My grandmother Edna, the hard-drinking and headstrong Irishwoman in the white dress above, always told me I was her favorite little boy, because we were exactly alike. In the early 1900s she gave up her vaudeville singing & dancing career and got married in Ohio to one Frank Joyce, whose ancestors lived in a small village in the Maum Valley, to the west of Lough Mask in the northern part of County Galway.
She liked to say that she was just the latest in an unbroken line of rogues and criminals. Her grandfather, Jack, for instance. During The Famine he was convicted of sheep stealing and subsequently transported to a penal colony in New South Wales, Australia.
Edna may have left vaudeville, but she never gave up singing, dancing, smoking, and drinking. She did what she pleased. Always. Frank thought that once his wild wife had baby Betty, she'd settle down. Not a chance. Look at the picture below. It's Edna and my mother Betty, at the Avalon Ballroom in Youngstown, having a good time. Frank is at home, with the dog, listening to the radio play-by-play of the Cleveland Indians game.
I've always liked being a direct descendant of an Irish sheep stealer and a vaudeville trooper. It's an interesting story. And, more important, this history has provided me all the excuses I ever needed for my own wild and outrageous behavior.
It's in my blood. You know?