Page 13 - Jack Foley | The true litterateur
P. 13

FATHER




                                              Jack Foley about  his father


               There were several Foley children in my father's family. "We were fairmers" -

               farmers -my father told me. They were living in Elmira, NY. He was, I believe, the
               youngest,  "the  baby  of  the  family,"  his  sister  said.  His  brother,  Wayne,
               somehow learned to tap dance. He taught the art to my father and helped him
               to  enter  the  dazzling  world  of  show  business.  My  father  performed  in
               vaudeville as well as in one of the last minstrel companies, presided over by
               George "Honeyboy" Evans. He appeared primarily in shows produced by his
               mentor, George M. Cohan, the producer of the "Honeyboy" Evans show.  My
               father's sister Goldie was part of that world too. She was a Ziegfeld Follies girl,
               a  spectacular  beauty  (my  father  would  say,  "a  swell-lookin'  dame"),  and
               perhaps  in  some  sense  the  love  of  my  father's  life.  "We'd  go  everywhere
               together," he told me, reminiscing. "Everybody thought we were sweethearts."
               Pause. "But we weren't." He was hardly a sophisticate. He used to tell the story
               of being in the subway as a young man and seeing a sign saying "Smoking
               Prohibited."  He  was  with  a  friend  who  wanted  to  smoke.  My  father  told  his
               friend  the  sign  meant    "you  could  go  ahead  and  smoke."  (I'm  sure  he
               eventually discovered the meaning of the term: he lived through "Prohibition.")
               He  also  told  me  of  being  with  the  songwriter,  Jimmy  McHugh.  They  were

               passing the poetry section of a library when McHugh turned to my father and,
               pointing to the section, said, "Jack, it's all in there." In general my father didn't
               tell  stories  about  our  family.  He  told  stories  about  his  friends  in  show
               business. Later I realized that the friends were almost always--perhaps always-
               -Irish.  The  people  he  knew  in  show  business  became  his  real  family.  He
               married one of them -Laura, one of the dancing Wood Sisters.


               My  father  left  show  business  when  vaudeville,  which  was  his  primary  bread
               and butter, gave way to the movies and died. In addition, his great mentor and
               occasional employer, George M. Cohan, lost interest in musicals and made an
               ill-fated  attempt  to  establish  himself  as  a  "straight"  playwright.  My  father
               opened a dance studio. He received a telegram from Cohan wishing him luck
               and  tendering  "kindest  personal  regards."  The  venture  failed.  He  turned  to
               Postal Union- where he had worked as a telegrapher during the summers- and





                                                         13
                                                                                          Litterateur
   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18