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Family says little about Lady Gaga's W.Va. roots
[August 31, 2010]

Family says little about Lady Gaga's W.Va. roots

Aug 31, 2010 (The Charleston Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ronnie Bissett is polite when she answers the phone. She acknowledges that, yes, she is the grandmother of worldwide pop sensation Lady Gaga, but she can't say much more.

"My daughter told me not to talk about it," the Glen Dale resident said.

Bissett's daughter is Cynthia Bissett, who grew up in the Northern Panhandle and graduated from West Virginia University in 1976.

Becky Lofstead, assistant vice president for university communications, went to school with Bissett.

"I remember Cindy," Lofstead said, when asked about her on Monday. "We were sorority sisters. We both pledged Chi Omega back in the fall of 1972." Lofstead remembered Bissett as being very outgoing, smart and having a flair for fashion. She was also a cheerleader.

"Cindy was just this young, beautiful brunette -- everyone liked her. Lady Gaga actually looks a lot like Cindy -- only blonde." The two lived in the sorority house their junior year. Lofstead remembers Bissett was just about the only one who could cook. After graduation, they lost touch. Bissett later moved to New York and married Joseph Germanotta.

The couple has two daughters. The eldest is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta: aka Lady Gaga.

Little is known about how much time Lady Gaga may have spent in West Virginia. For the last couple of years, reports and rumors about Gaga's hillbilly roots have been circulating. Lady Gaga may have a whole slew of cousins running around the Mountain State, but none of them have come forward.

Darlene Bieber, publicist for country star and Glen Dale native Brad Paisley, doesn't think the family remaining silent is likely part of some kind of organized plan.

"I don't think telling relatives not to talk to press would necessarily be in a publicity plan," she said. "I'm sure there are instances or some artists where it's preferred that family members not participate in interviews. My general suggestion is if they are contacted by press to direct the inquirer to me, and I'll arrange the interview." While Lady Gaga's West Virginia family isn't talking, Gaga herself seems to keep bringing up her mother's home state.

At a concert in the Midwest a month ago, Gaga reportedly referred to the state while on stage, saying how happy she was to be in the Midwest and close to West Virginia.

In the September issue of Vanity Fair magazine, she talked of fleeing to the state after hitting rock bottom in 2006.

Gaga said, "And I remember laying on the pullout bed in the basement in my parents' house, and I said to my mom, 'Can we go see Grandma?'" Without calling, the two flew to West Virginia and showed up on Bissett's doorstep, where the pop star fell apart.

According to Gaga, her grandmother told her she was going to let her cry for a few more hours, "And then after those few hours are up, you're gonna stop crying, you're gonna pick yourself up, you're gonna go back to New York, and you're gonna kick some ass." E-mails to Lady Gaga's publicist have, so far, gone unanswered, and her West Virginia family is maintaining their low profile.

Over the phone, Bissett sounded like she regretted not being able to say more. Not everybody can say they have a grandchild who has taken the entire world by storm.

"We're supposed to wait," she said. "Everything will come out later." Reach Bill Lynch at [email protected] or 304-348-5195.

To see more of The Charleston Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, The Charleston Gazette, W.Va.

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