40 Famous People from Wisconsin

When Wisconsin Meets Hollywood

Have you ever noticed how no matter where you go, you almost always run into people who are originally from Wisconsin? It’s either that – or you meet folks with a direct connection to our state.

It seems to be the same story in Hollywood circles. You’ll find screen legends as well as D-list celebrities who have been touched by the Badger State. Some of them you probably knew about, others will surprise you. Ready? Let’s take a look….

1. Heather Graham – Milwaukee

heather grahamThis blonde starlet was born in the Brew City – but she wasn’t exactly raised there. Heather Graham’s daddy was an FBI agent and the family moved around because of that.

By the time Heather turned nine, the Graham fam had made a home in Agoura Hills, California where she would eventually find her way into acting. After a few smaller, yet memorable parts, Heather Graham started landing bigger roles starting with Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy in 1989.

Another early recognizable role was in the 1996 comedy Swingers, in which she played Lorraine, the final dating prospect for  Jon Favreau’s character, Mike. In the movie, Lorraine happened to have recently moved to Los Angeles from Wisconsin.

Of course she’s played other unforgettable characters including Roller Girl in Boogie Nights, Felicity Shagwell alongside Austin Powers himself in The Spy Who Shagged Me and most recently Jade, the stripper from The Hangover.

Despite the sassy roles, Heather Graham is generally viewed as a very all-American girl-next-door kind of actress. We like to think her time in Wisconsin had something to do with that.

2. Mark Ruffalo – Kenosha

mark rufalloMark Ruffalo doesn’t really give off a Wisconsiny vibe, but calls his birthplace, Kenosha, Wisconsin a “very special place” from which he draws comfort.

Ruffalo recently landed the role as the latest actor to play Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk in The Avengers, and it sounds like he’ll actually stick with it as he’s signed on for the sequels. He was also nominated for an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role in The Kids are Alright.

On a visit to his hometown during a charity event a few years ago, Ruffalo told the Kenosha News about his warm and fuzzy feelings for Kenosha.

“You leave a place and you want to go see the world. And then you see the world and you want to go back to that place. You have a sentimental connection to the past. It’s comforting.”

3. Willem Dafoe – Appleton

willem dafoeI’ve heard that Willem Dafoe can’t stand his hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin. But that has to be a rumor, because what’s not to love about Appleton? Of course, you can’t blame anyone for wanting to bail from the place where they grew up.

Willem Dafoe told USA Today that he had to “get out of town.”  That was in 2007, while he was in Milwaukee visiting old pals and having a great time. He talked about how old ties are important.

“That’s what started the most important, and then I think everybody goes away from that for a little while. And then they come back to that. It’s like a primitive impulse.”

USA Today said Dafoe left home after graduating from Appleton East, but a high school friend of his tells us Willem actually dropped out and left for Milwaukee. (Stay in school kids, or don’t, whatever)

Dafoe is known for his versatility and has played everything from Jesus (Last Temptation of Christ) to a cross-dressing cop (Boondock Saints), a U.S. Soldier in Vietnam (Platoon) and Nosferatu (Shadow of the Vampire).

Check out the video below. It’s a Jim Beam commercial based on and starring Willem Dafoe. It has him watching a young version of himself in Appleton and imagining the different paths his life could have taken. The ad might make you think he chose New York over Milwaukee. In reality, Dafoe went to Milwaukee first where he studied acting at UWM and was part of Theater X, which closed in 2004.

4. Tony Shalhoub – Green Bay

tony shalhoubEmmy-winner Tony Shalhoub got his start acting as a young kid at Green Bay East High School when he landed a spot in the school’s production of The King and I, thanks to help from his big sister. He would go on to graduate from GB East where classmates voted him Most Likely to Succeed.

But the best story about Tony Shalhoub’s time at Green Bay East High School is about how he literally broke a leg while on stage. He fell into the orchestra pit during a rehearsal, but recovered in time to perform in the production.

Shalhoub came from a big Lebanese-American family and had 9 brothers and sisters. His parents started a downtown grocery store in Green Bay, and still live in Titletown. Tony Shalhoub is a Packers fan, and I remember seeing him sport a black cheesehead on Sharon Osbourne’s short-lived daytime talk show following a playoff loss.

While he’s an accomplished character actor in many films – he’s known best for playing an OCD private eye on the USA show Monk. Others will remember his character, Antonio Scarpacci from Wings. And not long ago, Shalhoub came to Door County, Wisconsin to appear in the film Feed the Fish.

