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Three great words. Free fries Friday, especially when they're used in that exact order. Get a free medium fries with $1 minimum purchase valid one time on Fridays at participating McDonald's through 12 31 24. Excludes tax. Must update rewards this podcast is intended for mature audiences. Listener discretion is advised. I am literally standing in front of the 12345 story building where I was conceived. This building, for many decades, was the place where babies were made in perhaps somewhat shady circumstances. Sketchy circumstances, let's put it that way. I wanted to see it. This building on the east side of Manhattan where fertility treatments were done for about 50 years. I mean, the mind boggles with how many babies were created in this place, how much life, how many, maybe tens of thousands of people literally exist because of this, because of what happened inside. And, you know, I'm standing here just after finding out over the last several days and weeks that my father was likely a man named Vincent McNally. And it's kind of moving to think that he might have come to this office and either brought with him or actually donated semen at this very place.


It was likely October of 1977. And here we are. October 2023. My mom would have just turned 31 a few weeks earlier. I don't know if my mom went in one entrance at a certain time of day and Vincent went in another entrance at a different time of day, but I can imagine that this might have been the only place where they walked the very same streets at approximately the very same time. This is where I come from. After I left the clinic, I went to lunch nearby, got a burger and a beer, told the guy next to me at the bar my story. And when I left, I checked my email and had a message from our intern, Natalie, that made me run right into the subway. This is West Fourth Street, Washington Square. Natalie was helping me with a problem. I needed to confirm that this guy, Vincent McNally, was my sperm donor. The DNA looked promising. My new cousin Ryan had even told me that Vincent had donated sperm. But the public records I found so far showed that Vincent lived in California. And sure, we had heard he was kind of a vagabond, but was he ever actually in New York?


And at just the right time to line up with my birthday, before I went to California to knock on the door of an 87 year old stranger with a microphone in my hand, I wanted to be sure I knew what I was talking about, that we weren't making some terrible mistake. Okay. Our intrepid intern, Natalie shoot. Went to the New York public Library and looked up telephone directories from the seventies. And I asked her to look up Vincent L. McNally, see if he was in the city, to put him here in 1977, so he would have been able to donate. Sure enough, she found an address for him in the heart of the village. Jumped on a f train, came down here so quick. Here I am. Holy shit. There it is. This is apartment building, my father's apartment building. Oh, geez, I'm out of breath. So excited. Seven story building, beautiful cornices. This is a key piece of the puzzle that we just put on the board here. I'm, like, thrilled by this news. This is a neighborhood I hung out in a billion times. This is where I used to come from, Long island as a teenager to hang out in the city.


This is where he was living, and this is where he theoretically came back to after he made this donation of semen back in 77. He would have taken the same path I did back on the train downtown to the village, which, in the seventies, would have been an extraordinary place for sure. Place at the heart of the counterculture. This was the coolest thing I could have imagined. It's cool as hell. They lived in the village in the seventies. Did you see, like, Bob Dylan at Cafe Wah? I mean, we're on a legendary block. Dougal street. Holy shit. Let me take a picture and a selfie to send to my siblings. I mean, he walked these streets. He was where I was. I know for sure now. Wow. Love it. So, clue one. Cousin Ryan's story. Clue two. Vincent was in New York when I was conceived. He had been living in a neighborhood I know so well, just a few blocks from the radio station where I've worked for a decade. And later, I looked at the pictures I took outside of where he lived, and I realized Vincent's old apartment building is now above a restaurant called, of all things, papas.


The third piece of evidence that came through was a new DNA test result for the other potential relative out in Las Vegas. She took the test, and it came back a few weeks later, showing we shared the right number of centimorgans to be first cousins once removed. If Vincent's brother Joseph was my father, she instead would have shown up as my niece. This was the scientific confirmation that Vincent was, instead, the right guy. Christina, our DNA sleuth, thought the evidence was convincing.


I think it's worth making contact with him. He doesn't have any socials. I do have a phone number for him.


