Jason “The Dragon” Lee: South Boston Native Ready to Combat Bullying Lee, who trains out of Grudge Training Center in Colorado, took a few moments to talk to us about his history, and the passion he has regarding the elimination of bullying. It may be funny for people to think of a professional fighter as being so against violence, but in his eyes, the two are worlds apart. Lee”s people came from all over the world, with his grandfather”s side of the family coming straight to Boston from Ireland, and as he puts it, “I”m an Irish kid from New England. My life, is a good Irish story. Both sides of my family have ties to drunken street scrappers and small time criminals. First one to do something big was my grandfather. He grew up in a horrible household, but managed to get himself into the Navy at a young age and finished out his life as a hero.” Maybe it is this deliverance in his history, this idea that a person can change their world around them that pushes Lee to do what he does. His professional MMA record stands at 1-0, having just finished his amateur career and debuted in November at “The Professionals” in Denver, and he is surrounded constantly by some of the biggest names in the sport all motivating him to do more. His life could have taken a very different path though, growing up in the projects of South Boston and being bullied on a daily basis. “The first memory that comes to mind involves a kid that lived in the projects next to the ones I grew up in. We used to take the same bus home and that was my dreaded time. I used to wait until the last stop hoping all the other kids would get off. Unfortunately my front seat sanctuary wasn”t safe after the last stop,” Lee said.The bully and his gang would punch him as they got off, and then wait for him to depart the safety of the bus. The driver, doing nothing, would ignore young Lee”s tears and begging and force him into the street and drive away either oblivious to what was going to happen, or too cowardly to step in. Every day Lee would get off the bus, and the gang would pull down branches from a nearby tree. They would beat him with those, their fists, their feet and anything else within arm”s reach. Lee wasn”t sure if the physical blows were worse than the mental anguish of knowing what was coming each day, but in hearing him talk about the subject, it is clear that both left scars. While the bullies were bad enough, there is something about the woeful indifference that the adults, including the driver, exhibited to him that has motivated Lee to not cast the same blind eye to the problem he sees in the world currently. Maybe it was that image, of a boy pleading with an adult to listen, to save him, that lead to what happened on that night in November. On November 12, 2010, Lee dispatched Ed Banks in a quick victory in his professional debut. Normally when a fighter wins they do a post fight interview that is easily ignored. The traditional chorus and rhythm of “thank you to my sponsors, thank you to my friends and family, wow he was a tough opponent”, is what fans are used to hearing, and Lee”s started out in that exact way. Then it suddenly changed. His voice got louder, his presence in the ring suddenly larger, and everyone in the arena slowed down and dropped their own conversations as the man began to plead for a stop to bullying and for everyone to unite on the topic. This figure, whose broad shoulders had just a moment ago put a stop to a larger fighter and displayed athleticism that few in the crowd could mirror, appeared to be close to tears in the ring. They weren”t tears of sadness or weakness. They were tears of complete frustration and the words that came spilling out were that of a man tired of reliving the same painful childhood through the headlines of today. “I had been researching this bullying topic going around, and figured that with that moment when I know people are listening I”m going to say something to make a difference. I said that I was a victim of bullying and that I alone cannot change things so we need to make a collective effort to stop bullying of these kids,” Lee said. His shoulders are broad, but not broad enough to do this alone.It was a moment that froze the crowd and the galvanized many of them. While those that are on the outside of the sport looking in may not be able to see how a combat sport so focused on “fighting” and an anti-bullying campaign could work together, those close to the fighters understand completely. Within moments social networking sites were buzzing with the need of fans, coaches, gyms and everyone to unite to combat this massive problem. For Lee, it goes beyond just the bullying he himself was a victim of. “I”m a dad too and I don”t want my son or anyone else”s son or daughter to have to feel that pain,” Lee said. So why did Lee choose now, or rather, his victory speech to begin the discussion? “It”s important because this is the first time in my life that I have been in a position where people listen to me. So now I will use every ear available to push my beliefs and give back where I can.” When asked what people can do to combat the problem, Lee said, “That”s a great question because I feel like once I said something, people were happy someone had spoken up but also it left everyone wondering what programs are available and where they too can join the cause.” Lee didn”t have to look far, finding willing ears and a dedication to action right