5. Chris Farley – Madison

chris farleyChris Farley is arguably one of the funniest people to come out of Saturday Night Live. Many of the guys who worked with him on SNL, including Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and David Spade admit he had them beat.

He was also a huge Wisconsin sports fan. Farley grew up in Madison and went to college at Marquette University. He eventually joined Second City in Chicago, where he was discovered by Lorne Michaels.

Farley died of an apparent drug overdose in December 1997. For me, it’s one of those instances where you always remember where you were when you found out. I was with my high school jazz band going to perform Christmas music for middle-schoolers. The Tommy Boy quotes were flowing in his honor.

It’s a shame Chris Farley’s life and career ended so early. We can only imagine what kind of hilarity would have occurred. But at least he got to see his Green Bay Packers win a Super Bowl. Check out the Tonight Show appearance below.

6. Gene Wilder – Milwaukee

gene wilder willy wonkaThe man most of us know as the original movie-version of Willy Wonka and the hilarious young Dr. Frankenstein was born in Milwaukee in 1933. His birth name was actually Jerome Silberman, and he picked Gene Wilder as a professional name based on some of his favorite literary influences.

Wilder caught the acting bug when a doctor encouraged him to try and make his sick mother laugh. She noticed his talent and sent him away to an acting school in California. Things didn’t go well there. Wilder says he was bullied and assaulted. So he moved back home to Wisconsin and continued acting in local theater.

Wilder is also known for his films with comedian Richard Pryor and his relationship with legendary comedienne Gilda Radner. She died of ovarian cancer while the two were married, and Wilder became co-founder of Gilda’s Club – a cancer support group.

7. Kathy Kinney – Stevens Point

kathy kinneyThis one is no surprise. Kathy Kinney – best known as Mimi from The Drew Carey Show – is most definitely from Wisconsin. It’s not just her good-looks and style though, it’s that trademark, biting sarcasm – which Wisconsin women tend to have.

Kinney went to UW Stevens Point before heading off to New York City where she got a job as a secretary at the CBS Television affiliate. Her relationship with her boss was the inspiration for the character of Mimi.

She told The Pet Press that she left Wisconsin to seek adventure in the Big Apple. But she never really intended to become an actress. That happened because of a friend who did have acting aspirations. According to Kinney, the friend “didn’t like to do things by herself.”

“One time she had to take an improvisation class, so I decided to take it with her.  It cost $50.00.  The next thing I knew they asked me to perform with them.  I had no idea I was funny or that anyone else thought I was funny.”

Kinney is still doing improv – most recently on Drew Carey’s Improv-a-Ganza, which airs on the Game Show Network.

8. Bob Uecker – Milwaukee

bob ueckerBob Uecker is a Wisconsin treasure. We know him best as the radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s been calling games since 1971.

Uecker also played for the Milwaukee Braves during his not-so-stellar Major League career. But he follows in the footsteps of baseball-great Casey Stengel. Neither were outstanding players, yet their senses of humor are top-knotch.

Uecker got the nickname “Mr. Baseball” from none other than Johnny Carson. His acting career had him starring as George Owens in the 1980’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere, and he played a hilarious play-by-play broadcaster in the Major League movies.

There’s a bronze statue of Uecker outside Miller Park, and he’s already in the National Radio Hall of Fame. But his “greatest honor” might be the fact that he’s been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for his appearances in Wrestlemania III and IV.

9. Frank Caliendo – Waukesha

frank caliendoFrank Caliendo was born in Chicago, but grew up in Waukesha and went to the University of Milwaukee. Caliendo started out working comedy clubs in Milwaukee and quickly became known for his impressions.

He found fame after becoming a cast member on FOX’s MADtv sketch comedy show and later was a popular comedic commentator for FOX’s NFL Sunday.

Of course, one of his most popular impressions is retired sportscaster Jon Madden, who Caliendo likes to portray as having an undying love for former Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre.

Here’s a quick taste…

10. Jessica Szohr – Menomonee Falls

gossip girl starJessic Szohr of Gossip Girl fame calls her hometown of Menomonee Falls a “family-oriented small town.”

She started modeling at just six years old. That included print ads for Wisconsin’s own Kohl’s department store, which is based in her hometown. She was also a cheerleader and student council member in high school.

On Gossip Girl, Szohr played the role of Vanessa Abrams. Jessica describes the character, who is an independent filmmaker, as a “badass girl from Brooklyn” who doesn’t exactly fit in with the other wealthy kids. However, the author of the books the show is based on says the character was ruined on television. Vanessa was apparently more goth and less Bohemian hippie in the books.

