Thursday mornings, listeners of community radio station KBOO are treated to an hourlong slice of Irish music and politics in a show called Radio Free Ireland. Each week, host Maire Cullen talks up all things Celtic in her distinct Irish lilt and waxes nostalgic about her youth on the Emerald Isle. There's just a wee problem with all of this, however.
Apparently, she's not as Irish as she seems.
On the show, Dame Cullen, 46, makes frequent reference to her Irish homeland. "This is an old favorite where I come from," she told listeners last Thursday, introducing a lively ditty. "This one's called 'The Foggy Dew.'"
When WW put in a call to KBOO's studios to ask from which part of Ireland Cullen hails, she balked.
"Uh...from the North, actually," she replied, before swiftly ending the conversation.
But unless New Jersey has recently been annexed by Ireland, it seems Cullen may have been sprinkling a little leprechaun dust in her listeners' ears.
According to Portlander Bill Large, who was married to the host for seven years, Maire Cullen was actually born Lisa Ann Dobranski (of the famed clan Dobranski, perhaps?) in Jersey City, N.J. A search of Oregon public records last week turned up a state identification card for Lisa Ann Dobranski; it had been registered to Cullen's current Northeast Portland address. As of 1993, when the two split up, Large claims she had never set foot on the isle.
"I couldn't believe she would endanger KBOO's credibility," Large says. "If anybody can get on KBOO and say that they're anybody they want, that makes KBOO look like idiots."
Cullen declined to speak to WW after our first short call. But it's pretty clear that she uses her Irish accent both on and off the air. Not only does the brogue in question appear on her home answering machine, but none of her KBOO comrades had any clue that she may have been having them on.
"She definitely has an Irish way about her," says Jeff Rosenberg, a WW contributor whose show Dharma Wheel comes on right after Radio Free Ireland.
While we admire Cullen's chutzpah, we can't help but feel there's something a little weird, and sad, about a wholesale adoption of another accent--especially when it rightfully belongs to a people so proud of their heritage and history. We hope Cullen keeps her show on the air--but with a little less blarney, please.