Along with a few other brave souls, he turned Canton into a Baltimore dinner and drinking destination in the 1990’s. In the 1980’s, our parents wouldn’t have let us anywhere near Canton after dark and I was from Dundalk. It was just not a very good neighborhood, as any honest person would tell you.
Scunny was “old school” before there was a word for it. He was playing Journey at 10 o’clock long before The Sopranos made it cool.
He started drinking Natty Boh long before I met him and never stopped promoting the brand, even when it went away. At one point, it was the only place in Baltimore to get a Natty Boh. In 2003, less than 10 minutes after I proposed to my wife on Federal Hill, we drove directly to Nacho Mama’s and told Scunny we were getting married. Of course, he bought us a round of Natty Bohs to celebrate.
His collection of Boh gear and old Orioles & Colts relics has adorned the walls of his O’Donnell Street institution from the beginning and is only superseded by his Elvis Presley velvet collection. (And I’m pretty convinced that most of the Ocean City gear in his place was stolen but I’m not telling anyone.)
Nacho Mama’s brand and growth and food – all of the kitschy Baltimore stuff of my childhood – worked to bring people into his establishment over parts of three decades but what brought people back was the legitimate and authentic way Scunny built his place. I always sent him tons of out-of-town business, even when he was rarely a WNST sponsor. Whenever anyone asked me where they should go to see “a real Baltimore place,” I’d send them to Nacho Mama’s and never have to doubt it being a local pearl of wisdom for any tourist or anyone wanting to discover what Bal’mer is all about.
Just like when I took my wife there immediately following her accepting my offer to live the rest of her life here in Baltimore with me.
There was always talk of a suburban location and Scunny told me he was searching to grow his burgeoning empire but never expanded off that Canton Square once he found the corner location and established “Mama’s On The Half Shell.”
Our bond through sports never wavered because he was a fixture at Ravens games, often in a crazy suit and usually as Elvis Presley. He also did Santa Claus for anyone who asked in December.
I remember him taking his pals to Indianapolis for his bachelor party in October 1996 for the first Baltimore Ravens game in the Irsay homestead.
The original Irsay dummy that resided in his bar in a casket was the same dummy that I carried on a stick through the streets of Indy during his bachelor party celebration. He asked if I’d display it at Nacho Mama’s and I told him it wasn’t mine to give. After a quick console with artist and originator Mike Ricigliano, the final resting home for Tiger Bob Irsay in Baltimore has forever been the northeast wall of Nacho Mama’s.
Like Scunny himself, it was a fixture around Baltimore and deserved to be at a cool, hip and awesome place like Nacho Mama’s.
We’re all trying to build a legacy in life and here in our hometown – and certainly Scunny was a kindred spirit who loved Baltimore as much as I love Baltimore. That was our bond and our mutual mission.
We all want our communities to succeed and thrive but many don’t give the way he did and participate in a way that was genuine. The next time you’re in Canton, think of our friend Scunny and all that he stood for. It’s inconceivable that the energy he propelled over the past two decades won’t be felt for a generation in East Baltimore, especially given the many tentacles of his friendships and influence.
He touched more people’s lives – in a personal way, not like some rented athlete or TV character – than anyone has in his 49 years in Baltimore.
If you ask me, they should immediately rename the Canton Square and dub it “Scunny Square” because he helped build it, nurture it and put it on the map in Baltimore.
What more could Scunny have asked for in life? He was a living legend. He really was. Ask anyone who knew him.
And as I walked sadly out the side door of his wake in Towson yesterday, there was group gathered on the tailgate of their SUV, parked next to mine on York Road.
There was a group of 15 men and women grieving on a warm summer afternoon while drinking Natty Bohs out of the orange and black Boh’s cans and toasting the life of Patrick “Scunny” McKusker.
I thought to myself, “That’s exactly what Scunny would’ve wanted.”
He was one of a kind.
And I’m really going to miss him…
May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
To donate to Scunny’s favorite charity, please click here for Believe in Tomorrow information:
Believe In Tomorrow provides exceptional hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families. We believe in keeping families together during a child’s medical crisis, and that the gentle cadence of normal family life has a powerful influence on the healing process.