Jessica Szohr made People magazine’s list of “Most Beautiful People” in 2008. And you can catch her in the upcoming Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy, The Internship.

11. Richard Riehle – Menomonee Falls

richard riehleHe probably won’t ever make People magazine’s list of beautiful people, but he’s also from Menomonee Falls.

Richard Riehle is a talented character actor, who you’ll probably remember as Tom, the guy who invented the jump-to-conclusions mat in the cult comedy Office Space. But Riehle’s credits include many other impressive projects.

You can catch him in Oscar-winning films like the U.S. Civil War drama Glory, Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and making an appearance as a dune buggy driver alongside Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Of course, Richard Riehle has also shown up in Jury Duty with Pauly Shore and Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo with Rob Schneider. I guess they can’t all be gems.

Rumor has it, Riehle is often quite willing to come back to Wisconsin to act in independent films being produced in the state.

12. Liberace  – West Allis

liberaceDuring the 50s, 60s and 70s, the highest paid performer in the world was from Wisconsin. The flamboyant pianist, Liberace was born into an Italian family living in West Allis, Wisconsin.

Liberace’s father was a french horn player and factory worker who strongly encouraged his son to pursue music. Liberace’s mother, on the other hand, thought music was frivolous, which caused tension in the home.

Liberace says his dad made it a point to make music a big deal.

“My dad’s love and respect for music created in him a deep determination to give as his legacy to the world, a family of musicians dedicated to the advancement of the art”

During the Great Depression, Liberace made money playing piano in local strip clubs and cabarets. While both parents disapproved, that may explain his well-known flair and showmanship. Liberace’s first encore performance was in La Crosse at the age of 18. He met his childhood idol, pianist Ignacy Paderewski, backstage at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

He would go on to have his own television variety show. I’ll always remember him on The Muppet Show.

13. Kurtwood Smith – New Lisbon

Kurtwood SmithI always thought the portrayal of Red Foreman on That 70’s Show was a very accurate look at a stereotypical Wisconsin dad. Turns out there might be a good reason for that.

Kurtwood Smith is from the small town of New Lisbon, Wisconsin in Juneau County. According to IMDB, he got the role of Red Foreman after the original choice turned it down. That original choice was none other than Chuck Norris.

Just imagine how different That 70’s Show would have been with Chuck Norris. Sure it might have been cool to see the character Red literally kicking Eric’s butt, however, I’d say Smith was a better choice in the end. He was also the only That 70’s Show cast member who was actually from Wisconsin.

Kurtwood Smith has also been big in Sci-Fi movies TV shows. He played an alien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.  He was also the villain, Clarence Boddicker, in the original RoboCop movie.

Kurtwood makes a pretty good bad guy. Take a quick look…

 14. Peter Weller (RoboCop) – Stevens Point

Peter-RoboCopWhile we’re on the topic of RoboCop movies – the man who played the title character in both the original movies was also born in Wisconsin. However, Peter Weller’s father was a military helicopter pilot – so his family moved around frequently. Weller actually spent a portion of his life living in Germany.

Other notable roles include the lead in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and numerous appearances on popular TV shows including, House M.D., Dexter and the new Hawaii Five-O. You can also catch him in a role in the new Star Trek movie.

Weller has also done some directing. He won an Academy Award for the short film Partners. Unfortunately, it looks like he won’t be in the upcoming RoboCop remake. You’d think they’d at least give him a cameo.

15. Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garret) – Shorewood

Mrs GarretThe understanding, motherly character of Mrs. Edna Garret from Different Strokes and The Facts of Life had to be played by a woman from Wisconsin. Our moms are the best.

Charlotte Rae grew up on a farm near Milwaukee along with two sisters who pursued careers in music.

She attended college at Northwestern University where she met fellow actress and BFF, Cloris Leachman. When Rae left The Facts of Life, Leachman succeeded her.

Rae’s first big role was on the classic TV show Car 54 Where Are You? She has also guest-starred on many other classic and more recent programs, from All in the Family to ER. Rae has been nominated for Tony Awards and Emmy Awards.

16. Tom Wopat (Luke Duke) – Lodi

luke dukeHe may have played a Southern boy on The Dukes of Hazzard, but Luke Duke was a Wisconsin boy in real life.

Tom Wopat was born in Lodi, Wisconsin – also known as The Home of Susie the Duck. Wopat attended UW Madison before performing on Broadway and eventually landed a role on the soap opera One Life to Live.

