John M. “Jan” Grippo was born in Beacon, New York, on December 15, 1906, according to Who’s Who in California, Volume 13. Grippo has not yet been found in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census.
According to the 1920 census, Grippo was the fifth of eight children born to Rocco, a foundry employee, and Veta, both Italian emigrants. His oldest siblings, James, and Louise, were also Italian natives. The Grippos resided in Beacon at 95 Newburgh Avenue.
In 1923 Grippo was awarded a scholarship to the New York School of Design, which he left in 1924. He attended Eastman’s College from 1925 to 1926.
The 1925 New York State Census recorded the Grippos in Beacon at 75 South Avenue. Grippo, his father and three older brothers all worked at a hat shop.
The 1979 International Television Almanac said Grippo was, from 1926 to 1928, a cartoonist with New York Herald-Tribune Syndicate, plus a commercial artist, caricaturist for Shubert shows, and cartoonist for national magazines.
The 1930 census said Grippo was unemployed. Later that year, Grippo and writer Evan J. David produced, for the New York Herald-Tribune Syndicate, the comic strip, Wanda Byrd, which ran from June 30, 1930 to June 13, 1931.
Grippo quickly produced samples for more comic strips which were copyrighted in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Works of Art, Etc. 1931 New Series, Volume 26, Number 4.
Grippo (John M.) [and] Greene (Preston) jr., Beacon, N. Y.
(Grippo ( John M.) Drawings:
Linda Dare, 1 — Who’s who. [Five characters : Linda Dare, Eddie Duer, Gunn brothers, Tattered Tobias] © 1 c. Sept. 21, 1931; G 7132.
—6—Tobias Patch. [Comic strip. four views. Men changing tire in first, two men in second, two men and girl in third, letter in fourth] © 1 c. Sept. 21, 1931; G 7129
—7—Lawyer’s letter. [Comic strip, four views. Lettering in first and third, girl and two men in second and fourth] © 1 c. Sept. 21, 1931; G 7128
—8—Mr. Dare decides. [Comic strip, four views showing people in room talking] © 1 c. Sept. 21, 1931; G 7133.
—10—Anchors aweigh. [Comic strip, four views showing two men hiding in life-boat on ship] © 1 c. Sept. 21, 1931; G 7131.
—12—Life of Reilly. [Comic strip, four views showing sailor and officer on ship] © 1 c. Sept. 21, 1931 ; G 7130.
Who’s Who said he was co-manager of former Light Heavyweight Champ Melio Bettina, from 1937 to 1938. Grippos’s brother, Jimmie, continued managing Bettina.
The Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1988, said Grippo moved to Hollywood in 1937. Grippo also changed his first name to Jan. Who’s Who said he was an agent from 1939 to 1951, as well as a magic technical advisor for various Hollywood studios. The 1979 International Television Almanac said Grippo was married to Flo Browne, who died in 1951.
Grippo has not been found in the 1940 census. During World War II, Who’s Who said Grippo, a volunteer for the Hollywood Victory Commission, entertained the Armed Forces and performed at the Hollywood Canteen. In 1945, Grippo formed Jan Grippo Productions which created and produced the Bowery Boys motion picture series starring Leo Gorcey.
According to Who’s Who, Grippo was a subject in the comics work of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Feg Murray’s Seein’ Stars and Ernest Hix’s Strange As It Seems. Beginning in 1946 Grippo was a member of the Society American Magicians. In 1963 he was a charter member of the Academy of Magical Arts.