John McDonagh’s Irish New York

40-year cabbie driver shares his stories

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]


John McDonagh doesn’t care about St. Patrick’s Day.


“I’m sort of Irish every day and every week,” the 68-year-old Middle Village resident said in a recent phone interview. The first generation resident, whose family is from Donegal and County Tyrone, has steeped himself in Irish history, culture and news with his weekly radio show Radio Free Eireann on WBAI. 


“So I don’t need to wear green hats or green shamrocks to say – kiss me, I’m Irish,” McDonagh said. “I sort of go way beyond that.”


The WBAI show originally started as a way for Sinn Fein and the Irish Republicans to have an outlet, where they could express their point-of-view unlike how they were limited in Ireland.These days, since the country has seen peace, McDonagh has moved into more cultural coverage, where the Irish writer and former political candidate Malachy McCourt is the second mic.


He still doesn’t even really like to attend the parades. Back in 1981, he and other political activists were kicked out of the 5th Ave Parade  for expressing support of the 1981 hunger strike led by Bobby Sands, which was 17 days in at the time.


“The irony of it all is now the parade carries a banner with Bobby Sands his picture on it! So they didn’t allow it when he was on hunger strike, but now that he’s dead they support him,” McDonagh said. “He needed support when he was alive, not when he died.”


For most of his life, McDonagh has been a taxi driver.


“The normal career move for the son of Irish immigrants is you graduate high school, do your time in the service. And then you take the test for the Sanitation Department, Fire Department or the NYPD. But when I got out, they were laying off cops and firemen,” McDonagh explained, having left the service at the end of 1975.


“So I went and got my hack license thinking I don’t really drive for a little while,” he said. “And then 40 years later, here I am.”


In those 40 years, McDonagh has seen a lot. 


Back in his heyday, when a customer said they wanted to go to the Lower East Side, “he wasn’t going to an art gallery like it would be today, he was going into a shooting gallery.”


Customers would often ask to go to a run down building, which McDonagh compared to the post-bombed building of Dresden, where a few things could happen.


The customer would either come out of the building with guns and dope in his hand, making the taxi driver a wheelman; or the passenger would come out beaten by a drug dealer and get his doorman to pay his fare back in the Upper East Side. 


McDonagh did say that with the first option, “at least guys who rob drug dealers tend to tip better.”


His cabbie driving also led to political activism in the early 2000s. When the Republican Convention was hosted in New York City during 2004, McDonagh helped found the group Cabbies Against Bush, which offered free rides for delegates to the Kennedy or Newark airport (not including tip and toll), if they had one way tickets to Baghdad. 


He even went on Fox News to talk about the issue, which was supposed to be a five minute hit but barely lasted over one.


“So when I got on to Neil Cavuto, he asked me about tipping and I said, if the war profits from Halliburton, and Bechtel can trickle down to the drivers, it might not be bad.”


After the interview, McDonagh said he gave his best Ed Koch impression, asking “Hey, how am I doing?” to visible anger. 


He then bolted out of the studio, not wanting Fox to cancel his car back to Queens.


“No one knows why I’m running. So they’re following me: You got security interns, producers, – I had like a conga line behind me. And they were chasing me like an al-Qaeda suspect through Fox. So I didn’t know how to get out of the bloody place. I’m running up and down escalators and cubicles,” McDOnagh recalled with laughter.


He eventually made it to 6th Ave., where he hopped in the car and told the driver to go. When he got back to Queens, he told the driver that he would hope to see him again.


“I don’t think so,” he bluntly replied. 


A lot has changed over the years as a cab driver, McDonagh said. Some things are obvious, like the end of checker cabs, but also the way drivers and their riders would interact has greatly diminished since the advent of apps and cashless pay systems.


It’s part of the reason why McDonagh has compiled his decades of stories into a play called Off The Meter, chronicling the crazy adventures of manning a yellow cab, which morphed from years of telling jokes and stories at local bars.

McDonagh has an upcoming performance of the play on March 25 at the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany. 


McDonagh also shared with the Queens Ledger that he is currently working with a production company in Dublin to try and produce a screenplay that is a fictionalized version of what it was like to live in the Queens and the Bronx in the early 1990s, focusing on how Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans interacted and got along.


“I’m under no illusions of anything getting produced, like you could do a play because you can rent out a theater and just do it. To get a movie done… I don’t know how it gets done. I mean, somebody has to be attached. It has to be seen by the right people,” McDonagh said.


“To me, it’s a million-to-one shot. Like the rest of my life. I’m taking it.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the parade McDonagh was kicked out of, it was the 5th Ave. Parade not the St Pat’s For All Parade. We apologize for the error

Flushing Town Hall presents ‘Octogenarian Women of Jazz’

Although she recently turned 80, playing jazz music feels perfectly natural for Sudhalter.

By Stephanie Meditz | [email protected]

Flushing Town Hall house band leader Carol Sudhalter defines jazz music as “life itself.” As she enters her 80s, she is as full of life as ever.

On March 24 at 8 p.m., Sudhalter will lead a quintet of octogenarians to celebrate her 80th birthday with an eveningof jazz music at Flushing Town Hall.

Although she did not pursue music seriously until college, Sudhalter has been surrounded by jazz for most of her life.

“I was a late starter. I grew up in a family of musicians and I knew traditional style jazz, not modern jazz, specifically Chicago style…and I studied piano as a kid,” Sudhalter said.

When she was in college to become a science writer, she picked up the flute and started to play jazz.

