I found I was a Red Indian
RETURN TO NATIVE: Johnathan Brooks never forgot his roots
By jane bakowski firstname.lastname@example.org
SOMETIMES truth seems stranger than fiction.
And when it comes to the story of Tunbridge Wells life coach Johnathan Brooks’s own life, it’s the stuff that films are made of.
Picture two women in a hotel lobby in San Francisco. The year is 1964 and one, a Native American called Betty, is handing over a newborn baby to an aristocratic-looking European woman.
The boy is called Troy, but when he joins the family of Countess Barbara von Bismarck-Schonhausen – the great-granddaughter of Germany’s “Iron Chancellor”, Otto von Bismarck – and her American husband, Hollywood publicist Steve Brooks, he becomes Johnathan Brooks.
“My new birth certificate showed the basic details, but the names of my natural parents were replaced by my adopted family,” said Mr Brooks, of Grecian Road.
“That’s how it was done, and my adopted parents knew hardly anything about my background.”
Fast forward ten years and the young boy is in Nice, celebrating his birthday at the home of his godfather, Hollywood legend Yul Brynner.
“They were friends – my father was the one who’d advised him to take the part in The Magnificent Seven. He drove me around in his open-topped white Mercedes, and each morning I would watch as his special flock of birds was released to perform acrobatics in the sky above. Actually, I won £50 last month on a premium bond he bought me.”
Eventually the globe-trotting family settled in London and by his early 20s, while working in California as a Hollywood driver, Mr Brooks was growing increasingly keen to discover his roots.
“I decided to go to the Cheyenne reservation in Montana where my parents came from,” he said.
“I only had basic information – I was practically running after every woman of the right age – but eventually I found out my natural mother’s name through two elderly aunts. When they saw me, they just looked at each other and said ‘That’s Troy’, it was extraordinary.”
Spin forward another three years and Mr Brooks is on an extraordinary American road trip, driving towards Montana with his natural mother by his side. They are on their way to meet a man called Eugene, his biological father.
Mr Brooks said: “He looked just like me, and as we sat around drinking and talking – it was the summer ‘pow-wow season’ – all kinds of family stories came out. I was used to relations in chilly castles in Germany, and they were telling me stories of a famous band of bank robbers who were my uncles!”
After enjoyable years when his distinctive looks won him plenty of work as an actor and model, Mr Brooks finally decided it was time to take stock. He qualified as a cognitive behavioural coach over a decade ago and set up his own life coaching practice, Spirit Bear, in which he brings together a wide range of treatments.
Now happily married with a small daughter of his own, he is quick to acknowledge that his own life story plays a vital part in his work.
“I used to wonder why my path followed that strange direction and I needed a lot of help myself to find out how things fitted into place,” he said. “I gradually learned that there is a purpose to it all, and I want to help make a difference to other people’s lives.”