John Mulligan was once described as a human search engine because of his encyclopedic knowledge of everything about New York City news stories, the FDNY, burlesque one-liners, and above all else, the Inner Circle he loved so much. But John was much more than a data base; his vast recall was complemented by an elfin charm and a personal aim to spread laughter.
We all knew that. What we may not have known was that John’s hometown was Saugerties (and Forest Hills), N.Y., that he served in the Army in Europe during World War 2, was a Fordham U grad, taught history, was one of the AP’s best reporters, was proficient in Italian, the tireless former spokesperson for the FDNY, and a volunteer fire fighter as well.
John was 91 when he died Oct. 3, 2015.
A wake will be held at Seamon-Wilsey Funeral Home, 45 John St., Saugerties, N. Y. on Friday, Oct. 9, from 2 P.M. – 4 P.M.; Catholic mass at St. Mary of the Snow Church in Saugerties, Saturday, Oct. 10, at 10 A.M.
Mara Rubin: His niece Kathleen called and said it was sudden- but what he wanted. She said last week he asked her to get him tickets to “Hamilton.” Then this past Thursday, after coming back from a check-up, he said he was tired and ready.
Chris Olert: John Mulligan was a smart man. In the AP tradition, no need to characterize John’s “smart” — not “very, not extremely.” Smart in the classical sense describes John best. He also was caring; I saw John several times in Hudson and his No. 1 topic: The Inner Circle and members, and The New York Press Club (he was club president in 1973-74). I miss our smart friend.
Mark Lieberman: More than just an Inner Circle legend, John was a terrific reporter — he knew the basics of reporting , of getting the facts and getting them right!. He was proud of what he did as a street reporter, explaining to me once “investigative reporters couldn’t do what they do, if we didn’t do what we do.” He was a walking J-School. “When you get to the scene of a fire, write down the address of the building first,” he counseled. “If you go to look for it later, it might not be there.” His passing truly marks the end of an era.
Jim Ryan: One Sunday morning Mulligan was called in to work overtime at AP to cover President Kennedy attending Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He came in despite a Saturday night of revelry and covered the story until the president and the national press corps were on the way back to Washington. Sitting in an empty makeshift press room at the Carlyle filled with about fifty of the old princess phones, he asked the office, “what’s next.” The desk said, “Give us the number you’re calling from and we’ll call you back.” At that moment a technician arrived and began removing the princess phones. He told John, “don’t worry. I’ll be here an hour and I’ll take yours out last. Mulligan, tired to begin with, promptly fell asleep, waking about two hours later with not a phone in the room. He sheepishly called the office and they abruptly ordered him to come in. When he arrived, Joe Nicholson, the hard-nosed city editor, demanded, “Where the hell have you been?” Mulligan replied, “Well, Mr. Nicholson, I always thought the office should seek the man, the man should not seek the office.” Even Nicholson could not repress a smile. God rest you, John.
Ed Silberfarb: Sad indeed, my Inner Circle classmate. We joined the same year ’64.
Dan Andrews: John Mulligan was one of the finest men I have ever known. He was a walking encyclopedia of New York City, a veteran, a deputy fire commissioner who served more than a few fire commissioners.
He was also a good reporter, writer and historian, who loved his faith, his country, his family, friends ad colleagues.
His sense of humor was legendary. He brought laugher to countless faces, now saddened by a great loss.
I will greatly miss this man, who I had the privilege of calling friend.
Rest easy John.
Michael Scholl: Terrible news. Despite having to battle the physical ailments he had late in his life, John was always fun to talk to as he told stories about the past in amazingly vivid detail. R.I.P. John. You will be sorely missed.
Mike, Dan , Mara and Chris made regular trips to visit John at the Firemen’s Home in Hudson, N.Y. and kept him up to date on Inner Circle news.
Randy Jones: Susann and I are so sad that John Mulligan has passed. He was a great friend. At least he outlived most of the dictators and despots he portrayed on the Inner Circle stage….with his red clown nose. He was always fun to draw. I drew Mulligan Stew for the 2000 IC show “Living La Rudy Loca”
Richie Steier: To know John from his days in the Fire Department was to appreciate a man who thoroughly appreciated what the agency he worked for did and looked to convey as much information as possible about it to the journalists he still viewed as colleagues. To work with him in the Inner Circle, where he was the irrepressible master of jokes so old and so corny that they still induced mirth (along with the groans) offers enough memories to call forth Spencer Tracy’s line toward the end of “The Last Hurrah”: “How do you thank a man for a million laughs?”
Andrew Siff: The highest compliment I can think of for a member of the Inner Circle: he was truly funny.
Gabe Pressman: John Mulligan was a great performer…a humorist—a trouper in the best Inner Circle tradition and I was glad to count him as a friend. His routines were irrepressible, extremely funny—and he meant so much to all of us.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro: John was a New York character, he was a character with the department. He was our press guy for years. we worked with him back in the ’80’s and 90’s, and he came back after 9/11 and helped us out. He was a real New Yorker, a lover of the Fire Department. We’re going to miss him. I spoke to his brother a few days ago, and told him, those us us who knew John are very sad at his passing.
Rich Lamb: Mulligan’s rapid-fire vaudeville bits often got the biggest laughs of the night at the Inner Circle. In everyday life, his was the very voice of mirth. When it came to the FDNY, he seemed awestruck that he had had the good fortune to have risen in the ranks of those he most admired. He was unique. He was faithful, loyal, funny, knowledgeable and kind. He enjoyed being “old school”. He was always early for writing committee, and has departed us too early. But knowing John, that’s probably how he would have planned it. We shall miss you, big time, Mulligan. In the fire department, a bell would ring here. His was a wonderful life, and I am guessing John received his wings, after St. Peter rolled his eyes but laughed anyway.
Juliet Papa: I am so sorry to hear this. John was a funny man but always a gentleman. And he will always be with us….
Glenn Schuck: Sad to hear. He certainly provided many laughs and friendship. May he rest in peace.
Henry Goldman: One of the greats.
Shelly Strickler: The world has lost a terrific journalist, humorist and person. We have all lost a friend.
Sheila Stainback: In my very first IC number, I was thrilled to be on stage playing Khaddafi to Mulligan’s Arafat (Tom Posner was Saddam Hussein). Just basking in the laughter at his unique timing and delivery of punch lines–what a thrill. He made you laugh onstage and off-stage, and each year, seasoned audience members knew to anticipate his appearances.
Dan Janison: He was a big help when I first covered FDNY.
Mary Murphy: John welcomed every new member with open arms and made them feel like they belonged. He was already working for the FDNY when I met him. He was a very special man and he left the Inner Circle a better group, because of the person he was.
Mitch Lebe: John was a gentleman, colleague and a friend. He will be missed.
Steven Silverstein: He would have loved “Hamilton”! He was a treasure/one of the most positive /funny people!