Show Me The Talent! Celebrities From Missouri
We all have favorite actors, actresses, singers and songwriters; but do we know where they hail from? What was life like in their formative years? Is it possible that some little nothing shaped their future and assisted in their rise to stardom? Could they have been from your home town, or the next town over? Might you be walking in their footsteps and not know it?
I decided to find out what famous individuals came from the state of Missouri. The list can't be very long; Missouri is such a nothing state, right?
Well it turns out that in the world of Show Business, Missouri has some pretty solid stars and singers. Other states may have more but Ol' Mo does alright. Read along and see how many you know, and then head off to see who comes from your neck of the woods.
We'll start with a few old timers, some that have lived and died in the past. Then we'll move forward and cover a few who are stars on the stage today.
One of those streets I spoke of earlier is named for famed poet, activist, novelist and playwright James Mercer Langston Hughes, otherwise known as simply Langston Hughes. Born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Hughes was an early innovator of a form of art that came to be known as Jazz Poetry. His paternal great-grandmothers were both African American while his paternal great grandfathers were both White. His Father ended up leaving and divorcing his Mother and he was raised primarily by his maternal grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. A sense of racial pride was instilled in young Hughes, one which he would never forget. He would stress a racial consciousness and a cultural nationalism which was devoid of self-hate and became a leader in the African American pride movement.
A winner of multiple honors and awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, he died at age 65 in New York City as a result of complications which resulted from a surgery for prostate cancer.
Another of those roads with an actor's name on it is Dennis Weaver Blvd., out by the airport. Weaver was a mainstay on television series Gunsmoke as the limping assistant to Marshall Dillon, Chester. He also was the lead in McCloud, a then modern day cowboy detective in New York City. Continuing his western role, he appeared in the famed mini series Centennial as R.J. Poteet, a Texas trail boss who leads a herd of cattle north to Colorado.
But what most may not know is that he also played the lead character in the film Duel directed by none other than Steven Spielberg in his pre-Jaws days. If you haven't seen it, take a look at it sometime then get back out on the highway and drive. You'll soon find yourself looking over your shoulder.
Born June 4, 1924 and passing at age 81 in 2006 in Ridgeway, Colorado, Weaver was the kind of star Hollywood was known for in that time: adaptable yet with a firm footing in the Westerns. He served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild for a time, and was involved with John Denver in the L.I.F.E. (Life Is Feeding Everyone) campaign which provided food for 150,000 people a week in Los Angeles. He was also an ardent political figure and raised funds for George McGovern's Presidential campaign in 1972. Ever the activist, in 2004 he led a fleet of alternative fuel vehicles across the country in order to raise awareness of our dependence on foreign oil.
Some years ago we were looking for a house and ventured to Neosho. There we found the house and it was with great shock that I realized it was Thomas Hart Benton's childhood home. We didn't buy it but I was sorely tempted to for the singular reason that it was, to me, a historical home.
Thomas Hart Benton
Famed muralist Thomas Hart Benton was born April 15, 1889 in tiny Neosho, Missouri. Neosho lies in the southwest portion of Missouri, a few miles south of Joplin. Born to a political family, he was the eldest of four children in the Benton household. His father, Colonel Maecenas Benton was a four time Congressman who sent his son to the Western Military Academy in order to prepare him for a life of politics. However, Thomas had no such intentions, preferring to pursue an interest in art which was encouraged by his mother.
After two years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Thomas headed for Paris to continue his art education at the Academie Julian. By the early 20's he would reject the Modernism movement, focusing on what has become known as Regionalism. Thomas would paint murals and pictures of everyday situations and people in a most unique manner, a style that has come to be almost his alone. To see one Benton mural or painting is to be able to recognize others at a moments notice, they are that stylistic.
Thomas would frequent a notorious bar known as The House of Lords in the rough and tumble mining town of Joplin as a teenager. It is said that this establishment, which had a bar on one floor, a restaurant on another, and a brothel on the third, was perhaps the inspiration for his interest in art, as he would supposedly stare at the paintings which hung on the walls of the bar. Perhaps he even heard famed ragtime artist Scott Joplin playing the Maple Leaf Rag or The Entertainer there.
Benton died January 19, 1975 in Kansas City at the ripe old age of 85 having completed one final work of art destined for the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Moving into the more current and therefore mainstream media, we find one Sheryl Crow. Rocker, singer, songwriter, actress, this lady can do it all. Born in Kennett, Missouri February 11, 1962 she attended Kennett High School and became a majorette and all state track star. Both a member of the FFA and the Paperdoll Queen, she evidenced her impressive range of interests and then attended the University of Missouri in Columbia. Four years later she graduated with a Bachelors of Arts and found work as a music teacher in the late 80's to early 90's in Fenton, which lies near St. Louis. Her first jingle came during this time and was for Famous Barr. From there, she created spots for McDonald's and Toyota before beginning to tour with Michael Jackson. In 1994 her her song All I Wanna Do became a smash which was to be followed by Strong Enough. To date she has nine albums, has appeared in multiple television shows and a few films.