I'd be scared shitless to make that call, though.


Oh, no, don't be I hold calls.


All the time for work. Like, I call the relatives of crime victims. I call dirty politicians who don't want to talk to the media. And I'm always nervous, even though I've been doing this for, like, more than 20 years.


Yeah, it makes your heart beat a little fast, for sure. Yeah.


And this is, like, a similar kind of call, except it's. I know it's potentially my father on the other line.


When this call happens. Cause it probably will happen. I think it's just really quickly getting to the hi, I'm so and so. And I'm doing my family history. And quickly get to Michael McNally and Margaret Lehane. Like, he'll know who they are. Obviously, they're his parents. So I think that's a great next step. You're going to pep talk yourself. You are going to, like, do some calisthenics before you're going to have a big cup of coffee.


I was thinking a glass of irish whiskey from Waveland and Rococo punch. This is inconceivable truth. I'm Matt Katz. Episode seven, father Rolls. I wrote a script for my call to Vincent. I'm Matt, and I'm doing my family history, and I believe I'm related to Margaret Lehan and Michael McNally because I have DNA matches to both of them. I found your phone number on the Internet. Can I ask if I have the right Vincent McNally, who is the son of Margaret and Michael McNally? I also plan to tell Vincent that I'm making a podcast about my search, and I was prepared, given that he's 87 years old, to explain what a podcast is. So I sat down on my desk to make the call. My wife was working in the other room. All I needed to do was dial. But before I called the man who donated the sperm that created me, I had one last impulse. I decided one more search. I was probably just procrastinating, but I logged onto this database that I sometimes use, so I've been assuming he's alive and want to get to him before he dies. But then I just looked up his name in another database that I have access to, of really comprehensive database that journalists use to look up people.


And I did find a death record from September. It's not the official record. It's a summary of a death record from 2019 for Vincent McNally. Same year of birth for the. Vincent that we've been tracking down says he died at a nursing home in California four years ago, which would have been exactly a year after I knew I was done or conceived. But it took us all this time to figure out who he was, and I guess according to this, it's too late. So, I mean, that sucks. Oh, God. The highs and lows of this whole experience are so intense. For the last several days was sort of assuming he's alive because we hadn't found a death record, and now I have, and that means I missed my window to know how this happened and what he did his whole life and who he was. You know, I was texting with my siblings this morning. I don't even want to tell them this until I know for sure, because it's, you know, we kind of fantasized about this idea of, you know, going out there and knocking on his door and finding him. And, I mean, now we.


I'm not gonna know anything else about him. Try not to wonder if I had, like, aggressively pursued this earlier, if I had signed up for 23 andme sooner, if I had. You know, there was a year window, exactly a year window, when I knew I was donor conceived while Vincent was still alive. If the fact that I was donor conceived hadn't been kept for me for so long, maybe I could have found him, I could have met him. But I ran out of time. I've met my siblings, which has been fantastic. Now meeting some cool cousins. So I'm getting something out of this whole experience. No question about it. I'm answering questions, no question about it. But the ultimate, the ultimate man with all the answers. I'll never be able to talk to him. I'm just gonna have questions forever. That's the way it is. And that's okay. You know, I know a lot more than I ever did, and I know the truth now more than I ever did. But I don't know. I'm sad about it. Fuck. How do you mourn a father you never knew was your father? For me, the way I handled it was to continue the search, to find out all I could about who Vincent was.


I needed to know who my father was. The next day, I gave the pitch of my life to the woman on the other end of the line at the nursing home where Vincent McNally died. Can I tell you my little story here? And then maybe there's some way you might be able to help me or indirectly. Can I just give you my. It's an unusual tell. I told her everything. DNA test. My father died before ever meeting him. Death record says he died in your facility. She told me she couldn't tell me anything. You know, hipaa. And I said, don't tell me anything. Just do me a favor and pass my message on. Relay my story to whoever the contact you might have for Vincent McNally's family or estate or next of kin. And that's exactly what she did. I got a call back about an hour later. From the who, from what I can tell, was closer to Vincent McNally than anyone. That person, though, ultimately did not want to be involved in my search or this project. In fact, they said they didn't like what I was doing at all. They explained all this to me in a long email, and after I got the message, I just laid down on my bed on top of the covers and I cried.