in his own gym, the world famous Grudge Training Center, and its coach Trevor Wittman. “Grudge Training Center is starting, December 10, a free class every Saturday at 2pm for kids ages 10-16 to come down and learn some free self defense and life skills. That”s a huge start and I am still looking for more,” Lee said. However it was Lee himself that had the first impact in this new war of his, almost immediately after he made the comments. Less than forty-eight hours after the event, a mother in Colorado emailed him. She had been at the show with her son, a teenager who had recently confided that he was being bullied and had been having suicidal thoughts. “She told me that her son has a new hero. I am so blessed and touched by this that now, I”m motivated to help one hundred kids and I won”t stop until I find every single one,” he said. Every journey starts with a step, and the first step for Lee”s was helping this teenager know he wasn”t alone. The teenager was surprised with tickets to an event, a closed door session with Lee where he got to watch him spar and some personally autographed equipment. In a world filled with stories of bullying that lead to horrendous tragedy, Lee is fighting back. In a society now filled with lackluster sports heroes, Lee is giving us all someone to cheer for. He is not a product of his history, he is not a victim of his past, he is a fighter that now fights inside the ring for his future, and outside for our children. To learn more about Jason “The Dragon” Lee, find him on Facebook. He will be fighting again January 29th at the Paramount Theater in downtown Denver. You can learn more about the Grudge Training Center by calling 303-432-8858.
It was the Holiday season, a cherished time to spend with family. Nathen Maxwell, bassist for Flogging Molly, the premier Irish American Punk band from L.A, was enjoying a precious lull from a demanding work schedule of touring and record making.Just days before Christmas, he arrived home in Denver from North Carolina where he and the band were recording their next studio album.Now, for the past week, he had been decompressing with his wife and 3 kids (baby, 4 & 8 yoa) and enjoying the festive time of year through the eyes of his children. “We”re in the heart of the magic right now,” he told the Celtic Connection (CC) by telephone, “All three, even the baby are firing on all magical cylinders ” it”s been a big year for Santa.” he added with a chuckle. Today was the first measurable snowfall of the winter in Denver and Nathan decided to take his family to the Museum of Nature and Science. Having moved to Denver in a December 2006 snow storm, the Southern California native had long since acclimated to Colorado”s extreme weather and driving conditions. “We arrived in Denver right in the middle of a record blizzard– through that experience I had my training wheels removed pretty quickly for driving in snow.” Now, back home from the museum, he was spinning some old “Rocksteady” vinyl, relaxing to the Jamaican sounds of the late 1960″s that were a precursor to reggae. “It”s a music that always connected to my heartbeat,” he reflected as he took time to chat with the CC about Flogging Molly, family, music, and his new Denver based band the “Original Bunny Gang” Nathan moved from California to Denver as a matter of practicality. “My wife is from Denver and she has a large family. I travel for a living and spend a lot of time on the road, leaving my wife alone at home with the kids – so it is important that she has the support group she needs while I”m out there doing my thing”Being away from his family for lengths of time can take a toll on Nathan, but he wards of negative thoughts with a positive perspective. “When I”m gone for a couple of months at a time, I will think about the troops (overseas) ” think about what they and their families go through and it provides quite a bit of inspiration to me, especially right before I go on stage and I”m tired or sick or whatever.” Nathan”s described his sense of family and time in fatherhood as “life changing” and it was, “like having something bigger than yourself to live for.” With equal measure of humor and sincerity he added, “I wouldn”t be alive right now if I didn”t have kids…Children change you and reveal a certain part of the mystery of life to you and it make you see things in a different way.”In 2011 Nathan will turn 33 and celebrate his 15th years with Flogging Molly. He seemed almost surprised as he recalled, “It”s the longest that I have ever done anything!He was 17 when he first started hanging out with Flogging Molly, or what became known as Flogging Molly, while the band was doing a residency in Molly Malones pub (ergo the band name) in L.A.