Cover story: Ferris doesn’t take this day off

Ferris O’Brien is monumentally influential in making OKC’s radio landscape cool. Over and over, he has resurrected The Spy FM (91.7 FM) from certain death and renewed our faith in the little radio station that could. He also knows a thing or two about being Irish.

“Just being Irish, it does have a certain meaning, and it’s a fun holiday,” he said. “That and the Fourth of July were the biggest in my family. It was always a get-together — cooking, drinking, good times.”

His love of St. Patrick’s Day has spilled over to his career in radio as well.

“There’s always some live broadcast or some party going on in and around the holiday — it was always fun to be a part of it. And, again, with the Irish thing, I tend to be the go-to in that situation,” he said.

This year, O’Brien will star in the debut of the O’City St. Patrick’s Day Fest & Parade downtown and in Bricktown. To get the party started, Downtown OKC, Inc. (DOKC) will pay homage to one of the finest movies of all time, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The folks at DOKC are taking advantage of the fact that the movie has an incredible parade scene and has a local celebrity who shares a first name with the eponymous lead character. The Ferris float will lead the parade. If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to put that on your to-do list before Saturday so you will pick up on all the references.

This Ferris is the party king of OKC
O’Brien is a natural raconteur. Whether he has honed that skill with years of practice or was born with it, it’s hard to say. His laugh is also so infectious that when he gets to the good part of a story, chances are you’re laughing along with him, sometimes hard enough to miss the punch line.

Pay attention, though. It’s worth it. When asked about his favorite places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in OKC, two inevitable locations sprung to his mind: Saints Irish Pub in the Plaza District, 1715 NW 16th St., and James E. McNellie’s Public House in Midtown at 1100 N. Classen Drive.

He said the best place to get an Irish car bomb shot is the HiLo Club, 1221 NW 50th St.

“I’ve never had one at Saints,” he said, “but I bet they make a really good one.”

He went on to describe a horrifying drink at an undisclosed location with a rather profane name, a bright green “liquid roofie.” We’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say he was only allowed to have one of those bad mofos (and no, that’s not the name).

O’Brien would like to see the O’City Parade become an annual event — something the whole city looks forward to each year, like the Gazette’s Halloween Parade in years past. This is the first time DOKC and The Spy have sponsored the event, and they’re teaming with the Bricktown Association and Chevy Team Dealers this year.

As for the holiday itself?

“It’s the coolest holiday for one of the coolest up-and-coming cities,” O’Brien said.

Green eggs and inflatable elephants
“When I worked at (KDGE, 94.5 FM) The Edge in Dallas,” O’Brien said, “The Go-Go’s had reunited, and they were down in Dallas doing the whole show with George (Gimarc). He was broadcasting live from Humperdink’s on Lower Greenville, and we were all in Humperdink’s drinking … a lot.”

Humperdinks was famous for lifesized inflatable elephants that they put outside on special occasions. The group decided at one point that they were leaving Humperdink’s for Deep Ellum to bar-hop on this important drinking holiday. They all piled into The Edge’s big blue monster of a bus and hit the road. They were tooling down the high way, and people were honking and waving at the bus. “We’re thinking it’s because they know the bus and they know The Go-Go’s are on it,” said O’Brien.

They were almost to the exit before they realized that the bus’ bumper had caught one of the elephants and they had dragged it all the way down the highway.

As keen a time as that was, topping Ferris’ list is Eskimo Joe’s famous Green Eggs & Ham celebration. During the years that O’Brien was on the original Spy FM in Stillwater, the station would broadcast live from the restaurant.

“It was always something that everyone would look forward to, and I’d be out there at 5 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day for the green eggs and ham and the green beer. It was an allday thing,” he said. “We literally broadcasted all day. It could be that we only broadcast until 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and maybe I just felt like it was all day. It was a sea of people everywhere. It was great fun.”

Ferris O’Brien’s top 10 Irish tunes for drinking, carousing and generally making merry:

10. Finnegan’s Wake — “Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore”
9. Orthodox Celts — “Star of the Country Down”
8. The Rumjacks — “An Irish Pub Song”
7. Frank Tovey — “Sam Hall”
6. The Wolfe Tones — “Come Out Ye Black and Tans”
5. The Irish Rovers — “Drunken Sailor”
4. The High Kings — “Rocky Road to Dublin”
3. Shane MacGowan and the Popes — “Nancy Whiskey”
2. The Dubliners — “Irish Rover”
1. Anything — absolutely anything — by The Pogues

O’City St. Patrick’s Day Fest & Parade

The entire city will be shamrockin’ at this party. The all-day event includes fun for the whole family. There will be food and (of course) green beer, as well as special offerings from area restaurants. Parade participants include Energy FC and Spokies bike share program, as well as Downtown OKC, Inc. and The Spy with a special surprise. Live music starts at 4 p.m. and features Kylie Morgan, 100 Bones and more. Bring the family and help paint the town green.

10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday
Parade start: Reno Avenue and Hudson Place

Festival: Sheridan Avenue and Oklahoma Avenue


Devon Green

Devon Green is a life and food reporter for Oklahoma Gazette. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Kevin and their two slightly evil felines, Goodluck Jonathan and Charles Taylor. Devon has a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma and once ran away with the circus to Macau, China. She is passionately local and lives to promote quality of life in OKC. She can most often be found eating, writing or writing about eating — while eating.

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