Mattress Men of Pearse Street

Photo supplied by Element Pictures.

Photo supplied by Element Pictures.

Mattress Mick’s face is well known around Dublin city. Not one to be publicity shy, his distinctive mug has graced many an advertising campaign. Now he’s about to go stratospheric, in the mattress world at least, with the release of a new documentary entitled ‘Mattress Men’.

Why on earth would someone bother making a film about a man who sells mattresses, I hear you ask. Well they wouldn’t, and in fact this movie isn’t about Mick, it’s really about the man behind his success, hiding under the duvet if you will, a certain Paul Kelly.

And the narrative is all the more interesting because of Kelly’s story, one of an ordinary Dubliner struggling through a recession, trying to forge a career and get himself off the dole, at the same time as his family life is crumbling around him.

The film itself is very entertaining, featuring the making of the now infamous Back With A Bang video, which helped relaunch Mattress Mick’s public persona. It also features a great comic turn, intentional or otherwise, by a man wearing a mattress-style sandwich board, who wanders the streets of Dublin promoting the brand.

But the real star is Kelly, and News Four caught up with him down at the mattress store on Pearse Street for a quick chat.

Kelly first met Mick some twenty years ago when he used to pass the bedding store on his way to work every day. He used to suffer from constant headaches and Mick gave him some advice that cured them, so long after Kelly became redundant and stopped passing the shop he always remembered the curious-looking mattress man who proved so helpful.

A chance meeting in the Yacht pub some years later and Kelly was offered a job working for Mick back on Pearse Street. The position was only part-time and Kelly had to continue receiving top-up payments from the social welfare to make ends meet.

He was also allowed use a small room at the back of the store to set up his new business, Shoot Auditions, a place for actors to record demos for specific roles. But business was slow, both in the mattress world and with the new venture, so Kelly decided to turn his talents to helping Mick, though a fresh and crazy online campaign, which would hopefully build brand awareness and turnover.

But while Mick shot to fame, with his new video garnering some 100,000 views, and an online presence that had no less than Stephen Fry tweeting about how he would love to meet the man behind the headboard, Kelly was getting none of the credit and remained on the dole. Not only that, his relationship with his partner was breaking down, and he could no longer live in the same house with her and his children. “It was tough,” said an emotional Kelly, “even now, thinking of my kids, it’s tough. I’m still basically homeless, have been for nearly two years.”

While things have improved for Kelly financially (watch the film to see how) he still represents a large portion of modern-day Irish society, with a decent income, but unable to afford a home. In that respect the movie’s director, Colm Quinn, has managed to capture a slice of Dublin in 2016.

For Kelly, he has plans to replicate the marketing success he engineered for Mattress Mick and promote other brands. If he can do that, he’ll have a definite spring in his step.

By Paul O’Rourke