Of course, his biggest role was as the smarter, more level-headed of the two Duke boys. He perfected the now famous “hood slide” across the front end of that orange Dodge Charge – The General Lee. Wopat says the slide was actually a mistake and he was supposed to vault over the hood. They did another take to get it right, but the mistake was the shot that made it on the show. Then the “hood-slide” ended up becoming Luke’s signature move.

Wopat returned to Broadway later in his career and was even nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun.  You may have also spotted him in a small role as a U.S Marshal in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

Check out that accidental hood-slide where Luke Duke actually tripped:

17. Spencer Tracy – Milwaukee

Spencer TracyOne of the biggest stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood grew up in the Badger State. Spencer Tracy was apparently a hyper-active troublemaker as a kid, and claims he only continued going to school so he could learn to read the subtitles on silent films.

He was a big fan of the movies as a kid and was also friends with another Wisconsin actor, Pat O’Brien. The two attended the same private Catholic High School (Marquette University High School) and would attend plays together. Tracy would later attend Ripon college.

Tracy may be best known for his relationship with actress Katherine Hepburn. The affair started when the two were filming Woman of the Year. Tracy’s wife knew about the relationship, but it was kept hush-hush in Hollywood, and Tracy never got a divorce.

Over the course of his acting career, Spencer Tracy was nominated for nine Best Actor Academy Awards. That’s a record he shares with Laurence Olivier. Tracy won twice. His final film was Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a controversial movie (at the time) about interracial marriage. Tracy passed away 17 days after filming finished.

18. Fred MacMurray – Madison/Beaver Dam

fred macmurrayFred MacMurray starred in more than 100 movies, but he’s probably best known for playing the father-figure, Steve Douglas, on the classic TV sitcom My Three Sons, as well as several Disney films.

MacMurray was born in Illinois, but both his mother and father were from Wisconsin, and the family moved to Madison when Fred was young – settling later in Beaver Dam. He attended Carroll College in Waukesha where he played saxophone in local bands, but never graduated.

Fred had a memorable mug that made him perfect for well-meaning good guy roles. But one of his most notable performances was in Billy Wilder’s classic noir Double Indemnity, in which MacMurray played against type as an insurance salesman who gets caught up in a murder plot.

His career got it’s second wind thanks to Disney, allowing him to play even more memorable roles in light comedies. That includes the dad in the Shaggy Dog movies as well as in The Absent Minded Professor and Son of Flubber.

19. Ford Sterling – La Crosse

ford sterling keystone copsFord Sterling is famous for being part of the legendary silent film era comedy act – The Keystone Cops. Sterling was born George Franklin Stitch in La Crosse way back  in 1882. Ford Sterling is a great screen name, but if you ask me, George Stitch would have been pretty awesome for comedy too.

The Keystone Cops were a group of incompetent policemen – kind of a stretch, right? Sterling played the most prominent role as Chief Tehiezel. The Keystone Cops began as stars in their own right, but eventually became background players to comedy legends like Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle.

When silent films went away and “talkies” emerged, Sterling was one of the lucky actors who made the jump. He transitioned smoothly into speaking roles and ended up appearing in more than 270 films.

20. Laura Kaeppeler – Kenosha

miss americaJumping back to present time – the reigning Miss America happens to be a Wisconsinite.

It had been almost 40 years since a woman from Wisconsin won the title, and Laura Kaeppeler of Kenosha brought it back in 2012. She graduated from Carthage College with a music degree and sings opera. She also sang the National Anthem at last year’s Green Bay Packer’s season opener.

Kaeppeler’s platform at the pageant was helping children with incarcerated parents. Her father served 18 months in prison for mail fraud. During the Miss America pageant, she called her dad and her “best friend.”

After serving time as Miss America (sorry), Kaeppeler plans to get her Master’s degree and become a speech pathologist.

21. Terry Anne Meeuwsen – De Pere

terry 700 clubThe last Wisconsin women to win Miss America before Kaeppeler (and the very first) was Terry Meeuwsen – a De Pere High homecoming queen who became Miss Green Bay and Miss Wisconsin before winning the ultimate pageant title.

Meeuwsen was singing with The New Christy Minstrels in the early ’70s when she chose to compete in Miss America instead.

After her reign, she landed an on-air job at WTMJ in Milwaukee. But she’s probably best-known for co-hosting The 700 Club with Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). She’s a major advocate of adoption and serves as director of the CBN ministry – Orphan’s Promise. Meeuwsen and her husband have adopted three girls of their own from Ukraine.

The former Miss America is also a published author with four books to her name.

22. Chris Noth – Madison

chris nothWhether you know him as Mr. Big from Sex in the City or Detective Mike Logan on Law and Order or his Elliot Spitzer scandal inspired character on The Good Wife – there’s no denying the fact Chris Noth has made a name for himself on television.

