Feature: Inside American Gypsies: The Johns Family Dynamic

Meet the Johns Family

Author: barbara barnett
Published: July 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Meet the Johns family, stars of National Geographic Channel’s American Gypsies. Premiering July 17, American Gypsies is a documentary series, taking a rare peek inside one of New York City’s most prominent Romani (Gypsy) families. They walk the fine line, sometimes struggling to maintain Romani traditions and customs—while at the same time pursuing the truly American Dream. 

Headed by Bob Sr., known throughout the Romani community in the U.S., he calls the ultimate shots for the family. “I’m the boss, I do what I want, and you follow me!” he says. Unfortunately, Bob Sr. has been ill, and is currently recovering from a stroke. His health issues have made it more difficult to control the rest of the family, particularly as they so often seem at each others throats. “If I die, stick together, don’t fight,” says Bob Sr. “Stay Gypsy.  Everyone will respect you. I’m fighting for this family … you understand that?  You’s got to keep it, my five sons.”

Bob Sr.’s wife Tina is the family’s headstrong matriarch. She loving, but strict with her family. A psychic healer, Tina invokes rituals intended to turn away evil spirits, and instead bring good luck upon her five sons and 15 grandchildren.  “In Gypsy culture,” she explains, “every woman is psychic.” She tries to keep her granddaughters in line, especially when they start acting too much like non-Gypsies.

Bob Sr. and Tina have five sons, with the eldest next in line to become patriarch. Eric stands apart from his younger brothers; as the eldest, he is in charge while Bob Sr. continues to ail. His biggest challenge is with his siblings Bobby and Nicky. Nicky has a short fuse, acting (sometimes violently) without thinking. Bobby is comfortable with non-Romani ways, willing to give up some parts of Romani custom to live the American Dream. "I think it's time we adapt to the times, like every other culture has," says Bobby.

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Article Author: barbara barnett

I'm a writer, co-executive editor of Blogcritics, and author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. Always curious about what's new and exciting around the next curve.

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