“I grew up in this jazz family and we had jam sessions at my house and all that. I loved the whole jazz community and the music,” she said. “The energy in jazz just seems like life itself, so I’ve always loved it. I would go to hear groups and I would hang around groups. And then…a lightbulb went on in my head. I could just play jazz.”

She said that this unexpected career change made her years in music more meaningful to her.

“I think you face a lot of opposition when you start late like that. And then also being a woman at that time, it wasn’tso common in the jazz world. You didn’t have that many role models,” she said. “I didn’t let it discourage me, but I thought to myself, why do people offer these opinions when I haven’t really asked them?”

Despite people’s doubt about whether she could make a career out of jazz, Sudhalter forged her own path in the music industry and as a private music instructor.

She was the first graduate of Smith College to have a career as a jazz musician.

Her first inspiration came from Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbecke, a major cornet player in Chicago style jazz from the early 20th century, in addition to Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Django Reinhardt and Frank Sinatra.

She played in Madison Square Garden as a member of the first all-female Latin band, Latin Fever.

Since 2002, Sudhalter has traveled to Italy at least once a year to perform and teach a course entitled “English Diction for Singers.”

An Astoria resident, she is also the founder and baritone saxophonist of the Astoria Big Band, which has received more than 20 performance grants.

This year, she got invited to Indiana University to play baritone saxophone for the premiere of a piece composed by Mickey Tucker for both jazz ensemble and symphony orchestra.

“It was just thrilling from start to finish. The orchestra was great, the jazz ensemble was great, the conductor was amazing” she said. “It really was like an 80-year gift.”

Sudhalter has been the house band leader of Flushing Town Hall’s Louis Armstrong Legacy Monthly Jazz Jam since 2016.

She still performs regularly at Flushing Town Hall, and she is grateful to bring jazz music to the Queens community.

“It doesn’t feel unusual or anything like that at all. In the jazz community, we’re kind of used to seeing people going right into their 90s playing, and sometimes even over 100,” she said. “It feels great, and the only difference is that…the instruments are starting to feel a little bit heavier.”

Sudhalter invited musicians who have truly devoted themselves to jazz music to join her onstage for Octogenarian Women of Jazz.

She quickly thought of some of her first friends since she moved to New York in 1978 — pianist Bertha Hope (86), vocalist Keisha St. Joan (84) and drummer Paula Hampton (87).

Bill Crow (95) will play bass in the quintet, and Sudhalter will play the flute and baritone saxophone.

The quintet will play a mix of standards and original works composed by band members.

They will also hold a Q&A session to discuss their favorite memories from their years as musicians.

“[Flushing Town Hall] is a real state of the art place to play. It’s like a well-oiled machine, it just works beautifully,”she said. “I love working on that monthly jam, and I will hopefully keep collaborating with them on different concerts.”

Tickets for Octogenarian Women of Jazz are available for $15/$10 for Flushing Town Hall members, seniors andstudents with ID at

“We see music now healing people in a world that’s becoming very dark and negative and death-oriented,”

Sudhalter said. “We see when we go to nursing homes and senior centers, people just cry when they hear songs they love, and they can’t stop thanking us and expressing how happy it makes them…Music is very, very deep in people’s souls.”

Orthodontics Field Improves In 2023 Explains Queens Dentist

Welcome to the world of orthodontics! If you’re looking for the latest news and amazing practices in orthodontics, you’ve come to the right place. 2023 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for orthodontics, with new technologies and techniques emerging to make braces more comfortable, efficient, and effective than ever before.

One of the most exciting developments in orthodontics is the rise of clear aligners. Clear aligners have been around for a few years now, but in 2023 they are becoming more sophisticated and widely available. These clear aligners are a great option for people who want to straighten their teeth without traditional braces. They are comfortable, removable, and virtually invisible, making them a popular choice for adults who want to improve their smile without drawing attention to their orthodontic treatment.

Another amazing development in orthodontics is the use of 3D printing technology. This technology is making it possible for our local Queens orthodontists to create custom-made braces and aligners that fit perfectly in the patient’s mouth. This means that treatment is more precise and efficient than ever before. With 3D printing technology, orthodontists can create a model of a patient’s mouth, design the braces or aligners, and then print them out using a special resin. This process is much faster than traditional methods, which can take several weeks to create custom-made appliances.

In addition to these amazing new technologies, orthodontic practices are also becoming more patient-focused. Orthodontists are realizing that patients want more than just straight teeth – they want a personalized experience that meets their unique needs and preferences. That’s why many orthodontic practices are offering a wide range of options for patients, including different types of braces and aligners, as well as different payment plans and financing options.

Finally, orthodontic practices and dentists alike are also becoming more environmentally conscious. Many practices are making an effort to reduce their carbon footprint by using eco-friendly materials and implementing sustainable practices in their offices. This is great news for patients who are concerned about the environment and want to support businesses that are making a positive impact on the planet.

2023 is shaping up to be an amazing year for orthodontics. With new technologies and techniques emerging, as well as a greater focus on patient-centered care and environmental sustainability, there’s never been a better time to improve your smile. Whether you’re interested in clear aligners, custom-made braces, or just want to explore your options, there’s an orthodontic practice out there that’s perfect for you. So why wait? Schedule a consultation with an orthodontist today and start your journey to a healthier, more beautiful smile.

Contributed With Help From Our Queens Ledger Featured Orthodontist:

My Smiles Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics 79-14 164th St, Queens, NY 11432, United States

My Smiles Orthodontics of Queens 75-05 Parsons Boulevard Flushing, NY 11366 (718) 380-1230


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