United by Real and Fake Blood, Screamin’ Jay’s 57+ Kids Creep Toward Closure

"He was the person that started the macabre genre," Nigolian says. "In a time when guys in suits would do things like shift to the left and shift to the right, he wore capes and plucked the extremes. Half of the audience didn't know if he was screaming in terror or screaming in joy."

Hawkins had six wives. Lee Ann, Irene, and Jalacy were born to his first, Anna Mae Vernon, and they all knew Screamin' Jay well. Some of the others never met their dad.

Mistress of puppets Screamin’ Irene Hawkins, with her papa made of pillows
photo: Maral Nigolian
Mistress of puppets Screamin’ Irene Hawkins, with her papa made of pillows

Helen Perez, who lives in the Bronx, didn't meet him until 1991. She and her mother got together with the virile voodoo-rocker after a performance at the Lone Star Road House on West 52nd Street.

"My mom had cancer at the time, and I think our meeting was closure for her," Perez says. "I thought he was great. He was this eccentric, crazy man and I was getting a father late in life. I just thought, 'Why not?' "

Perez, 43, works for Metro-North and stayed in contact with Hawkins until his death. She is the only confirmed Hawkins kid living in New York City. But another kid—Janice Paris, a 44-year-old wholesale grocer—lives in Newburgh, New York. Paris met her dad at age 11 at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She never talked to him after that, though, until she tracked him down last year via the Internet.

Since his death, Paris and Perez have become friends. "I was really looking forward to meeting her," Paris says. "We went to Manhattan, and when we saw each other, it was like, 'Oh my God, you have the same type of nose I have!' She said, 'My God, you look just like my daddy!' "

Screamin' Jay's prominent nose has been passed down to many of his children. As has his artistic bent: Melissa Ahuna, for instance, is a 32-year-old hula dancer in Hawaii. She knew Screamin' Jay, but wasn't raised by him.

"I don't know my black side," Ahuna says. "I grew up ethnically challenged. Hawaii is a melting pot, but a lot of people didn't see me as Hawaiian. They saw me as black, and the black community saw me as Hawaiian.

"I have a nappy head of hair, and I've never known what to do with it," Ahuna says. "When I meet my sisters, maybe they can do my hair."

Ahuna says she had a brother, who was put up for adoption at birth. She's hoping he steps forward for the reunion.

But why care about the father's other kids? The children generally cite curiosity and closure as reasons to rendezvous. None of those interviewed were upset about their father's promiscuity. None questioned or challenged his prolific tendencies.

Maybe the children simply want more insight on their legendary father. "I could never imagine my mother and father together," Perez says. "She's reserved, and you know, he was so wild. I don't think he had 57 children, but I know he was a ladies' man. I guess he really did put a spell on these women."

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