Noth was born in Madison to a father who was an attorney/insurance salesman and a mother who was a reporter for CBS news. Jeanne Parr also appeared as both a contestant and panelist on the game show What’s My Line. She credits the TV appearance with helping her land a job in TV news.

Chris Noth’s father passed away when Noth was around 12 years old. He and his brothers ended up doing a lot of traveling across the world with their mother who was a European correspondent for CBS.

Besides his big roles on TV, Noth has held supporting roles in many films including Castaway, and the Bernie Mac comedy Mr. 3000, which centered around the Milwaukee Brewers. Mr. Big has also been praised by critics for his performances on Broadway.

23.  Dan Harmon – Brown Deer

dan harmonAnother comedic visionary is Dan Harmon – who’s known for creating the innovative sitcom Community. He ran the show until NBC fired him- and Harmon went down in what you might call a blaze of glory. Or you might not call it that.

Harmon grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer and joined the improvisational group ComedySportz. Harmon and others wanted to do less family-friendly material and split from ComedySportz to form the Dead Alewives comedy troupe. If you live near Lake Michigan – you don’t need me to explain what dead alewives are.

ComedySportz is where Harmon met his longtime collaborator Rob Schrab, who is from Mayville, Wisconsin and the two have teamed up on various projects including Channel 101 – a unique monthly film festival, and the ill-fated Heat Vision and Jack – which  starred Jack Black and Owen Wilson.

Since getting canned from Community, Harmon has started working on an Adult Swim show called Rick & Morty. The animated program is about an inventor and his grandson, it will begin airing later in 2013. Harmon has also hosted a popular weekly comedy show at a Hollywood comic book store called Harmontown, which is also the name of his podcast.

Check out both Harmon and Rob Schrab starring in a Cousin’s Subs employee training video from 1995. Harmon is the lazy employee, Schrab plays the nerdy customer.


24. Joel Hodgson – Stevens Point/Green Bay

joel MST3KQuite possibly the most famous geek to come out of Wisconsin is Joel Hodgson – creator of the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Hodgson also starred in the show as Joel Robinson, who was trapped on a space station with his two wisecracking robot buddies. The trio was forced to watch a bunch of terrible old B-movies – to which they provided sarcastic commentary.

Hodgson was born in Stevens Point and grew up in the Green Bay area where he attended Ashwaubenon High School.

He got his start entertaining in 7th grade with a magic and ventriloquism act. He’d later use those skills to build characters like Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.

Hodgson did standup in the 1980s and was apparently considered for the role of Woody in Cheers.

MST3K was nominated for two Emmy Awards and Time Magazine named it one of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

After MST3K was cancelled, Hodgson and other collaborators on the show launched a similar venture called Cinematic Titanic, which went on indefinite hiatus as of February 2013. Hodgson wrote an HBO special with Jerry Seinfeld in the 1980s and the two reunited on Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Jerry called Joel a “cultural visionary,” and he seemed pretty serious.

25. Zack Snyder – Green Bay

director zak snyderZack Snyder made a name for himself fairly quickly as a director in Hollywood. His first feature film was the remake of Dawn of the Dead. He went on to direct 300, The Watchmen, Sucker Punch and the family film Legend of the Guardians. Now he’s taking on the challenge of re-introducing Superman in a new way.

Thankfully – he’s got a script from Christopher Nolan (the guy who brought us the latest Batman trilogy) to help him out. Man of Steel hits theaters in June.

Zack Snyder was born in Green Bay. But that’s about all we know about his connection to Wisconsin. He grew up in Connecticut where his mom was a painter and photography teacher who encouraged him to study nude paintings as a boy.

But it certainly seems comic books and graphic novels had a bigger influence on Snyder.

26. Tom Welling – Janesville

clark kent tom wellingHere’s another Wisconsin/Superman connection. Tom Welling is best known for playing young Clark Kent on the television show Smallville, which is a Superman origin story.

Welling moved around the country a lot because of his dad’s job as an executive for General Motors. He was actually born in New  York City and went to High School in Michigan, but in between his family spent some time living in Janesville, Wisconsin. We don’t know if he and Paul Ryan ever worked out together.

His most recent role is in the film Parkland, in which he plays a real-life secret service agent, Roy Kellerman, who was protecting JFK the day of his assassination. Welling has also worked on the other side of the camera, directing episodes of Smallville and producing the show Hellcats.