“I was a musician at a young age, and that”s all that I wanted to do, and I had a father who helped point me in the right direction and he introduced me to several of the people who became the band Flogging Molly — and I just went from there.”Candidly, he did not claim to be a young prodigy, but he did hold another intangible often associated with success. “I”ve always had a sincere passion for the music that I believe in, like Flogging Molly and the Original Bunny Gang. According to Dave (King, band leader) that”s what made the difference from my lack of practice, he said that a lack of passion is unforgivable ” if you make a mistake you can recover, but if you don”t have the passion forget it. I think that”s what secured my position in Flogging Molly.” The passion also carried the young musician through initial insecurities. “Sometimes I would think, I can”t do this or I can”t do that, but I love it so much that I just do it.I was so into hardcore punk rock and roots reggae that I feel like, stylistically I had that in my blood and in my bones, I felt like I had it down in a way.”On his long list of admired bass players, the first three Nathan mentioned were Aston “Family man” Barrett who played with Bob Marley & the Wailers, Sid Vicious ( born John Simon Ritchie) of the Sex Pistols, and Paul Simonon of The Clash. The self-taught musician admires them all for different reasons, but he does not try to emulate anyone stylistically. Open to improving on his own technique, he took his first base lesson last month while in North Carolina with Flogging Molly, and seemed to have enjoyed the experience. “I”ve always just gone off on pure feeling ” does it feels right, does it move me, and for the most part that”s how I still react to music. But, it is liberating in a way, to become aware of things that you don”t know and slowly start finding those little pieces of information that can benefit you and study them. I”m definitely learning ” I have a lot to learn.”Jason admitted that his lack of structured schooling in his craft has on occasion left him on the peripheral of some conversations on music. “When it comes to other forms of music– in just being a more well-rounded musician, someone who can speak in musical terms ” I”ve never been that guy. That”s always been a struggle for me when I”m around very, very talented musicians and multi-instrumentalists that can read and speak music, I”ve always felt a little bit intimidated.”He does not enter the debate on what”s good music or bad music ” However he does know what he likes. “I”m kind of like a musical agnostic, I don”t really have a deep opinion of music other than what I love and what moves me and that crosses all genres and categories of music. I”ve heard my self say many times that I love all genres of music, but I think about 95% of them are shit. But, I do think every genre exists for a reason, and that they are an outlet for someone playing a style of music that”s authentic and comes from the soul.”Nathan has created his own outlet in forming the Original Bunny Gang (OBG). OBG is not “Flogging Molly Light” ” It has a roots based sound that sometimes leans toward reggae. He explained, “I grew up in southern CA and reggae was just a part of my upbringing along with the whole Ska and surf culture. I”m sure a lot of people here in the mountains grew up with reggae as well. It was something that was always on in the house along with classic 70″s music.” OBG gives Nathan a vehicle to create and deliver his own music. “It”s just a really great opportunity to express in a way that isn”t Flogging Molly” He continued to explain, “I write songs, I don”t know exactly why I do it, but it is a big part of my life and I love to do it — kind of like healing in a way — so, I don”t want to premeditate what I”m writing or how I”m writing it ” it gives me an outlet to release my original music without worrying if it fits in the direction of Flogging Molly, which I”m just a member of the collective following the direction of Dave King the captain of the ship.”So, is there a possibility that OBG would open a show for Flogging Molly? “Oh, I personally don”t think I would be to interested in that,” Nathen pondered the question, leaving the door open to the idea. “I don”t know, it would have to be the right occasion. If it was presented right, I wouldn”t be 100% against it.” On further thought he hedged, “I just take both gigs so seriously that I need to focus ” When I”ve got my Flogging Molly hat on I just like to focus on that ” it”s a pretty powerful thing. Likewise going out there with the Bunny Gang it is a totally different ball of wax as far as singing and playing guitar and not bass. It”s a stamina thing too, by the end of the show I feel like I”ve given my all ” so to do that back to back, I don”t know if I want to sign-up for that.”Focusing on 2011, Nathen has scheduled some January OBG shows in Colorado. We want to do as many local shows as we can to let people know that we exist and that we”re out here as a local Denver band. We also will spend time together working on music and recording a new album.” But everything hinges on Flogging Molly”s schedule. “Come February we”ll start a pretty massive Flogging Molly tour.” During the past 15 years Nathan has performed on impressive stages around the world with Flogging Molly ” When asked which was has favorite gig, his answer was not surprisingly in his own back yard. “We got a chance to play Red Rocks in 2009, headlining with a L.A. reggae band called Hebcat, one of my favorite bands. My family was there, and just to be on that stage with its giant beautiful monoliths and its history ” Bob Marley, The Beatles, and all the great bands that have played there — it was one of the greatest moments in my life without a doubt.”(January 2011 Celtic Connection, Pat McCullough)The Original Bunny Gang ” January Colorado concert dates:1/13 Ghost Ranch Saloon, Steamboat Springs; 1/14 Gothic Theatre, Englewood;1/15 Sandbar, Vail; 1/20 Goat Soup & Whiskey Tavern, Keystone;1/21 Triple Nickel Tavern, Colorado SpringsFor Updates check www.NathenMaxwell.com and www.FloggingMolly.com