It was the first time my twelve year old daughter had ever seen me cry. I think I felt like after this long road, after coming so close to knowing this man and who he was, I hit another barrier, another rejection. But I did come away from my conversations with this person with two facts about Vincent. First, where he lived, New York City. Yes. And then Asia, and then California. And second, his profession. Vincent was a stage actor. That detail was a gift, because even if I couldnt talk to anyone who knew Vincent McNally, if he was an actor in theaters for so many years, that was another lead. Actors leave paper trails. I could never meet Vincent, but I could find my own way to him by learning as much as I could about the life he led before he decided to sell his sperm. Kids are often really interested in their parents lives. Before they were parents, I was no different. So with Natalie and Emily from our team here, we just started searching for any biographical information on him. This time, instead of an irish doctor, we were looking for an irish actor.


In the weeks after I learned Vincent died, we searched online and in library archives of closed theater companies, and we found a trove of documents about his work. Articles, reviews, letters, fan mail, profiles, playbills, scripts, audio clips, pictures. From there, I put together a timeline of his life, accounting for where he was and when and what he was doing, all up to the point he walked into a medical office in 1977. We found out so much about him that even though he was dead, it felt like he was slowly coming to life. And it turned out one of the roles he played several times on stage was that of a father. I called my friend Dan to talk over what I found. Dan was the person I kept thinking about when I was researching Vincent. Can I start by giving you an intro befitting what you do for a living? Because it's very actually relevant to what we're going to talk about, please, our next guest. You may know him from Cobra Kai on Netflix, the beloved Food podcast, Green Eggs and Dan and inconceivable truth. My best list of friends, Dan Hadoot. Hi, Dan.


That was a good intro. That was like a stand up intro. Like I was going on stage.


Thanks, dude. You are an actor and comedian, obviously. So I have learned all of this crazy stuff about my father in recent weeks, and I keep thinking about you, and I wanted to. I needed to tell you everything about it, and I feel like you're the closest person I know who might be able to understand and give context to the bits of his life that I'm piecing together. First of all, he was an actor. You're an actor. I don't know any other actors, so you're really the only person I can talk to about that. And then, second of all, you lived for a long time in the very neighborhood where he lived, Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan. When I found its address, I called you to ask you just about the block and tell you this thing.


I think you were just stoked that you found the address, right? And I was like, wait, this address sounds really familiar. It was the same exact building that my ex girlfriend Paloma lived in, and it was her dad's apartment, and he was living there in the seventies. So it was the exact same building that your sperm donor father. I feel like I'm cheating on Richard when I call him your dad. Your sperm donor father. That's where he was living at the time, which is so wild. Cause I know that building very intimately. I almost lived there for a while.


First of all, this is New York City. It's the biggest city in the country. There's hundreds of thousands of buildings. And this was the same building that you were in many times and that he was in and that I was in. I remember this is like 20 years ago, visiting you and Paloma at that apartment and being in the building. I remember the actual apartment.


What's really crazy is that Paloma's dad was also kind of a journeyman actor, and they had to know each other.


Had to have.


They had to.


That's amazing. So a little background on him, and I'll tell you how he ended up in New York City in the seventies, other than, you know, there to donate sperm. So he was first generation irish. His parents arrived separately from different parts of Ireland. They landed in the twenties, and they make their way pretty immediately to San Francisco. There's other relatives there. Vincent's father was an auto mechanic. His mother worked at a laundry. They had a nice house in Lower Haight, right in the middle of San Francisco. I did some real research, dude. I found some stuff. So he goes to catholic high school. He played varsity football his junior year. Right?


