Friday, January 24, 2014

People you might not have known were from Michigan

Every Michigander knows that Madonna hails from the Great Lakes State. The fact that Tim Allen comes from Michigan is old news, and celebrities like Jeff Daniels, Michael Moore, and Eminem have incorporated the fact that they're from Michigan into their movies, documentaries, and music, so their status as Michiganders is fairly obvious.

But what about the lesser-known Michigan celebrities? By that, I mean celebrities who aren't necessarily any less famous or important than the celebrities listed above, but simply those whom not many people realize are from Michigan. This post gives them their due. Read on to learn about stars of stage and screen you never realized once lived (and, in some case, still do live) in Michigan.

Ken Jeong

1. Ken Jeong---Wait, what? Yep, "Senor Chang," the Spanish teacher from the television show Community, was born in Detroit. He's probably more famous to other audiences as gangster "Leslie Chow" from the Hangover movies. Another mind-blowing fact: Before he became an actor, Jeong was a physician, and is in fact still licensed to practice in the state of California. Wrap your mind around that while you watch this clip from Community. (In order to keep this site PG-rated, there's no way I can, in good conscience, include any of his scenes from The Hangover.)

Link to YouTube video of Senor Chang

Terry O'Quinn

2. Terry O'Quinn---Fans of the television show Lost known Terry O'Quinn as the mysterious "John Locke," a role for which he won an Emmy in 2007. O'Quinn was born in Sault Ste. Marie and raised in Newberry, and attended Central Michigan University. Another fun fact: His last name is actually Quinn. He changed it when he was a budding actor and learned that another performer was working under the name Terrance Quinn. Here he is at work in Lost.

Link to YouTube video of John Locke

Elaine Stritch

3. Elaine Stritch---Elaine Stritch is a Tony Award winner (and multiple nominee) who has plied the stages of Broadway and the West End for decades. I'm slightly ashamed to say that the only reason I know of her is that she played Jack Donaghy's cantankerous mother on the television show 30 Rock. (However, she was one of my favorite characters in that show.) Stritch was born in Detroit, and recently moved back to Michigan (Birmingham, to be exact) to be closer to her family. Here's a clip of Stritch singing one of her signature songs, "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch," from the musical Company.

Link to YouTube video of Elaine Stritch

James Caan

4. James Caan---Admittedly, Caan's days in Michigan were few---he attended Michigan State University during the 1956-1957 academic year before returning to his native New York City. Still, he made a mark on campus. Caan was a member of the football team (he later noted that his position was "tackling dummy") and studied economics. After leaving MSU, he became an actor and got his big break in 1971 when he starred as Brian Piccolo in the movie Brian's Song. A year later, he received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. Here's a clip from The Godfather, showing Caan in action:

Link to YouTube video of Sonny Corleone

Dick York

5. Dick York---Best known as the "first Darrin" from the 1960s sitcom Bewitched, York was born in Indiana and grew up in Chicago, but spent the last years of his life in Rockford, Michigan, where he's buried in Plainfield Cemetery. York spent five seasons on Bewitched before the chronic back pain he received during a previous project forced him to leave the show. Eventually, York moved to Rockford, where he became bedridden from emphysema. He died at the age of 63 in February 1992. Bewitched clips featuring York are hard to come by on YouTube (most of what I've found are entire episodes), but here's a segment with York, along with his TV daughter, wife, and mother-in-law:

Link to YouTube video of Darrin Stephens

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