I grew up in York, PA”it was the first capital of the fledgling United States during the time the Continental Congress was hashing out the details of nationhood,”it was a good place to grow up. It”s about 65,000 people, has close proximity to Philly/Baltimore/NYC, and some great historic homes. I went to Penn State and did an undergrad double major in History and Political Science, and after that was in Teach For America (www.tfa.org) for three years teaching in Houston, TX. After that, I moved to Colorado where I started working for TeleTech, a global outsourcing company, which took me to Europe, South Asia and Australia for 8+ years to live, work and, of course, have fun! I”ve spent almost 20 years working in the for-profit corporate world all-in, and it”s been quite the rollercoaster ride. My partner, Dr. Mary Therese Anstey, and I moved back to Denver in late 2004, where I got acquainted with Andrew Toole and Donnie Danesh, the founders of Scruffy Murphy”s Irish Pub, and when the opportunity came to join them as a partner in the business, I jumped at the chance. Eventually, Donnie and Andrew divested themselves from the business, and now I run it day-to-day as the Managing Partner, with two silent partners in the background. Their role is totally silent ” they don”t really take part in pub operations ” so most days I”ll be the one you”ll see at the pub! How did you go from your day job to owning an Irish pub? I had seen hurling, shinty and Gaelic football played (and did a bit of playing myself) while living in both Scotland and in Australia, so when I got back to the US I ended up finding the Denver Gaels, where I started to play hurling and, eventually, led the club as Chairman/President for a few years. Scruffy Murphy”s was one of the pub sponsors, so I ended up spending some time there after our games and practices, and really loved the authenticity that Andrew, Donnie and Craig Hostrup (their main bartender, and now our Manager) had built into the place. I started out working a bit with Andrew and Donnie just to talk through how they could streamline some processes, start building up some of the systems/processes/technology in the bar to broaden its appeal in the business community and the like. One day, over coffee, Andrew mentioned that he and Donnie were going to sell Scruffy Murphy”s and that they had a “corporate” buyer. A few of us in the Gaels were concerned that the authenticity of Scruffy”s would be lost if it “went corporate”, so we pulled together an offer, and the rest, as they say, is history! We partnered with Donnie and Andrew starting in November of 2008, and it”s been going great guns ever since. We”re an active part of the Irish community in Denver ” we sponsor the Denver Gaels and the Colorado Irish Festival, we”re one of the few venues still hosting Irish/Irish-American bands on a regular basis, and we have close ties to organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish Fellowship Society, Michael Collins Pipe Band and many of the Irish dance organizations as well. Are you enjoying being a pub owner? Ups and downs of the job? As anyone in the bar/restaurant industry can tell you, you put in a hell of a lot of hours running and growing a successful business. Not only is there all of the “front of house” stuff that people see when our doors are open”for every hour we”re open to the public and working in their sight, there are around 3 hours of work behind it, whether that”s managing inventory & orders, building staff, developing community relationships, driving events at/to the pub or doing the work and maintenance associated with being in a 130 year old building. Late nights, long hours and “lost weekends” in terms of personal relationships are a real challenge, and it takes a special, and dedicated type of person to make that work out well. That all said ” I LOVE IT! Sure, there are challenges, but when the head brewmaster from Guinness comes through your door and tells you that you”re pouring the most authentic/best Guinness pints in Colorado, or bands like Flogging Molly, Street Dogs, Seven Nations or Dropkick Murphy”s have made you their “Colorado Home” when they”re in town, it”s a blast as well as very gratifying”we must be doing SOMETHING right! As I like to say, it”s a labor of love”no one ever gets rich, financially, running an independent pub, but at the same time I can truly say that I have an almost immeasurable wealth of friends, contacts, experiences and relationships that are a direct result of owning and running Scruffy Murphy”s ” and for that I am VERY grateful. What are some of your most memorable events at Scruffy”s so far? Wow, there are so many”everything from the guy who proposed to his girlfriend (now wife) in front of the stage when Sixtysixdays was playing one night to nights when we”ve hosted benefits for our veterans come immediately to mind”those are the really important ones that continually happen. Of course, hosting Flogging Molly”s NYE 2008 post party until the wee hours of the morning was a ton of fun, as was having Nathen Maxwell (FM bassist) play our stage last September during an Open Mic session. We”ve been privileged to have good friends like Cody Donovan (MMA fighter) and Nate Marquardt (UFC fighter) spend memorable nights with us just hanging out, the guys from Street Dogs, Synthetic Elements, Flatfoot 56, Reno Divorce and Dropkick Murphys all knocking back a few pints around the bar