The songs say that when Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay, but since WW revealed that KBOO radio personality Maire Cullen isn't the Emerald Islander she claims to be, some Irish eyes definitely haven't been smiling on her.
Four weeks ago WW reported that Cullen, hostess of KBOO's weekly program Radio Free Ireland and avowed brogue-laden native Irishwoman, was really born Lisa Ann Dobranski in Jersey City, N.J. (see "Brogue of the Week," WW, July 9, 2003). Public records showed that she still uses her birth name in official documents, though she uses "Maire Cullen" in public exclusively. "We hope Cullen keeps her show on the air," the WW story said, "but with a little less blarney, please."
After WW's story, some Irish Portlanders were furious at Cullen.
"This is outrageous if it's true," said David O'Longaigh, a native Irishman who says he spent years believing that Cullen was really from the south Armagh town of Crossmaglen.
Cullen was on the airwaves the day after WW published its article. She disputed the story but has not returned to the show since.
On Thursday, fill-in Radio Free Ireland host Gayle Jewell told listeners that the stress of appearing in the pages of WW had taken a significant physical toll on the 46-year-old Cullen, causing her to be hospitalized with a number of ailments. According to Jewell, Cullen collapsed two weeks ago, then began vomiting blood. Soon afterward, Jewell said, Cullen's heart stopped, she suffered complete kidney failure, and she experienced serious dental problems. Jewell also reported that Cullen has had four separate surgeries performed on her in recent weeks and has had a permanent dialysis port installed in her chest.
"Her spirits are absolutely dashed," Jewell added.
Many of Cullen's allies have stuck with her, maintaining that she is, indeed, Irish. One ardent Cullen advocate, Rodney Ray, told WW that Cullen refused to return WW's phone calls for comment because "it's not a part of Irish culture to use the phone."
Various KBOO hosts have spent hours of airtime denouncing WW as of late, nicknaming WW "Will-slam-it Week," with one even likening WW's "irresponsibility" to the "Stephen" Blair New York Times scandal. (It's actually Jayson Blair.)
In an email to WW, local journalist and KBOO contributor Lisa Loving wrote, "That rogue column knocked her down so hard I've got to wonder if she'd be in the hospital right now if it had never been written."