By Michael Shain
George O’Neill, the bulldog-tough owner of O’Neill’s Restaurant in Maspeth, used the uncharacteristic word “grand” to describe the fund-raiser he staged over the weekend for the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Sitting in a booth in a room off the bustling bar at 64-21 53rd Drive, he called the sports-star-studded fund-raiser “a grand event.”
More like $140 grand — and maybe as much as $200,000 — was raised for the famous hospital in California, according to one of the event coordinators.
More than 1,300 people paid $100 each to attend the fund-raiser, lured by the chance to the get an autograph and pose for a selfie with a dozen New York sports legends.
Among the athletes who sat for hours signing autographs were the New York Rangers’ Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mike Richter and Rod Gilbert, former Knicks greats John Starks and Anthony Mason and Queens native (and former Boston Celtics star) Kenny Anderson.
For nearly 30 years, O’Neill has used his restaurant for fund-raisers to to help the families of New York City cops who died on duty. But this was the first he’s done for St. Jude’s.
“And this was, I’m pretty sure, the biggest one he’s ever done,” said Nick D’Arienzo, who helped put together the event.