Jackie Jones and Her Famous Tap-Dancing Cat Hit Hard Times


A few years back, we told you about Jackie Jones, who entertains folks and at San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood farmer’s market by playing old-timey jazz music. She plays a variety of instruments, like a homemade washboard guitar and electric saw, but that’s not the only thing that gets fans sitting around her little set-up.

Meet Effigy, her tap-dancing wooden cat. She wears a strip-tease outfit. Jones and Effigy have been a fixture at the market for more than 15 years, delighting shoppers of all ages.

Jones gets Effigy dancing around by tapping her foot. As she says in our 2012 interview, “It’s based on an old-fashioned toy where a little human person dances on a paddle. You hold it out with a stick. If you tap on the paddle, it hits the feet of the dancing figure. But then your hands are occupied, and I wanted my hands free to play the music, so I constructed it to play with my foot.”

We’re sad to report, however, that this iconic San Francisco character has fallen on hard times — last year, she fell in her home, breaking her foot and both legs, and she has been homebound ever since, according to an Indiegogo campaign set up to help raise money for her care.

“She is having trouble paying for her medical expenses not covered by Medicare,” reads the page. “Jackie has wonderful friends who bring her groceries and get her to doctor appointments, but she needs your help to get back up on her feet (literally). $5,000 will cover the cost of one more month of home care, buying her a little more time to regain her balance and relieving her of the stress that comes with living from Social Security check to Social Security check.”

The campaign quickly raised the $5,000 goal, then extended it to $10,000 to further help her.

Though Jones current cat is wooden, she told us she’s had two cats over the years.

“I had two cats that each lived to 18 years old, and it broke my heart to have them put down. Dumbella was a Siamese who came to me pregnant and homeless when I lived on Duboce. She kept coming around and I’d say, "Oh, that dumb cat again." She had five kittens that I found homes for through the pet store,” she said.

“I found Tuxy in the Cala Foods parking lot. He was black with a white chest and paws. He was in bad condition, so I took him in too. He had everything wrong with him. Dumbella slept with me every night, but Tuxy wouldn’t. He was afraid of being covered up. I think he had a rough start.”


If you want to help Jones get back on her feet and back to her station at the farmer’s market, visit the Indiegogo campaign and donate.

Photos via John Blackburn

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