Franni and I were blessed yesterday with our fourth grandchild, Claire Frances Franken. Claire is named for my grandmother, Clara Franken, and for Franni and for Franni’s mom Frances Bryson.
Clara Oppenheimer was a German immigrant who came to this country in the 1880’s. She married Otto Franken who died of tuberculosis in 1924, leaving Clara widowed with two boys.
Fran Doyle married Donald Bryson in Portland, Maine in 1943. After Donald came home from the war, he and Fran wasted little time starting a family. One night in 1953, on his way home from a shift at the paper mill, Donald was killed in a car accident. Fran was widowed at the age of 29 with five young children.
Both Clara and Fran persevered with extraordinary courage, grace, and grit. Clara raised her boys and remained in the same small Washington Heights apartment in upper Manhattan until she died in 1973. Every summer, when our family would drive East from Minnesota to visit her, Grandma would bake the world’s most delicious apple pie for me and my brother, and then have us take turns laying across her lap and tickle our backs.
The rest of the year, our phone would ring every Sunday morning exactly at 9AM. My dad would answer, “Liebschen!” He and Grandma would talk for exactly three minutes, when the operator, at Clara’s request, would interrupt to say that their time was up. Grandma was frugal.
So, when my son, Joe, told us Claire’s name, I cried. It was such a generous gift to me and his mother
Fran was frugal too. She had to be. She worked in the produce department of a supermarket until her youngest started high school. She used a three-hundred-dollar GI loan to pay for a year of college. After four years, she became an elementary school teacher and all her loans were forgiven because she taught Title One kids. Fran, by the way, is still kicking in Portland, Maine, at age 95.So, when my son, Joe, told us Claire’s name, I cried. It was such a generous gift to me and his mother. And it made us love our daughter-in-law all the more. Not only had she given us an 8 pound, 12 ounce healthy baby girl, but it let us know how much she loved our son and understood the importance of this family legacy.
Alan Stuart Franken (born May 21, 1951) is an American comedian, politician, media personality, and author who served as a United States Senator from Minnesota from 2009 to 2018. He became well known in the 1970s and 1980s as a staff writer and performer on the television comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL). After decades as a comedic actor and writer, he became a prominent liberal political activist, hosting The Al Franken Show on Air America Radio.
Franken was first elected to the United States Senate in 2008 as the nominee of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL, an affiliate of the Democratic Party), defeating incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman by 312 votes out of nearly three million cast (a margin of less than 0.01%). He won reelection in 2014 with 53.2% of the vote over Republican challenger Mike McFadden. Franken resigned on January 2, 2018, after several allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him.
Early life and education
Franken was born on May 21, 1951, in New York City, to Joseph Franken, a printing salesman, and Phoebe Franken (born Kunst), a real estate agent. His paternal grandparents emigrated from Germany; his maternal grandfather came from Grodno, Russian Empire; and his maternal grandmother’s parents were also from the Russian Empire. Phoebe was from Allentown, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents were Jews, and Franken was raised in a Reform Jewish home. The Frankens moved to Albert Lea, Minnesota, when he was four years old. His father opened a quilting factory, but it failed after just two years. The family then moved to St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Franken graduated from The Blake School in 1969, where he was a member of the wrestling team. He attended Harvard College, where he majored in political science, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1973. His older brother Owen is a photojournalist, and his cousin Bob is a journalist for MSNBC.
Franken began performing in high school, where he and his longtime friend and writing partner Tom Davis were known for their comedy. The duo first performed on stage at Minneapolis’s Brave New Workshop theater, specializing in political satire. They soon found themselves in what was described as “a life of near-total failure on the fringes of show business in Los Angeles.”
Saturday Night Live
Franken and Tom Davis were recruited as two of the original writers and occasional performers on Saturday Night Live (SNL) (1975–1980, 1985–1995). In SNL‘s first season, the two apprentice writers shared a salary of $350 per week. Franken received seven Emmy nominations and three awards for his television writing and producing while creating such characters as self-help guru Stuart Smalley. Another routine proclaimed the 1980s the Al Franken Decade. Franken and Davis wrote the script of the 1986 comedy film One More Saturday Night, appearing in it as rock singers in a band called Bad Mouth. They also had minor roles in All You Need Is Cash and the film Trading Places, starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd .
On Weekend Update near the end of Season 5, Franken delivered a commentary called “A Limo for a Lame-O“. He mocked controversial NBC president Fred Silverman as “a total unequivocal failure” and displayed a chart showing the poor ratings of NBC programs. As a result of this sketch, Silverman declined Lorne Michaels‘s recommendation that Franken succeed him as the producer, and Franken left the show when Michaels did, at the end of the 1979–80 season.Franken returned to the show in 1985 as a writer and occasional performer. He has acknowledged using cocaine and other illegal drugs while working in television, and stated that he stopped after John Belushi died of an overdose. In 1995 Franken left the show in protest over losing the role of Weekend Update anchor to Norm Macdonald.