27. Les Paul – Waukesha

les paulThe world owes a debt of gratitude to Wisconsin – because without Les Paul – music as we know it would not be the same. Les Paul is the man credited with inventing the solid-body electric guitar. If you’re a musician, you know the name well.

As a kid, Less Paul would perform at area drive-ins. That’s when he figured out that he could connect a phonograph needle to a radio speaker to make an amplifier for his acoustic guitar. Years later he would build “The Log” which would be the grandaddy of all electric guitars.

During his career, the so-called “Wizard of Waukesha” hosted his own radio show and had a television program with is wife Mary Ford. Today many famous musicians use the Gibson guitar that bears his name – including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Slash and Joe Perry.

The city of Waukesha is planning a permanent tribute called “The Les Paul Experience.” See a clip from his TV show showcasing his guitar skills.

28. Steve Miller – Milwaukee

steve millerHe’s a joker, a smoker, a midnight toker and a Wisconsinite. Steve Miller also happens to be a protege of Les Paul.

The influential musician and inventor was a frequent visitor to Steve Miller and his family’s home when Steve was growing up. Miller’s father was an accomplished recording engineer, and that’s also something Les Paul was interested in. Steve Miller says both his parents were musically inclined and loved jazz.

Miller was just five years old when Les Paul heard a recording they boy’s father made of him playing guitar. Paul encourage young Steve to keep at it and mentored him over the years. Steve Miller attended UW Madison where he formed the band – The Ardells.

He left college before graduating and got an education from the Chicago blues scene instead. Miller has said playing with the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf made him realize music was his calling.

The Steve Miller Band formed in 1967 and had a string of hits that you hear on Classic Rock radio – including “The Joker,” “Jungle Love,” and “Fly Like an Eagle.” The Steve Miller Band is still touring and making albums, the latest being Let Your Hair Down in 2011.

29. Greta Van Susteren – Appleton

greta van susterenHere’s one well-known Wisconsinite who loves her home-state and often speaks highly of it. (So screw you Willem Dafoe) She’s also a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan.

Anchorwoman Greta Van Susteren is from Appleton, Wisconsin. She went to Xavier High School, got an economics degree at UW Madison and a law degree from Georgetown. Before becoming a TV analyst, she practiced law in Wisconsin as well.

Greta Van Susteren’s career took off thanks to the OJ Simpson trial. She covered the “Trial of the Century” with legal analysis for CNN. Today she hosts the FOX News program On the Record and is the longest serving cable news anchor on air.

Last year, Van Susteren ranked #94 on the Forbes List of World’s Most Powerful Women. Despite her success, she still makes time for friends from Wisconsin. Greta recently posted on her blog, GretaWire about teasing a junior high girlfriend, and in an interview with ClassicWisconsin.com talked about her hometown.

“Appleton is my home. Whenever anyone asks me ‘where are you from?’ I don’t answer Washington, D.C., although I have been here almost 30 years. I respond, ‘Appleton, Wisconsin.’ I try and make one trip a year to see my old friends.

30. Tom Snyder – Milwaukee

tom snyderBefore Craig Kilbourn or Craig Ferguson filled the time slot following Late Night with David Letterman, Tom Snyder hosted The Late Late Show.

Snyder, who passed away in 2007, is one of the unsung heroes of late night television. He grew up in Milwaukee and went to Marquette University where he first planned to study medicine, but switched to journalism because of his love of radio and broadcasting. He began his career on the radio in Milwaukee and eventually ended up as part of the NBC News team.

Tom Snyder’s first late night gig was NBC’s The Tomorrow Show, which aired right after Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show from 1973 to 1982. During that time, Dan Akroyd famously impersonated Snyder on Saturday Night Live.

Tomorrow was cancelled to make way for a young man named David Letterman. But there were no hard feelings between the two hosts. Letterman would eventually bring Snyder over to CBS for the Late Late Show.

Snyder was known for his in-depth and personal interviews. One of his most talked-about interviews was with the band KISS on Tomorrow in 1979. Watch a grumpy Gene Simmons and a hilariously inebriated Ace Frehly in the clip below.

31. Jane Kaczmarek – Milwaukee

jane kJane Kaczmarek’s big role was as Lois (the mom) from Malcolm in the Middle. She’s from the Milwaukee village of Greendale. She attended UW Madison and originally planned to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher.

However, she was also involved in theater and while at UW she met Tony Shalhoub. As the story goes, he encouraged her to pursue acting, and Jane followed Tony to the Yale School of Drama.

While there, she was roommates with Richard Burton’s daughter, Kate. Kate set Jane up on a date with Bradley Whitford, a fellow Wisconsinite and actor. The two were married for 17 years, but filed for divorce in 2009.

