Annette Funicello – When news reports circulated that one of the original Mouseketeers of The Mickey Mouse Club, Annette Funicello, had passed away, my thoughts quickly traced back to my father’s casual acquaintance with Annette and her family. Considered the sweetheart of my generation, Annette was a novelty for all who followed her success back in the 1950s and ’60s. And those who regularly attended mass at St. Cyril of Jerusalem Catholic Church on Ventura Boulevard in Encino of Los Angeles most likely were aware they went to Annette’s church. My father was a deacon at St. Cyril for nearly 30 years, performing many odd jobs from ordering altar candles to hiring contractors and just about everything in between, including training altar boys. In one of Dad’s classes were Annette’s boys, Jack and Jason, now adults. Dad always said of her sons, “They were fine young men.” And of Annette he’d remark, “One of the kindest people you’ll ever meet.”
Lucille Ball – Watch any number of old episodes of “I Love Lucy” and listen when actress Lucille Ball mentions where she was born – Jamestown, NY. In 1961, my family moved from Pennsylvania to Jamestown. I was nine, and back then, there was little telling that Lucy had roots in Celeron, a tiny suburb outside of Jamestown in Chautauqua County. Today, the street where her childhood home still stands is named “Lucy Lane.” Signs posted on the front door and mailbox read “59LucyLane.com.” My husband, Brian, whose childhood home is right down the street from 59 Lucy Lane, attended the save elementary school in Celeron as Lucy attended, only 45 years later. In Jamestown, there’s a museum dedicated to her life and career, a theatre aptly named “Lucy Playhouse” and murals around town depicting scenes from her famed sit-com. The comedic TV star’s dying wish was to be buried in Jamestown, where her grave is well-marked in Lake View Cemetery at the edge of town.
Natalie Merchant – Also a native of Jamestown, NY, contemporary singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant went to Jamestown High School, where my mother was a substitute teacher at the time. Natalie attended Jamestown Community College, where her mother was employed and my husband earned his associate’s degree. My parents and Natalie’s grandparents were business owners on a first-name basis in Jamestown, where they traded products and services with one another. After dropping out of high school, Natalie joined a band called 10,000 Maniacs.
10,000 Maniacs – The alternative rock band of the 1980s and ’90s was co-founded by John Lombardo, a classmate of mine in elementary and high school. My first heartthrob in fourth grade, John showed signs of being a brilliant artist and musician even then. We graduated in the Class of 1970 from Southwestern Central High School, West Ellicott, a suburb of Jamestown. Rumor has it John is still performing and working with bands in the Buffalo, NY area. He didn’t bother to show at our 40th class reunion, but I’m holding out hope he’ll be at our 50th in seven short years.
Matt Damon – According to the Damon Family Tree, my husband is related to actor/screenwriter Matt Damon. Brian and Cousin Matt share the same original great grandfathers in America, dating back to 1650, when the first is Thomas Damon sailed from England to the Reading settlement in the Massachusetts Colony. Thomas Damon had a son also named Thomas, born in 1658. Thomas Damon II had 14 children, one of whom was John Damon, born in 1709. Interestingly, our son Nicholas bears a remarkable resemblance to Cousin Matt. We are often asked if Matt Damon is any relation. People are astonished when we reply, “Yes!”
Six degrees of separation is a theory that everyone is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. This means that a chain of a friend of a friend can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six links in the chain.
So, next time you come across Annette Funicello, Lucille Ball, Natalie Merchant, 10,000 Maniacs or Matt Damon, you will be connected in less than six degrees or links through me.