Legendary film actor John Joseph (Jack) Nicholson was born on April 22, 1937, in Neptune City. He lived there, then in Spring Lake, and attended Manasquan High School, where he was voted “Class Clown” by the Class of 1954. He was in detention every day for a whole school year. After graduating, he moved to Hollywood to become an actor. Since then, Nicholson has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor eight times, and for Best Supporting Actor four times; he is the most oft-nominated Academy Award actor in history. He won three times, in 1976 for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in 1984 for Terms of Endearment, and in 1998 for As Good as It Gets. Actor Danny DeVito, who was also born in Neptune City (in 1944, raised in Asbury Park), co-starred with Nicholson in several films, including both Cuckoo’s Nest and Terms of Endearment.
Jack and his sister June were raised by John Joseph Nicholson, a department store window-dresser, and Ethel May Nicholson (née Rhoads), a hairdresser, beautician and amateur artist. Jack believed these to be his immediate family, but in fact, John and Ethel were Jack’s grandparents, and June was his mother, not his sister. June had given birth to Jack at a young age, and this subterfuge was to protect her future and reputation. Jack didn’t find out about this until he was interviewed by a reporter in 1974, by which time John, Ethel and June Nicholson were all deceased. Nicholson has said he’s glad they took this secret to their graves. “I didn’t have to deal with it, with them. They were dead…Gratitude. I’ve often said about them: Show me any women today who could keep a secret, confidence, or an intimacy to that degree, you got my kind of gal.”