When Patrick Cronin was 3 years old, his father taught him five Irish songs, picked him up and carried him to the nearest bar.
“My father would carry me into the bar, put me on the bar, and then he’d order a shot and a beer, and then he’d look at me and go, ‘Sing,’” Cronin said. “And I would, and these old men at the bar would scream, ‘Give that man a drink!’ and then they’d look up and realize I was three. They’d go, ‘Well, he’s too young. Give his old man a drink.’ So, my father would make five shots and five beers out of my five songs, and then he’d carry me to another bar, and that’s how I got into show business.”
Cronin, who is almost 78 now, teaches introduction to theater along with other theater courses at ETSU and is well-known for his unique teaching style and sense of humor.
“I always wanted to go on Jay Leno and tell that story because everybody has some high up notion on how they got started,” said Cronin. “I was hustled for drinks like a little monkey in a ring.”
Cronin continued singing Irish songs on a children’s radio and television program known as “The Horn” and “Hardart’s Children’s Hour.” When he was a teenager, he decided to start a band.
“I formed a band in the ’50s, and we were called Pat and the Blue Flames and were just as bad as that sounds,” said Cronin. “God, we were awful, but we were no worse than any other saloon band at the time. We did a lot of weddings and stuff.”
When Cronin turned 18, he decided to go to college and believed he would become a priest but was quickly drawn to theater and began doing plays. He acted in Philadelphia until he decided to move to Los Angeles where he couch-surfed for a few months before meeting his wife, Beatrice Colen, who was a successful actor and had a reoccurring role on the popular show “Happy Days.”
“I was doing a play written by her grandfather, and she came backstage and it was like the scene in ‘West Side Story,'” Cronin said. “I proposed two days later, and she said, ‘You’re crazy!’ and I said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.’”
A month later Cronin proposed again, and the two were married in October of 1977. Cronin himself found success both in the theater and behind the camera and did over 200 roles and 11 movies with roles in “Seinfeld,” “Star Trek” and “Rocky V.” The pair were happily married until 1999, when she passed away from lung cancer. After the death of his wife, Cronin decided to leave Los Angeles.
“I had a friend who was teaching at ETSU, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come and teach here?’ because I had taught at Temple University, and I said ‘God, I hated teaching,’” said Cronin.
Cronin applied for the Basler Chair of Excellence.
“They liked me, and they hired me, so I taught here for a semester, and I absolutely fell in love with ETSU,” said Cronin.
Cronin said he planned to teach for two years before retiring and moving to New York to continue acting, but he met his current wife, Dr. Amber Kinser, in Johnson City, and decided to stay. Cronin also says Johnson City is different than other places he’s lived because of the people.
“I had lived in Los Angeles for 24 years, and the instant I left Los Angeles I never heard from anybody again, but I had been in Johnson City a month, and I had 20 people who wanted to help me,” said Cronin. “It’s a whole different world out here.”
Cronin says he will retire from ETSU in December, and that he hopes to continue to visit campus with his wife, who is the Communication and Performance department chair, and keep in touch with old friends and former students.
“I just love the people here, and I love the students,” said Cronin. “They’re hardworking, and they mean well even when they don’t agree with me. Often, they don’t.”