Although she never won, Kaczmarek was nominated for seven Emmy awards and three Golden Globes for her work on Malcolm in the Middle. She’s also had plenty of memorable guest star and reoccurring roles on shows like The Simpsons, Whitney, and Hill Street Blues.

32. Bradley Whitford – Madison

bradley whitfordJane Kaczmarek’s former husband did win an Emmy award for his role as Josh Lyman, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff on the Aaron Sorkin drama The West Wing.

He also starred in a couple of other shows that didn’t quite make it in the long run, including Sorkin’s SNL-inspired Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Good Guys with Colin Hanks.

The Josh Lyman character may have been a perfect fit for Whitford. He’s very actively politically, and frequently expresses his typically Democratic views. In 2011, he returned to Madison and spoke out against Governor Scott Walker’s budget bill at one of the many protests.

Whitford has also had his share of film roles, including big movies like Philadelphia, Scent of a Woman and Awakenings. But…perhaps to his chagrin…if you don’t know him from The West Wing, you know him as the bad guy from Billy Madison. As you can see in the clip below – he did get to put his classical training from Julliard to good use.

33. John Fiedler (Piglet) – Platteville/Shorewood

pigletDeep in the Hundred-Acre Woods you’ll find the voice of a Wisconsinite. John Fiedler will always be remembered as the voice of Piglet from Disney’s version of Winnie the Pooh.

Fiedler was born in Platteville, and moved to Shorewood at the age of five. His dad happened to be a beer salesman.

Besides playing Piglet, Fiedler is also known for playing other nervous and timid characters in TV and film like Vinnie in The Odd Couple, Mr. Peterson on The Bob Newhart Show and as one of the jurors in the classic movie 12 Angry Men.

Fiedler died of cancer in 2005 just one day after good friend and fellow Winnie the Pooh star Paul Winchell passed away. Winchell provided the voice of Tigger.

34. Chip Zien (Howard the Duck) – Milwaukee

howard the duckChip Zien is known for his Broadway performances in productions like Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. But if you grew up in the 1980s, you might be more interested to know that the voice of Howard the Duck came from Wisconsin.

Zien went to Whitefish Bay High School, and later went on to serve as president of the nation’s oldest all-male musical comedy troupe, Mask and Wig, while he was attending the University of Pennsylvania.

Howard the Duck wasn’t much of a success – even though George Lucas actually stepped down as president of Lucasfilms in order to focus on the project. The movie was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry awards and won Worst Picture in 1987.

On the brighter side, Chip Zien more recently played heroic 9-11 airplane passenger Mark Rothenberg in the film United 93.

35. John Matuszak (Sloth) – Oak Creek

sloth from Goonies“Chocolate!?”

Sticking with the 80’s theme – classic kids adventure flick The Goonies wouldn’t be the same without the memorable character of Sloth.

John “Tooz” Matuszak was also a successful NFL defensive lineman who won two Super Bowls and played for the Houston Oilers, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins. Matuszak had a reputation for partying and was named one of  Sports Illustrated’s “Top 5 Bad Boys of the NFL” in 2005.

Of course, the character of Sloth was loveable while also deformed. Don’t tell me you can watch the clip below without getting a little bit teary-eyed. (Okay maybe you can)

36. Kristin Bauer van Straten – Racine

kristin bauer from True BloodKristin Bauer van Straten may be the epitome of a Wisconsin woman. The lead sentence of her IMDB profile says she “grew up in Wisconsin playing sports, riding horses, and shooting guns.”

Most-recently she’s played Maleficent the sorceress on ABC’s Once – a character inspired by the villainess in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Her most famous role is probably as the vampire, Pam Ravenscroft, on the HBO series True Blood.

But to Seinfeld fans, she’ll always be Man-Hands. Kristin played Jerry’s gorgeous date with masculine, lobster-cracking paws. Coincidentally, the idea for man-hands (not the entire script) was sold to the show by an elementary school teacher in Green Bay.

Another interesting fact – Kristin starred with fellow Wisconsin native Heather Graham in the short-lived ABC comedy Emily’s Reason’s Why Not. And I mean very short lived. The sitcom was canceled after one episode.

Kristin Bauer van Straten was born in Racine, and has a lot of good things to say about her home-state on her website. She describes Wisconsin as “the land of nature, beauty and cheese.”

Along with many small roles on television from LA Law to Bones, she also appeared in the film The Story of Luke, a comedy about dealing with autism. The movie was screened at the 2013 Green Bay Film Festival.

