“This land of Arizona has had an exciting history, so dramatic and inspiring that it needs no exaggeration or fictional embellishment.” ~Barry Goldwater
Arizona Celebrities: Part One was in last week’s paper. Now I will talk about Arizona’s famous entertainers – singers, sports stars, actors and actresses. See how many of them you know!
Steven Spielberg – One of the world’s top motion picture directors, Steven Spielberg lived in Scottsdale, Arizona for most of his childhood. As a pre-teen, he charged admission to his home movies (which involved wrecks he staged with his Lionel train set) while his sister sold popcorn. His first production, including script and actors, was completed when he was 12 years old. Just one year later, Spielberg won a prize for a 40-minute war movie he titled Escape to Nowhere. In 1963 at age 16, his 140-minute production of “Firelight” (which would later inspire Close Encounters) was shown in a local movie theater and brought in $100 profit. Spielberg graduated from Arcadia High School in Phoenix. Perhaps Arizona’s interesting landscape inspired this award-winning director. His movies include Duel, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan.
Steve Allen – This comedian, actor, composer and author was born in New York City, but he grew up in Phoenix. Allen studied at Arizona State Teachers College (now ASU), although his college education ended in his sophomore year when he took a job as an announcer at KOY radio station. In 1945 he moved to Los Angeles, and in the 1950’s he began his career in television, during which time he hosted The Steve Allen Show and created the original Tonight Show. From the late 1990s until he died in October 2000 at age 78, he was a leading opponent of the decline in moral standards and quality of television.
Alice Cooper – The rock star who recorded the song “School’s Out” attended school in Phoenix. His name was Vincent Damon Furnier. He was a sickly child, and his family moved to the Valley when he was 10 years old to help cure his bronchial asthma. Vincent attended Squaw Peak Elementary and Madison No. 2. He began his singing career at Cortez High School, where he also lettered in track for four straight years. Vincent and four classmates from the track team formed a group called the Earwigs, which they eventually renamed the Alice Cooper Group. They were the world’s first theatrical-style “shock rockers”, a concept that many other groups were inspired to imitate. In 1972 Vincent legally changed his name to Alice Cooper. In December 1998, Alice opened a restaurant *Cooper’stown* located near the Bank One Ballpark and America West Arena. Alice Cooper himself is often there when he isn’t away on tour, and he does not hesitate to suggest menu items, chat with his fans and sign autographs. Alice Cooper can also be spotted around town at Little League baseball games (he’s a coach) or on the golf course. He hosts his own charity golf tournament in Phoenix each April. He has been married to the same woman, Sheryl, for more than 20 years and has three children: Calico, Dashiell, and Sonora Rose. Alice Cooper’s other passion is the Solid Rock Foundation, a Christian nonprofit organization that he started in 1995 to guide teens to Christ and away from gangs, guns, and drugs.
Linda Ronstadt – This Grammy-award-winning singer has captivated audiences since the 1970’s with her radiant interpretations of country, pop, rock and Latin music. Born in Tucson, Arizona, her love of Mexican traditional music grew out of her childhood, living minutes from the Mexican-American border. Ronstadt’s, a hardware store located in old downtown Tucson, was owned and operated by the Ronstadt family from 1896 until going out of business in the mid-1980’s. (Linda had offered to buy the store, but they didn’t take her up on her offer.) Linda’s older brother was Tucson’s chief of police.
Stevie Nicks – Stephanie Lynn Nicks was born on May 26, 1948, in Phoenix, Arizona. Her grandfather, a country singer, passed on his love of singing to Nicks, who was singing at the age of four in her parent’s club and writing songs as a teenager. Nicks met Lindsey Buckingham in high school and they both joined a local band called Fritz. The band moved to the San Francisco area and established a small following while opening for bigger acts. At the end of 1974, Mick Fleetwood, drummer for the English rock group Fleetwood Mac, happened to hear a tape of Nicks and Buckingham at a Los Angeles studio and, needing a guitarist, called Buckingham. Buckingham told Fleetwood that he would join only if Nicks were also part of the deal. The Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours, was a record-setting hit around the world. Nicks later launched a successful solo career, and has since moved back to Arizona.
Linda McCartney – Linda, the late wife of Paul McCartney, studied art history and geology at the University of Arizona. She enjoyed riding horses in the Catalina Mountains. Her first marriage was to geophysicist John Melvin See, who still lives in Tucson. The couple had a daughter, Heather, but then they became divorced. Linda went to London in 1967 as a photographer, and she became widely acclaimed for her photographs of rock celebrities. In 1968 she met then-Beatle McCartney and married him one year later. The McCartneys purchased a sprawling ranch with a large white farmhouse in the Catalina foothills in 1979. This was the one private place they had in the world. Linda died of cancer on April 17, 1998 at the age of 56. The Arizona Star, quoting unnamed sources, said that she had died on their Tucson ranch and that some of her ashes were scattered there.
