The years following JoJo's death were punctuated with the publication of "Mommie Dearest" by Aunt Christina. My mother appeared on Good Morning America in May 1981 to defend her mother. I realized that day that JoJo was a tremendous Hollywood star because my classmates and teachers interrupted the morning's lessons to watch the broadcast. That also marked the day I began keeping the name of my grandmother a secret. I had a belly full of Mommie Dearest jokes. No one but my closest friends I grew up with knew who I was. To most other classmates, teachers and neighbors, I was just another suburban kid.
Upon reflection of my grandmother's life, she left nothing to chance. That included her resistance to being called "grandmother," "grandma" or any of the many names children bestow on grandparents. She preferred a self-created nickname, "JoJo." It was a natural nickname, derived from her first name. It rolls off the tongue and was easy for a child to remember and master.
To me, JoJo was a loving and caring grandmother who lived in exciting New York City. To the rest of the world, she was Joan Crawford. Yes, The Joan Crawford, star of over eighty films and dozens of television appearances. Oscar winner, Pepsi diplomat and grandmother.
I knew her during her last years and while she was in failing health. But did she still shine! There was a spark even I as a child could see in her eyes. The same eyes that dazzled in "Rain" and "Mildred Pierce."
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