Kathleen Turner was born June 19, 1954 and hails from Springfield. She has become known as an actress with the smokey voice reminding one of Lauren Bacall which was on display in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with her supplying the voice for Roger's wife Jessica. Famed for the line "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way" this film followed appearances in Body Heat, Romancing The Stone, Prizzi's Honor and allowed her to win a Golden Globe for both Romancing The Stone and Prizzi's Honor. Following Rabbit, she starred in The War of the Roses with Stone costars Danny DeVito and Micheal Douglas, a black comedy about divorce. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Continuing her string of success she starred in Peggy Sue Got Married with Nicholas Cage, has appeared on Broadway in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, earning Tony nominations for both. She also appeared in the London production of The Graduate, where sales went "through the roof" once it was announced the the then 45 year old actress would appear nude on the stage.
She was once reported to have said that, in her heyday of the 80's and 90's, if she felt really good about herself, "I can walk into a room and if a man doesn't look at me he's probably gay." I'd say she was quite comfortable in her, uh attraction level.
Later she was slowed by Rheumatoid Arthritis and turned down roles in films such as Ghost and The Bridges of Madison County. Ultimately she turned to alcohol to dull the pain of the disease and the offers began to decline. However in later years her disease has gone into remission enough to allow her become sober and to act once more, appearing in Marley and Me and on TV in Law and Order, among other roles.
He can be scary...
Larger than life actor John Goodman can be very, very good or very, very bad depending on what is required of him. In Roseanne he was the father of the family and was by turns funny and hard. He has appeared in such notable films as The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, Always and even played Fred Flintstone in the live action feature film The Flintstones.
He has lent his voice to Pixar in the form of Sulley in Monsters Inc. and provided voiceovers in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove. I can honestly say this man has the unique ability to mold himself into almost any character presented to him as evidenced by his roles in Argo, The Artist, Flight, The Monuments Men and The Babe. He can be an everyday kind of guy as in King Ralph, or he can be a vicious hard-nosed mobster as in The Gambler. There is nothing he cannot play. He even stepped into John Belushi's role in Blues Brothers 2000 and carried it off without a hitch.
We will end with current star Jon Hamm, he of St. Louis. Born March 10, 1971 he is best known as the star of Mad Men, but he has also acted in such notable films as The Day The Earth Stood Still with Keaunu Reeves, Space Cowboys with Clint Eastwood, Sucker Punch, and Bridesmaids. His role in this last film, though small, was notable to say the least. I cannot say if I have ever seen a more despicable character come through as humorous before. By the way, he was nominated for Best On-Screen Dirtbag on the MTV Awards Show for his part.
In addition to these he has supplied voiceovers for Shrek Forever and Minions. But it is his work in Mad Men which made him a star. Nominated for Best Actor in the Golden Globe Awards no less than six times for Best Actor Television Series Drama and eight times for an Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, he has won multiple times for each.
He is also a died in the wool St. Louis Cardinal fan and even narrated the official highlight film for their 2011 World Series Championship.
Oh there are many others I could reference here, such as Don Cheadle (Kansas City), he of the Iron Man films and Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen; Slim Shady himself Eminem (St. Joseph); and of course, Mr. Springfield Brad Pitt; NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray (Joplin); funnyman Kevin Nealon (St. Louis); NBA Hall of Fame player and former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (Crystal City); to say nothing of actor Scott Bakula, authors Samuel Langhorn Clemons and T.S. Eliot, inventor George Washington Carver, astronomer Edwin Hubble, boxing brothers Leon and Micheal Spinks, Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola, another catcher and neighbor; Don Johnson; Shelley Winters; and President Harry Truman. Perhaps you want to get involved with the Civil Rights Movement with Maya Angelou and Josephine Baker. Or maybe you feel like a walk on the "wild side" with Jesse James, Ma Barker, Calamity Jane and Belle Starr; take a ride on the Titanic with the Unsinkable Molly Brown, glide across the floor with Ginger Rogers, or dance to a different kind of beat with Chuck Berry; maybe play a round of golf with Payne Stewart and Tom Watson, get the wits scared out of you by Linda Blair or Vincent Price, laugh yourself silly with Cedric the Entertainer, Redd Foxx and Dick van Dyke, shop at J.C. Penney's stores, listen to the news with Walter Cronkite, watch a film with Betty Grable, Jean Harlow, John Huston, Dianne Weist, Ed Asner or Kevin Kline, or maybe enlist in General Omar Bradley's Army or follow General John J. Pershing against Pancho Villa in Mexico or the Germans in WWI. You see, there are any number of famous people from the Show Me State; now show me who comes from your home state!