For a mother there is nothing more memorable than the birth of her baby. But for Dolores Jacoby the arrival in 1973 of her fourth child, Bobby, was a moment of particularly high drama. There she was in labor in Booth Memorial Hospital in Flushing, N.Y. watching the Emmy Awards. Suddenly, there onscreen appeared her 16-year-old son, Scott, who had been nominated for his performance in That Certain Summer, a TV drama about homosexuality. “I knew he was going to win,” Jacoby recalls, “but I had both legs up in the air in stirrups because I was ready to have the baby. I was afraid Bobby would come out while Scotty was up there winning.” But with a future actor’s sense of timing, little Bobby delayed his debut and Dolores got to see Scotty win the award.
A stage mother could hardly ask for better treatment and stage mother is precisely what Dolores is—”by definition,” says Scott, “if not by stereotype.” Besides Scott, now 27, there are four other Jacoby kids: Susan, 22, Billy, 15, Bobby, 11, and Laura, 10, all of them actors. Their credits—sometimes they seem more like a performing conglomerate than a family—include several hundred commercials, upward of 50 movies, a roughly equal number of guest shots on series, some 25 stage plays and a couple of soaps. Like the Carradines and the Barry-mores, the Jacobys obviously believe that the family that acts together stays together.
The family’s first foray into showbiz came 20 years ago when Dolores was living in Flushing, with Scott and her second husband, Joe Jayne. (Scott’s father, Buddy Jacoby, died in 1960.) Joe, now retired, was a general contractor whose only interest in bright lights was their wiring. Dolores, an aspiring singer and actress, was working as a hostess at the New York World’s Fair. Money was tight, and Dolores worried that 7-year-old Scott wouldn’t be able to afford college. Then a friend suggested the theater. After all, Scott was always singing and dancing around the house and he delighted in seeing a Broadway show once a week with his mother.
Soon afterward Dolores took Scott to an audition for The Music Man, and he won the role. “I flipped,” says Dolores. “He made $135 per week—I thought that was big time—and he was playing opposite Bert Parks.” Later Dolores began making big plans for her four children by Jayne. (Eventually they all took the name Jacoby because they felt Jayne was “too feminine.”) Next to try show business was Susan, who got a sort of backhanded start when her mother took Scott to an audition for a Dristan commercial. Unable to find a sitter, Dolores had Susan in tow. The Dristan people needed a toddler and Susan got the part—a good thing, since Scott didn’t get his.
Billy, too, happened to be in the right place at the right time. His mother was carting him around the set when Scott was filming That Certain Summer (star-ring Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen). When the producers needed someone to play Scott as a 3-year-old, she promptly supplied his kid brother.
Bobby and Laura also started early. Bobby got his first role at age 5 in Walking Through the Fire. He is currently playing Donna Mills’ son on Knot’s Landing. Laura’s debut was at 4 months in a Pampers commercial, and she went on to appear in The Jayne Mansfield Story and many other TV shows. “Out of my whole family, she has wanted it the most,” says her mother. Getting “it,” however, exacts a toll. “I get nervous,” Laura admits. “I’ve always been the shrimp and sometimes I feel, oh, squashed. Every so often,” she adds sheepishly, “I cry.”
Concerned about the perils and pressures of show business, Dolores tries to give her family a sense of togetherness. Home is a two-story, redbrick house in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, where the Jacobys settled after leaving Flushing in 1976. Scott has his own large Mediterranean-style home in the Hollywood Hills. “He comes over a lot to play football,” says Dolores. “We have a very normal family life. We go skating on Wednesday nights and argue sometimes—just like everyone else.”
That doesn’t mean that Dolores stops pushing. She rehearses lines with her kids, chauffeurs them to and from auditions and shows, picks out their wardrobes and helps choose “the right agents.” She sums herself up: “A very hyper person. A nagging, overprotective Jewish mother. I get crazy. I scream. Some days my husband thinks I’m going to have a heart attack.”
The whole Jacoby scene, in fact, is still more than a little puzzling to Dolores’ spouse. “Our father is old school, Puritan work ethic,” Scott says fondly of his stepfather. “He’s like middle class. He grew up in Bayside, N.Y. He doesn’t quite understand all this. But when he hears the clapping, he beams.” But Dolores, who would have loved a career onstage, denies that her kids are being forced to live out her fantasy. “You can’t force a kid to act,” Dolores says. “Maybe for a day or two, but not over and over. Face it, it’s an exciting life for them.”
And a lucrative one. The family owns five houses in L.A. as investments. Professional money men handle the kids’ torrent of royalties and fees—estimated at $500,000 per year—which are then placed in various trusts. Obviously there is more than enough money for Scott’s education, though so far he hasn’t used much of it. Mom sighs her best stage sigh. “He met a girl,” she says. “Of course he didn’t go to college—and of course the girl didn’t last.” But good news: Scott is enrolled at Los Angeles City College. The other children are in private school.
All the younger Jacobys will keep on acting. Scott is now considering a movie offer and Susan and Billy are both shooting an untitled film. Naturally, Dolores is always there. “I work with the kids all the time,” she says, “whether they like it or not. They always think they know it all but they’re still babies. I don’t send them on jobs they can’t get. But if I hear of a good role, I make sure they get the script. I know acting doesn’t last forever. But the doors are open. And if they want to walk away—fine.