BEVERLY — James “Skinny” Sheahan of the fighting 19th Ward can hardly contain himself.
Not only has Mayor Rahm Emanuel finally agreed to take a big running start and go jump in the lake — to raise money for Special Olympics, of course.
But the mayor also sent a challenge to the hottest guy in show business, new "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon, to join him at the March 2 Polar Plunge fundraiser to help Chicago kids with special needs.
“We were already excited that the mayor is doing the plunge,” said Sheahan, who heads up fundraising for Special Olympics. “And if he gets Jimmy Fallon to come, it would be just great and really help the kids.”
Fallon has been quoted as saying Emanuel has an open invitation to visit the "Tonight Show." In fact, he offered to let the mayor host a show because “I’m scared of that guy.”
When Rahm’s City Hall Twitter army read that, they sent this message: “Thx for the invite @jimmyfallon. You should toughen up for the big leagues. Do the Chicago Polar Plunge with me and I’ll Join @FallonTonight.”
Ol’ Skinny, an elder in one of Chicago’s most influential South Side Irish families who knows a thing or two about old-school Chicago politics — recommends Fallon, a fellow Irishman, accept the mayor’s offer.
“Lets just say if Rahm Emanuel told me to do the Polar Plunge, I’d do it,” Sheahan said. “And that’s coming from a guy from the 19th Ward, where we fight every one and don’t do nothing nobody says.”
Sheahan says he’s confident Fallon will do the right thing for Chicago’s Special Olympics athletes.
“Look, Fallon’s funny enough and crazy enough to do it,” he said. “And if he’s really afraid of Rahm, he better.”
Last year, the Polar Plunge raised more than $900,000 for Chicago kids, and this year’s goal is to break the $1 million mark.
Sheahan says he figures plenty more people will participate just to get a look at the mayor enduring the torture of submerging himself in icy Lake Michigan. But if Fallon makes an appearance, it could be a boon for the Special Olympics cause.
“Fallon’s one funny ‘son-of-a-b’ and the hottest guy in the media. He’s funny enough and crazy enough to do it,” Sheahan said. “This was a really tough winter; everybody just wants to get to spring time, and this is a way say goodbye to it and do some good.”
If Fallon shows up, Skinny’s got a bit of advice for the "Tonight Show" funnyman: Do it right.
“You gotta go all the way underwater. I’m 67 years old, and I’m doing it. The mayor’s doing it. That’s how it’s gotta be done,” he said. “And let’s just say when he comes out of the water, he’ll know he’s a real Irishman.”