June 18, 2006

JLY’s Special Father’s Day Gift to His Dad

June 18th, 2006

New York Post’s Marianne Garvey says John Lloyd Young was sitting in his seat at Radio City last Sunday, waiting, hoping to hear his name called as the Tony Award winner for Best Actor in a Musical. Young’s father, Karl, also sat in the audience praying that his son would win for his role as Frankie Valli in the hit Jersey Boys. That night, in a way, it was just the two of them – as it had been in the beginning.

Young’s mom, Rosemarie, died of cystic fibrosis when he only two years old. Father and son lived in upstate Plattsburgh, where Karl, an Air Force colonel, was stationed. His job forced him to travel for weeks at a time, so young John would stay with the neighborhood baby sitter, Milly, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and playing with someone else’s toys.

His father would comfort him when he had recurring dreams of his mother and her flowing black hair, and he answered every question his young son asked about her. The two share memories of eating New England clam chowder, which they called “snake soup,” and 4:30 a.m. car rides to McDonald’s to get Egg McMuffins and orange juice.

The two men developed a rock-solid bond, but when the straight-edged colonel began to see signs that his son longed to be an entertainer, it became a source of tension. Karl Young tells Garvey about his young son’s performances,

“When he was a baby, he used to have this pencil he pretended was a microphone. You want your kids to be happy, but I worried about him struggling. I knew he was talented, but thought the odds were steep.”

But there was no discouraging Young. When he was 3, his father married again, and his stepmom, Gail, encouraged his singing. At age 6, she took him to see “Annie” on Broadway, and he was hooked. His first role was as a munchkin in a community theater production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

But it wouldn’t be easy. When he graduated from Brown University, Young moved to a rooming house in Port Chester, where he took temporary jobs, collected unemployment, and tried to get acting gigs.

JLY says during the lean times, when acting jobs weren’t coming his way, his dad tried to redirect him, and offer alternatives to his son—like becoming a stockbroker.

Then, Young made it to the Big Apple, started getting roles, and was cast in a word-of-mouth hit called Jersey Boys. After Mr. Young came to see JLY in the show (which won a Tony for Best Musical last week), he sent his son an e-mail: “I always secretly wanted to be a performer. Now I can live vicariously through you.”

JLY had no idea. It felt like a breakthrough for father and son after so many years of tension.

When Young heard he was nominated for a Tony, he prepared a speech with his father in mind. He wrote,

“It was just the two of us, and he was my whole world. I am very proud to share this with my father. Dad, we are among 6,000 people tonight, but for some reason, I am remembering that first struggle that we got through together, and somehow it feels like it’s just the two of us again.”

Waiting for the winner to be called, Young sat and listened. Amazingly, it was him. He bounded up to the stage and read his message to his father.

As he finished, Young saw Karl running down the aisle, crying. It was another surprise.

Karl was almost speechless–he told the Post,

“This is the greatest thing he’s ever given me. He just won the biggest award on Broadway and thought of me. It was humbling, emotional. It was validation. Every parent wants to know what they did was right.”

Young said being able to thank his father in public is better than any statue he received,

“The award helped heal my relationship with my father. He needed it the most; he needed to know I respected him. After a decade of me going after this, it’s a big sigh of relief for his worries.”

If he hadn’t won, Young said he would have delivered the same message to his dad in writing – but he would have done it today, Father’s Day.


  1. WOW that was great!

    Comment by Kathryn Hanson — June 18, 2006 @ 11:21 am

  2. It is so nice to see a son giving back to his father the way John Lloyd Young did.

    Comment by Thea — June 18, 2006 @ 11:28 am

  3. You are one son a father should be proud of. And your mom is shining down and smiling.

    Comment by Marie Ann — June 19, 2006 @ 7:47 pm

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