it wasn’t until he was 37 when Jack Nicholson found out that his supposed “sister”, June, was actually his mother
Nicholson was born in Neptune City, New Jersey, the son of a showgirl, June Frances Nicholson (stage name June Nilson). June had married Italian American showman Donald Furcillo (stage name Donald Rose) six months earlier in Elkton, Maryland, on October 16, 1936. Furcillo was already married. Although he reportedly offered to take care of the child, June’s mother Ethel insisted that she bring up the baby, partly so that June could pursue her dancing career and partly because June was only 16 or 17 years old when she gave birth to Jack.
Although Furcillo claimed to be Nicholson’s biological father and to have committed bigamy by marrying June, biographer Patrick McGilligan asserted in Jack’s Life that Latvian-born Eddie King (originally Edgar A. Kirschfeld), June’s manager, may have been Nicholson’s biological father. Other sources suggest June Nicholson was unsure of who the father was. Nicholson’s mother was of Irish, English, and Pennsylvania Dutch (German) descent, though he and his family reportedly self-identified as Irish.
Nicholson was brought up believing that his maternal grandparents, John Joseph Nicholson (a department store window dresser in Manasquan, New Jersey) and Ethel May (née Rhoads, a hairdresser, beautician and amateur artist in Manasquan), were his parents. Nicholson only discovered that his “parents” were actually his grandparents and his “sister” was his mother in 1974, after a journalist for TIME magazine who was doing a feature on Nicholson informed him of the fact. By this time, both his mother and grandmother had died (in 1963 and 1970, respectively).
Nicholson grew up in Neptune City, New Jersey. He was raised in his mother’s Roman Catholic religion. Before starting high school, his family moved to an apartment in Spring Lake, New Jersey. “Nick”, as he was known to his high school friends, attended nearby 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. A theatre and a drama award at the school are named in his honor. In 2004, Nicholson attended his 50-year high school reunion accompanied by his aunt Lorraine.