when they”re in town, and the opportunity every year to host a huge “White Trash Party” to benefit Lost & Found, a very worthy non-profit organization here in Denver. What we”re really trying to do, though, is help other people make memories together at Scruffy Murphy”s ” maybe they”ve met some new friends, seen a band they”ve never seen before, or met that “special someone” in our snug or in our Beer Garden. THOSE are the kinds of memorable events that mean more than anything to me. What are some of the changes that you have brought to Scruffy”s? I like to say that Scruffy”s is still the same old Scruffy”s and that I”ve just added a few new and different twists to help people have a good time. We”ve added to the d”cor, to our staff, and to our involvement in the neighborhood/community, all of which are subtle additions to our presence on Larimer Street. We”re doing a TON more live music ” Thursday through Saturday you”ll find live bands every week ” and we”ve expanded the genres we”re hosting as well, with everything from Irish rock/punk to Alt Country to blues driven rock. Our Traditional Irish Session on Sundays is also a great way to unwind before having to go back to work the next day. Our menu has also expanded to include everything from Shepherd”s Pie, to Bangers “n” Mash (with bangers from Stephen McCabe at Edward”s Meats making it extra authentic), to some “bar munchie” stuff like Monster Pretzels, which are literally the size of a dinner plate. While we”re definitely not a restaurant (and don”t really want to be) we want to make sure that if you DO want something with your pint or your drink, that it tastes good. Out back we”ve expanded the entire area to build out a Beer Garden that is a ton of fun in the summer”you can sit out under the stars, enjoy a few drinks, have a great time with friends and still hear the band. The front patio is also a great place to people watch, especially as the night gets a little later and people on the street are all a bit, well, “merrier”. In our Field Room, which we can separate for private events, we”ve installed an LCD projector, large screen, separate satellite feed and high-speed WiFi access so that it can either be a party room (with its own bar, restrooms and entrance) or a place where a company or organization can come in, have a meeting in a relaxed atmosphere, and enjoy themselves. Finally, we”ve REALLY expanded our Scottish single malt, Irish whiskey and American whiskey/bourbon menu, hosting monthly whiskey/whisky/bourbon tastings with Marty & Dave Coffey of Cobhthaigh Celtique. After all, there”s nothing wrong with getting a little more education about the malt or whiskey you”re drinking and having fun doing it! You/wife/Scruffy”s are involved in ARAS (and other fundraisers) ” tell us about this on going cause. We do a lot to support non-profits at Scruffy”s ” that”s an important element in being a contributor to our city and a member of our community”those events are always fun and very memorable, especially because you know that at the end of the night you”ve really done something to make a difference in someone else”s life. Our areas of focus for non-profit support lie primarily with organizations focused on Veterans Support, Animals and Children, and we can get VERY creative when it comes to pulling together some major events to help them out ” again, it”s important to do more than just sling pints, especially when it”s for a cause. One of those nonprofits is ARAS, or the Animal Rescue and Adoption Society, which is a no-euthanasia, non-profit cat shelter in Denver that”s been around for almost 30 years, and which (like so many smaller non-profits) is struggling with dwindling dollars and support. While animal organizations like Denver Dumb Friends League and MaxFund receive the majority of funding and attention in Colorado, largely by virtue of the massive amounts of money they can spend on marketing, advertising and promotion, there are a lot of shelters like ARAS who need to operate on barely a fraction of that amount of money. It”s important to us that these smaller non-profits, like ARAS and others, that don”t have those massive budgets have someplace to be able to hold fundraisers, attract interest and gain support. Anything you want to plug for January or beyond? We”re getting VERY excited for St. Patrick”s this year for sure. We”ll have the entire Beer Garden covered with a tent, where we”ll be running a couple of extra bars and putting in a stage for all day bands on Parade Day (3/12) and St. Patrick”s Day (3/17), as well as hosting bands on most of the other days in that 10-day block. Scruffy”s 6th Birthday will be celebrated on Saturday February 5th ” it”s going to be a HUGE bash and a ton of fun, with a bunch of promotions, prizes and general shenanigans going on. Of course, we”re also both open for, and hosting, several private parties, and we”re working on another fundraiser for ARAS in late February or early March. Anyone can find out what”s going on with us”just find our FaceBook page and join as a friend, or bookmark our website (www.scruffymurphysdenver.com) and keep checking back. People can also join our mailing list ” I like to send out special deals and coupons/special invitations to those who have joined as a way to say “Thanks” for following us.Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub, 2030 Larimer Street Denver, CO 80205303.291.6992 www.scruffymurphysdenver.com