The reason I say wow is a lot of you only know Matt Katz by his voice. But if you've seen his body, it's.


Hard to imagine me doing anything on a football field other than handing out towels to the quarterback when he comes.


Off the field or doing an expose interview on, like, helmet to helmet crashes.


Right? So he plays varsity his junior year and then drops it his senior year for drama.




So he's, like, committed to this thing. It seems to be an early passion. So he's into drama. Apparently. He goes to Colorado State University for a bit, and. Oh, this is, like, totally needless information, but just to give you a sense of the research, I did his freshman year at Colorado State University, he got a ticket for parking on the sidewalk, pleaded guilty, and paid a three dollar fine.


This is the reason that I would never, ever donate sperm, by the way, okay? Because some jackass little kid is going to go through every single thing I did and put it out there for everyone to hear. No way.


It was in Colorado. And if you don't have my sperm, don't park on the sidewalk. If you don't want your son, who you never met, to bring it up on a podcast 60 years later, never done it.


Honestly, I said it half jokingly, but it's also kind of serious. Like, what you're doing now is completely insane, and I kind of love it. I also don't kind of understand it, but I. You know, I do. You know, I'm here for you, but, like, I just wouldn't want the potential of shining a light on every single part of my life from someone that I don't know.


Right? I mean, he could never have imagined at the time. I mean, eventually, he must have realized this, but he could have never imagined that at the time that we would have, like, tracked him down, even in death. But here we are.


Yeah, look, pre 23 and me, I'd be slanging sperm left and right. I'd give it out for free. I wouldn't. I wouldn't even ask for money. Be fruitful and multiple play. Enjoy. But now, no, man. No way.


So, having said that, here's his full life story up to a point. Joins the army. He's an infantryman in West Germany after World War Two in the lead up to the building of the Berlin Wall, which is kind of interesting. And then he seems to really take up acting full time. So this is the early sixties, and he's like a serious. Hey, no offense. Then he's like a serious actor.


No offense taken. I don't consider myself a serious actor.


Okay. He ends up in Dallas, performs Shakespeare. He was the lead in a traveling children's theater production of puss in boots. Did 257 performances. This is like two performances a day. High school auditoriums, that type of thing. Travels all over California. He's quoted as saying, I learned a lot. You can't fool children. In 1963, he's in Merchant of Venice as the storyteller Celerio. He was, quote, suitably rambunctious, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The next year, he's in Hamlet. A reviewer said he was properly tormented. He was doing both very serious, like Shakespeare, and then edgy, kind of progressive theater, from what I can tell. He plays a heroin addicted saxophonist who sold his horn to get high in a play called the connection. And the cast performance is called stupendous by a reviewer. So he's apparently, like, pretty good actor at this point.


Like a good stage actor.


He's a good stage actor, and he's traveling a lot. His great niece had described him to me as a rolling Stone. So eventually he joins this really prestigious theater group called the Actors Workshop of San Francisco. It's described as adventurous and anti establishment and daring in its productions, and they do some challenging work. And then there's this big profile of him in the Granville Sentinel. It's very in depth, and I've learned so much about him from this. Okay. One of the two headlines is McNally loves stage but spurns nude rolls. He won't get naked on stage. He says he likes to play both tragedy and comedy, but the only parts he won't accept are any to be played in the nude. It's too distracting. He said, it's much more exciting to imagine an act of love than to watch it on the stage.




Then in this article, he makes some very interesting admissions about life as an actor that would indicate why he ended up donating sperm for 20 or $25 a pop. He says, quote, it is very hard to earn a living as an actor, but he says, there is nothing I want to do but act. It's like being high on drugs. It takes 3 hours to come down after playing a part. When I'm not acting, there is no reason to get up in the morning. Working in an office must be very dull. He does say he won't do commercials. He won't do tv. He won't teach, he won't direct. Like, this is the only thing that.