Glen Campbell – He became a country/pop crossover sensation in the ’60s with songs like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Campbell broke down musical barriers with “Rhinestone Cowboy” (1975) and “Southern Nights” (1977), that went No. 1 on both the country and pop charts. Unfortunately, along with stardom came alcohol and drug addiction. Then in the early ’80s he dedicated his life to Christianity and married fourth wife Kim Woollen. Still together 18 years later, they have three children and live in Phoenix.
Rex Allen – “The Arizona Cowboy” and the last of Hollywood’s singing cowboys, he was a native of Willcox, Arizona.
Dick Van Dyke – This comedic actor filmed his new Dick Van Dyke Show at the Carefree Studio from 1971-1974 while living in Cave Creek.
Paul Harvey – A radio journalist known for his distinctive style, he was one of the original residents of Carefree, Arizona.
Hugh Downs – This television news commentator has been a resident of Carefree, Arizona, for many years.
Lynda Carter – The actress who starred as “Wonder Woman” in the 1970’s grew up in Phoenix.
Nick Nolte– This actor grew up in Phoenix, just a short drive off Camelback Road. Lots of longtime locals remember him as a Phoenix College student.
Ted Danson – The star of “Cheers,” this actor/environmentalist grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona.
David Spade – He is a comedian and actor who grew up in Scottsdale. Spade’s first stand-up routines were performed in Scottsdale nightclubs, and later he had a spot on Saturday Night Live.
Valerie Perrine – This actress has played in several television dramas and films. She grew up in Phoenix and went to Camelback High School.
Sean Young – From Sedona, Arizona, this actress currently lives with her family in Los Angeles.
Leslie Nielsen – This comedic actor is now a resident of Paradise Valley, where he enjoys his second career as a loafer/golfer.
Charles Mingus – A jazz musician and composer born in Nogales, Arizona, he was a virtuoso bassist and innovative composer who worked with Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, and Red Norvo between 1941 and 1953. He formed his first band in 1954.
Marty Robbins – One of the top country-western singers of the 1950’s, he was born in Glendale.
Tanya Tucker – She is a country singer who grew up in Willcox, Arizona.
Wayne Newton – The highest-paid nightclub performer in Las Vegas, Wayne and his brother Jerry formed a rockabilly duo while still in their preteens and were featured on the Lew King Ranger Talent Show on station KOOL during the 1950’s when the family lived in Phoenix.
Meadowlark Lemon – The legendary hero of comedic basketball began his career with the Harlem Globetrotters more than 4 decades ago. He now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Joe Garagiola – Baseball’s Joe Garagiola makes his home in Paradise Valley and can still be heard as a commentator for Major League Baseball games.
Gary Hall, Jr. – Olympic gold medalist Gary Hall, Jr. trains at the Phoenix Swim Club. His father, a Phoenix eye surgeon, was also an Olympic swimmer. His maternal grandfather is Charles Keating Jr., the former chairman of Lincoln Savings & Loan who was convicted of fraud and racketeering.
Kerri Strug – This young gymnast from Tucson won an Olympic gold medal in 1996 after a perfect performance despite a sprained ankle.
Curt Schilling – A popular pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he graduated from Shadow Mountain High School in 1985 and attended Yavapai Community College in Prescott, Arizona.
Heather Farr – She was an outstanding golfer, All-American player at Arizona State University, and a rising star on the LPGA Tour. She demonstrated a courageous spirit during her four-and-a-half year fight with breast cancer. The very first hole on Grayhawk’s Talon Course in Scottsdale is named “Farrview” in her honor, and a life-sized bronze statue of Heather stands behind the tee as a memorial. Arizona’s other professional golfers include: Mark Calcavecchia, who has a home in Ahwatukee; Peter Kostis, who has a home in Paradise Valley; John Jacobs, a Scottsdale resident; Tom Lehman, a Scottsdale resident (he plays out of DC Ranch); Gary McCord, a Scottsdale resident; Phil Mickelson, an ASU graduate and Scottsdale resident; Howard Twitty, who was born in Phoenix, attended ASU, and lives in Scottsdale; Grace Park, who lives in Phoenix; and the late Karsten Solheim, inventor of the Ping golf club.
Did You Know…?
The town of Paradise Valley boasts the most exclusive zip code in the Valley – 85253. This wealthy bedroom community, incorporated in May 1961, has been home to many of the Valley’s rich and famous, including former Senator Barry Goldwater, former Vice President Dan Quayle, Spam heir Geordie Hormel, shock rocker Alice Cooper, baseball’s Joe Garagiola and “Family Circus” cartoonist Bill Keane. The 16-square-mile town stretches north of Camelback Mountain to Shea Boulevard and from the Phoenix Mountain Preserve to Scottsdale Road.
(Pictures and names of some famous Arizonans.)
(Arizona facts and statistics, including a list of famous Arizona natives and residents.)
(An article about Arizona’s home-grown celebrities.)
(An article about famous Arizona politicians.)
(Detailed biographies of prominent Arizonans.)
(Scroll down to “Essentials”, click on “How to…See Famous People Around Town” for tips on local spots where you’re most likely to see big name athletes, actors, and other celebrities.)