Ex-performer draws on luck o’ the Irish for musical, life rebound

11He grew up in Cleveland, but “got over it,” as he puts it, living in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In the 1950s and ’60s, he was half of the folk-singing duo Pinky and Jim, recording an album and touring Europe.

When he and Pinky divorced, breaking up the act as well as the marriage, he moved to the West Coast and found a new career in show business.

Jim Jenkins may not know if he’s Irish, but he does know he’s lucky.

On Wednesday, Jenkins, who goes by “JJ,” celebrated his latest climb out of the pit by throwing a St. Patrick’s Day party that filled the Tri-Area Community Center.

Accompanied by Hammerin’ Hank Sondie on sax and Raven on bass, Jenkins, who is 70, sang the song and played what had become his theme song for the past year — “I May Be Broke, I’m Not Broken.”

“My life turned around the first week in February,” he said. “I got a new job and a new vehicle.”

Center manager

The new job: manager of the Tri-Area Community Center, replacing George Woodriff, who retired after a long career with OlyCAP, Olympic Community Action Programs.

The new — to Jensen — vehicle replaces one that blew up last year.

And that was just two crises.

“I had a stroke, I lost my job and I lost my girlfriend, all in the same year,” he told the guests before singing.

“Sure, we can laugh about it now.”

The song lyrics — “I may be down, don’t count me out; deal me in to the very end” — are particularly appropriate for Jenkins’ life, in which music has always played a prominent part.

With his first wife, Pinky, he did the folk music circuit in the Midwest as well as Europe, he said.

A high point: appearing on the Mike Douglas Show to sing their recording of “Bob Manry and the Sea,” about a Cleveland man who took off on his two-week vacation and crossed the Atlantic in a 14-foot boat without informing anyone.

But nobody outside the region would probably recognize the song, or the album they recorded.

“We were Kansas City stars,” he explained.

When he and Pinky divorced in 1965, Jenkins hit the road, ending up in Los Angeles, where he did lighting for stage shows.

He also became a photographer and graphic designer — one claim to fame he only recently acknowledges is doing the cover for a Brady Bunch album. (He’s much prouder of the Newport Jazz Festival poster on the wall behind his desk.)

In the ’70s, he moved to Vashon Island, where friends lived, and four years ago, to Quilcene.

Through a series of unfortunate financial decisions, he found himself destitute.

“I was starving,” he said. “OlyCAP saved me.”

In addition to providing Jenkins with food and money to pay utility bills, OlyCAP gave Jenkins a Title 5 job at the Quilcene Community Center.

Two months later, the Tri-Area Community Center manager job came open, and Bob Rosen, QCC manager, recommended Jenkins for the job.

Jenkins said his plans include bringing in more music, improving the computer center and encourage inter-generational gatherings — he’s looking for a Wii game system to go with a 40-inch television that was recently donated.

Getting the job at the center was like being adopted all over again.

“I love these people,” Jenkins said, as people came up to tell him how much they enjoyed the music.

“I found a home here.”

________

Port Townsend/Jefferson County Reporter-Columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at 360-379-5688 or jjackson@olypen.com.

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