To me, is an interesting genetic trait that I don't know that you've nailed down on, is that his commitment to his craft is kind of pathological. And your commitment to your craft is quasi pathological. I've tried to get you to sell out many times. I can tell you exactly when I've told you to sell out, grav.


Well, he sacrificed more than I have. And this is how the reporter in this profile of him captures his personality a bit. The reporter writes, mcNally just decided to up and go to New York. No job, no money. He spent his first three days at the Greenwich Village hotel that charged $1.75 for 12 hours. A real flophouse, he says. Then he goes to NYU and passes himself off as a graduate student. He, like, faked being a grad student to obtain one of their student housing apartments. And he passed a bad check for the first month's rent and gathered furniture off the city sidewalks.


Wow. That's. The crazy thing is, like, these guys, they sacrifice so much to like, it's just for that high, for the applause.


Well, the applause didn't always come, because he ended up landing a gig in 1968 off Broadway theater in Greenwich Village. He plays Ernest Hemingway, and the show is about Hemingway's relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald. But the reviews of this thing are terrible. The write up from Variety says it may go down as the only two character show to give a performance for which the cast outnumbered the audience. It sold on one night, literally one ticket.




This must have shook him, knowing what we know about him at this point, right? I mean, yeah.


No, this is a catastrophic failure to him.


He says he's making about $50 a week, but plays only last 15 days. So in between plays, he's a market research analyst, a movie theater manager, and a security guard. There's weird details in this article that seem way too personal, considering it's just the story about a guy who is coming to act with college students for a few weeks. It's like, why are these details in there? Or are they in there just to, like, inform me, you know? 50 years later, he says that his desire to only act and his lack of money have kept him single. And that's, I guess, the thing with actors and artists, right?


I don't know what you're talking about. I have no idea what you're talking about.


Okay. The article says that someday he would like a child. He wanted kids, and he got them.


He did get them. And I think he'd be proud of you, Matt. You know? I think he'd be stoked to have you as a kid. You're a good kid.


Thanks, man. I think he might have liked being a father because he played fathers often. He. This the show that he performed at this college. It's about a father and daughter and their mutual recognition of their heritages and their inner selves and the enduring power of love. And Vincent plays an irish father. And according to the article, vincent was, quote, obviously excited by the father role he plays. That's like an actual line from the story. So he was, wow. Isn't that weird? It's weird that that's like, why is that even in there? Right?


Yeah, right.


I'm, like, trying to wonder if he was. Wanted to be a father, if he would like being a father. And then he's like, I'm getting all these sort of messages. Wow. So his next performance is also about being a father, and it's also about the tension in that, you know, paternal relationship. And in this case, it's like, way fucking head on. It's literally about a father estranged from his children, and then they show up unannounced and unwelcome at his doorstep and come on. Swear to God. Vincent plays the father. He had three children in this show. He is at least four we know of in real life, and we never got a chance to show up at his doorstep. But I guess now here we are. I mean, so crazy. So I. The show's called the Uninvited. It comes out in 1975. It gets a rave review in the villager. It's a, quote, disturbing story of the struggle for a family to survive. Vincent Blaze's father is visited by his children who are looking for reassurance and salvation, which is like, my God. I know. Oh, my God. I'm like, am I? Is that what I'm looking for?


I'm like, well, maybe. Yeah. I think that actually is exactly what I'm looking for.


That's crazy to think that he actually emotionally prepared for, you know, exactly what's happening.


The review says the play flows from memories to metaphors. And then it says the cast is excellent. Vincent McNally stands out in the role of Ed Shaw.




He played a good dad, or he played a good bad dad. He ends up doing the same show a year later, and our amazing intern Natalie got ahold of the actual script. Now this stuff is, like, out of control. The opening musical number is called I've got myself a daddy. I mean, the lyrics were, why did he run away? And it opens, and then it goes into this scene in the show of the son tracking down his father. Quote, I haven't seen him in a long time. The son says. And then he meets a sibling who's a half sibling. And he says to that sibling, he's your father, too. This is like the exact conversation I had with my new sisters when I found them. Yeah, I've got myself a daddy, and he's your daddy, too.


