The Petty Archives

Editor's Note: This article mentions Jim Lenahan, and I thought it was interesting enough to include with the Archives.

Once Talented Children, Today They're Successful Adults
By Eloise Cozens Henderson
Gainesville Sun - Sunday, July 10, 1983

Next to bragging about our children and beaming at a grandchild when he so much as picks up a spoon, I suppose boasting about a student or a protege is one in which we take most pride.
My list of stars who have been a part of my shows for little people during the years is really quite impressive.

Among those whose careers I have followed has been one, Kay Ogle, a beautiful, partially blind young year, who was perhas 14 years when I first knew her.

Kay had to be persuaded to approach the microphone, but once there, her marvelous contralto voice thrilled, and yes, surprised my radio audience, and started a series of engagements for her. Included among them were eventually a scholarship at Julliard School of Music in New York; an appearance at Carnegie Hall and later marriage to an ambassador. Kay and family now live in Paris, France, at least they did the last news I had from her.

Another was a young man with a singing guitar and a fine voice, who became part of one of the big rock bands and then became a Christian. He toured our country and others as an evangelist. His name is Billy Brown.

Billy and Kay came from the Children's Show in New Smyrna Beach. From Gainesville, in the 1955's Children's Show, there came a cute tot, who was about 3 or 4 years old, named Marilyn Rain. She used to sit on my lap. With short curls bobbing around, she would open the show with "Hed-O, everybody, this is Edeweeze Cozens, and I gonna kick my shoes off now."

Marilyn became a victim of the dreaded lupus disease, but prior to her death, she often had the lead and was a part of the cast of many theatrical productions in the city. She also became a beautiful young matron.

Then there was Diane Welden, now Mrs. Mark Montgomery, who also had to be nudged along to get her to perform, but who was very talented with her guitar music and who is regularly seen today in many Community Theater plays.

I treasure the childhood show pictures of others, such as Beth Odgen, Patsy Linehan and her brother, Jim, and more who just live in my memory.

And now there comes to mind the real, honest-to-gosh professional of th crew here, but space does not permit listing all of his accomplishments. He called him Jimbo in those days. What a diffference in this performer and the ones who had to be pushed towards the microphone. This guy was his own mike.

He is known today as Big Jim Linehan, with the Tom Petty band, and is an even bigger scene stealer perhaps than when his folks used to say, "Where does that kid get all of his energy and talent?"

Jim, who coined such phrases as "You call 'em, I'll sing 'em," and whose first appearance before a large audience was at the Universiy of Florida auditorium as Al Jolson, was born to act, to direct, to edit everyone's script, to take care of any defects in the lighting on or off stage, and has never been out of the limelight.

As Al Jolson singing, "Mammy," he enjoyed the applause and even the standing ovations, but later told his mother that "so much bowing made his stomach ache," knowing not that he was already starting to break out with the old-fashioned measles, the culprit, no doubt that was causing the upset stomach.

Jim turned then to Elvis Presley imitations and again was not to be stopped. His first showoff bit on my children's show won so much attention that his proud aunt, Hazel Fisher, whose piano accompaniment was equal to his fast and fastitidious timing, accepted an invitation to take the boy actor to Jacksonville to appear on a new TV show.

Being impatient to get into the act, Jimbo managed to be first on the stage, actually ahead of schedule, but the amused director there gave orders to "Let the kid go; he knows what he is doing and where he's going."

He made numerous appearances as he grew up in Gainesville. He majored in theater set and scene design at UF and then went to Disney World and on to Hollywood, answering a call from Tom Petty to become Petty's lighting director and production designer. All of this gives me a justifiable pride in having been a very small part of his successful career.

Today little Jimbo is a handsome, 205-pound man. He has also branched out into writing movie scripts and video taping. His video tape of "You Got Lucky" is given credit for Tom Petty Band's inclusion in the Top Ten Tunes of 1982.

With this group, he has traveled over Europe and of course in our own country and at this writing, having just ended a tour with the band as its lighting director, is engaged in producing his first movie.

Married and the father of a son, Sean, Linehan is an example of a youngster who followed a dream and made it come true.

His mother, who is Margaret Linehan, a long-time schoolteacher in Gainesville, must have shared this drram many times, as do all good mothers, teachers, and yes, talent scouts. Success is a great reward for freaming and for actng, even if the children ham it up at times.

I'm proud of you, Jimbo; excuse me, James Bernard Linehan III. You have proven the merit of our slogan back then, "Give Every Child a Chance."