WBSM Host’s Mom Was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York City
The Rockettes, an American precision dance company founded in St. Louis in 1925, have performed at New York's legendary Radio City Music Hall since 1932.
Some of you may have seen the Rockettes perform in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
How many young dance students in Massachusetts dreamed of becoming a member of the famous Rockette kick line or gliding in sync as part of the Christmas Spectacular's Parade of Wooden Soldiers to thunderous applause from the Radio City Music Hall audience?
Mary Frances Madden, born in South Boston in 1941, dreamed that dream and then made it happen. Mary was the youngest of five children born to Joseph and Margaret Madden, who paid for Mary to receive dance lessons from the age of nine.
A standout dancer, Mary joined the Rockettes in New York in 1958.
But Mary's dreams were dashed less than a year later when her father, a noted comedian, a regular performer at the famed Blinstrub's Village club in Boston and clubs from Philadelphia to Portland, Maine, called his daughter home.
"Her father thought it (being a Rockette) was scandalous," said WBSM's Ken Pittman, Mary's son.
Ken said his grandfather "was a daily rosary prayer with the cardinal over the radio kind of Catholic, who had the wrong impression about what they did at Radio City Music Hall."
After Mary's father suffered a fatal heart attack during a roast of Boston Mayor John F. Collins in Everett in 1965, Mary turned to the theater in Boston, where she met her husband and Ken's father, director Paul Pittman.
The Pittmans married, moved to Brockton, bought a home and started a family. Paul Pittman taught eighth grade in Stoughton. The couple had two sons, Paul and Ken. Ken was the youngest. Eleven months after Ken's birth, his father died of Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Eventually, Mary was remarried to Ray Chisholm, and Paul and Ken gained two sisters.
Mary modeled clothing at Boston's famed Filene's Basement to make ends meet. She also created pastel and oil paintings, which she sold for $300-$800 each.
"Good money for the 1970s," Ken said.
Ken said Mary "taught dance lessons in my house, even belly dancing to her friends and to the horror of me and my brother."
She also taught Ken about comedy.
"I have been impersonating as long as I have been able to talk," Ken said. "For my 10th birthday, my mom took me to Rich Little's act because I was his biggest fan."
But it didn't stop with impersonations.
"She made sure I sat through the joy of Jerry Lewis movies, and we laughed a lot together," Ken said. "She was actually very funny herself."
Like his grandfather Joseph Madden, Ken is quick with a joke and knows his way around a stage. Show business is in Ken's blood.
"I come from a long line of entertainers, which is a strange thing to realize when you think about it," he said.
When he is not broadcasting on WBSM or working as a private investigator, Ken, who lives in Dartmouth with his wife Andrea and their children, can be found on the stage with his Bon Jovi tribute band, Living on a Bad Name, which has performed worldwide.
Ken's mom passed away in January 2018. She was 77.
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