It's definitely weird. Sometimes I think you're guilty of trying to make connections that aren't there. This one's fucking weird, Vincent.


He's playing this character, Ed Shaw, who doesn't want to see his kids. He says that one of the biological daughters, quote, I never wanted her. Just because I'm her father doesn't mean anything. I don't know what you kids are after. I got nothing to tell you except that you're beginning to give me the creeps now, how much do you have to hear before you know how unwanted you are? Whoa, dude. Right? These lines in the play were kind of haunting.


Yeah. But it's a decent question. What is it that you're after?


This was kind of a lot of what I wanted. I went to identify him, which I did. I wanted to meet him, which I can't. And then I wanted to know as much as I could about him. And I think it's fitting that I have been able to find out everything about him until this point, before he did this thing that created me. So now I know it. So maybe that's what I was after.


Maybe. I just. I feel like there's a difference between looking at this whole thing in terms of curiosity and then also in terms of giving you meaning. I think it's really cool and really interesting, but I think you should try. I don't think it's a substitute for creating meaning in your life, like, why you are the way you are and all that stuff. I. You know?




I think that you have a lot of people in your life that are here for you, that love you. You should be getting your meaning from those people, you know? And don't get me wrong, this is fun, this is really cool, and it's really interesting. But I do think you've gone off the deep end on, like, if I don't find these things out, I'm not gonna be whole. And you're very whole. You're one of the more whole people that I know, and I think that you should try to compartmentalize this and try to see this as a fun, cool, like, escape room adventure that you went on, but you already have the meaning that you're looking for, and there's nothing else to find. That's fair. The best thing that came out of this, in my opinion, is that you could ignore who you thought was your birth father.




That's all the meaning you needed from this. That's the best meaning you got from this. Cause that was really souring your life, and now you're free of that. So, you know, take that as the gift that Vincent gave you.


Thank you, Vincent. You're right. You're absolutely right. And then all the details of his life are just kind of a cherry on top. As far as we can tell, Vincent never performed again. Those father roles were his last on stage. At the same time, his acting career appears to have ended. He started donating sperm. Next time on inconceivable truth. Any idea how an actor would have come to donate sperm? I cannot tell you because I have no situation where I would have used a non medical person as a fresh donor insemination. Inconceivable truth is a production of wave land and rococo punch. I'm writer and host Matt Katz. The story editor is Erica Lance. Mixing by James Trout Emily Foreman is our producer. Natalie White is our intern for research help in this episode. Special thanks to Christopher Bonanos of New York magazine and to the folks at New York Public Library Special Collections, Denison University Archives and special Collections, and Stanford University Library Special Collections. Our executive producers are Jason Hoch at Waveland and John Parotti and Jessica Alpert at Vercoco. Punch for photos and more details in the series, follow avelandmedia on Instagram X or Facebook, and you can reach out via email at podcasts at Waveland Media.


That's Waveland. W a v l a n d. If you like the series, please leave us a review. And as always, don't forget to tell a friend or relative. I'm Matt Katz. Thanks for listening. One more thing I found meaning in I used to act. We performed together in a play once, Dan, in high school.


Oh, let's put the word act in huge quotes. Huge air quotes. I used to act, he says. Vincent's turning in his grave.


I performed in California suite in high school in a Neil Simon play, which he also performed in. Neil Simon plays alongside your high school girlfriend, Kelly, who people may remember from episode one. She found the videotape of our performance.


Oh, my God.


I'm paying for everything, you understand? The perfume, the blood on the carpet, the tennis balls I'm shoving up my ass. Everything. A year. I pledged this vacation. You know what? I got the show for it. My acting was horrendous. I just, like, yelled everything. I had, like, an inconsistent New York accent through it all, I got enough. I'm a nervous wreck. I want to go home.