In honor of St. Patty's Day, I thought I would out a hidden Irish American: Barry Manilow. Yes, I know, most think of him as a Jewish boy from Brooklyn - and he is. But he's also one-quarter Irish, and due to certain circumstances in his family, that Irish share has had a disproportionate influence on his family tree.
There's a lot of name-changing in Manilow's family, starting with him. He was actually born Barry Pincus, but decided to change his name around the time of his bar mitzvah. By then, his father was long out of the picture and his mother had reverted to her maiden name. That, coupled with the fact that he was fond of his Manilow grandfather whose name would have otherwise died out, is what led him to become Barry Manilow.
It's interesting to note that both his father and stepfather sported Irish surnames. His stepfather was a Murphy, the most common of Irish names, and Manilow sometimes credits him for sparking his interest in music.
His father's situation is a little more complicated. Like Manilow, he was born a Pincus, but his own father also left the family. When he was ten, his mother remarried to a fellow named Keliher, a New York-born son of Irish immigrants, and he subsequently ping-ponged between the two surnames. Though he married Manilow's mother as a Pincus, he often went by Keliher.
So Manilow was a Pincus who became a Manilow, and his father was a Pincus who became a Keliher. If you're managing to follow all this, you're probably thinking, "but all the Irish were stepfathers who married into the family."
That's true - except for the fact that his paternal grandmother was born in New York to Irish immigrants, and her quarter of Manilow's family tree is adorned with names like Sheehan, O'Donnell and Shields. In spite of his Pincus surname and half-Jewish heritage, Manilow's father was likely raised as Irish Catholic, and Manilow himself undoubtedly has dozens of unsuspecting Irish and Irish American cousins.
As a fellow Irish American, I hereby nominate Barry Manilow for Grand Marshal of New York City's 250th St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2011!