget the buzz of going to the local garage late on the Saturday night to grab a few copies of the paper from the first delivery.
Seeing my name in print gave me an unexpected high and I lapped up the praise from my extended family the following day.
Little did I know then that less than six years later I would walk through the doors once more; this time on a 6-week probation. The bylines were slow and steady in the beginning. But it was a high I wanted to chase.
As a young reporter you are tasked with a huge array of stories and investigations. Some are quick-hit wonders while others take days, or even weeks, to complete.
Any day you can pick up the phone (usually straight after Joe Duffy comes off the air) and you can have any sort of person with any sort of story to get your claws into.
I had a memorable gay brothel bust in a dodgy apartment on Bachelor’s Walk run by a former trainee priest who used the pseudonym John Paul in honour of his Holiness. I’m not even lying.
A tip off came through explaining his past and his dealings and we chased the story. I almost made my excuses and left too early because our lawyers wanted to know for sure, was I being offered sex. I didn’t want to hang around to find out.
I have purchased drugs in several counties around the country including a super club in Limerick that had just opened. Two of us headed down on a Friday night after a concerned parent had contacted our newsroom.
Within 20 minutes of getting on site we had purchased a bag of coke and ten ecstasy tablets.
A decade later and Nicola Tallant asked me to buy another bag of cocaine right outside our office that we had ordered by text 30 minutes earlier.
A former Mountjoy prisoner took a liking to me and one of my stories, so he asked to meet me where he handed over 20 fake drivers’ licences that had belonged Malcolm MacArthur.
And my favourite hard news anecdote is the one when I had a prostitute call the newsdesk who wanted to reveal all about one of Ireland’s most glamorous pimps Samantha Blandford Hutton.
It’s not all seedy news stories though. As soon as the magazine launched in the summer of 2003 I was quickly drafted in by the then-editor Neil Leslie.
That catapulted me into a world of celebrity interviews, red carpets, glamorous photoshoots, weekly flights, walk-on roles and party invites, that 15-year-old ‘work experience’ me would never have thought possible.
I interviewed 50 Cent in his penthouse in The Four Seasons and even convinced him to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ down the phone to a pal Mikey, who was queuing outside The Point to see him in concert that night.
Mikey’s mates who were with him in the queue didn’t believe it was Fiddy on the phone. So, you can imagine their shock and amazement when he changed the words to his famous song on stage that night… ‘Yo Mikey, it’s your birthday. We gonna party like it’s your birthday.’
I was on set of Mattie when Pat Shortt asked me did I want to be in the show, once the interview was wrapped up. Fast forward a few hours and I’ve come through makeup and I was recording a scene where I was being arrested in the police station.
In 2004 Fox flew me to LA for a week to interview the stars of Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, 24 and My Name is Earl. I spent three hours each day doing round tables with all of the biggest names, but it was the drink with Steve Martin at the bar later that I remember most. And meeting Brittany Murphy and Eva Longoria in a Sushi restaurant one night and being introduced by a Fox boss as the mayor of Dublin.
On another slightly-regrettable occasion I flew to London to interview the cast of Guy Richie’s RocknRolla with the specific task of focussing on Thandie Newton (because she was sexy), Gerard Butler (because he butchered the Irish accent in PS: I Love You) and the director (because he was Mr Madonna at the time).
I had achieved my goal within an hour of getting to the venue, so I didn’t even bother pressing record on my dictaphone for the exclusive chats with little known actors Idris Elba and Tom Hardy. I literally couldn’t have cared any less what they said. My job was done.
A few years later and superstar Elba is in Dublin for a rare DJ set and while chatting to him I casually told him about the RocknRolla junket. He smiled and quickly stuck me in a playful-but-sore headlock.
Closer to home we have a much smaller pool of celebrities and through the years I have been lucky enough to call them pals. Miriam, Ryan, Daithi, Elaine, Claire, Marty and Pat are always willing to give me a quote. Some even invite me for a drink every now and again.
When I started in Ireland’s biggest tabloid I used to get asked a lot about it. I would always reply with three facts…the SW email address gets an answer far quicker than my Gmail; it is far more fun than you think and finally…if you think our stories are bonkers at times you should see the ones that don’t make it on to our famous pages.
Whether it was jail visits, celebrity run-ins or foreign trips…27 years after my eventful and highly-influential work experience week in our newsroom I actually still get a massive buzz out of seeing my byline each and every Sunday. I’ll never stop chasing that high.
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