37. Al Jarreau – Milwaukee

al jarreauSeven-time Grammy winner Al Jareau started singing at his father’s Seventh Day Adventist Church. Jareau’s dad was a minister and his mother played piano in their church.

He was student council president at Lincoln High in Milwaukee and went on to attend Ripon College. During college he performed with a local group called The Indigos.

His professional musical career started out in northern California nightclubs, eventually he moved to L.A. where his voice was discovered. Among his many hits is the theme song to the show Moonlighting. That led to one of his Grammy awards.

Al Jarreau is the only performer to win Grammys in three different musical genres – jazz, R&B and pop.

Besides his Grammy awards, the renowned jazz singer is also known for his scatting abilities.

38. Allen Ludden – Mineral Point

allen ludden and betty whiteAllen Ludden made a name for himself hosting various game shows – most notably, Password, from 1961 to 1980.

He lived in a few different Wisconsin cities before his mother and adoptive stepfather moved the family to Texas. But he never forgot his connection to the state. Ludden was buried next to his biological father who died of influenza at the age of 26. There’s a man-made lake in Mineral Point named Ludden Lake in his honor.

Ludden was also married to America’s sweetest little old lady, Betty White. At one point the two hosted a talk show together.

The clip from Password below includes Betty White and Jack Paar. It was shot shortly after Ludden and White got married.

39. Al Molinaro – Kenosha

al molinaroIf you’ve been keeping tracking, you may have noticed this is our third famous Al in a row.

Al Molinaro played a lot of roles on old-school television sitcoms, but his most memorable was Al Delvecchio, the guy who ran Arnold’s on Happy Days – the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based show from Garry Marshal. Of course, Pat Morita was the original and Arnold, and Molinaro replaced him.

Al’s father was a restaurant, tavern and hotel owner in the city of Kenosha, and was considered a sort of “don” in the local Italian community. Although apparently not in the mafia sense of the word. (Sure, whatever). The Molinaro family also had sons in law and politics. Al’s brother Joseph was the longest-serving Kenosha County District Attorney, and his brother George served in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

Here’s what Al Molinaro had to say about his hometown of Kenosha…

“I love that town; I love it. If it wasn’t that I left it for show business, I’d still be there today.”

Molinaro’s other recognizable roles include Murray the Cop on The Odd Couple, as well as appearances in Green Acres, Fantasy Island and all the Happy Days spinoffs.

40. Dustin Diamond – Port Washington

screech from saved by the bellThe guy we all know as Screech isn’t actually from Wisconsin. He lives here now. Or at least he’s trying to live here.

You may have heard about child-star Dustin Diamond’s mortgage issues. He’s been dealing with foreclosure threats in Ozaukee County for a number of years.

Diamond was actually born in California, and somehow he landed in Wisconsin when his Saved by the Bell years were finally over. It’s a little bit backwards compared to the career of other famous Wisconsinites.

In 2006, Diamond launched a somewhat-controversial campaign to get out of foreclosure trouble by selling t-shirts that read “Save Screech’s House.” He also tried releasing his own sex tape called Screeched – Saved By the Smell. Not sure why he thought anyone would want to see that.

While he’s been waiting for the next reunion with Zack and Slater – Dustin Diamond most-recently appeared in the apparent comedy Tetherball: The Movie, which also stars porn star Ron Jeremy. Maybe that sex tape was a smart career move after all?

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That’s a Wrap…Or is It?

That’s our list! We know we probably missed some people. In fact, we intentionally left off historic Wisconsinites like Harry Houdini, Orson Welles and Laura Ingals Wilder as well as famous athletes and some musicians from the state. We’re saving them for another story.

So make sure to Like WhooNEW on Facebook or Subscribe by Email below – that way you can check out our future Top WI Lists!

Also – let us know if we missed anybody else. Who should have made this list that didn’t? Who is your favorite star from Wisconsin?

Leave a comment below. Maybe the Wisconsin celeb you suggest will make our sequel.

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  1. Elaine Baumann says

    Steve Hayes from FOX News is from Wauwautosa, WI

    • Interesting – thanks Elaine. I wonder if he and Greta Van Susteren ever hang out and watch the Packers- ha ha. You gave me an idea though. I bet there are quite a few people in broadcast and journalism from Wisconsin. Bill Weir from ABC News is another one who isn’t on this list.

      • Elaine Baumann says

        And another name I didn’t see was Elroy “Crazylegs” Hursh from Wausau.

        Or how about Ed Grin from Plainfield? My cousin sold him a couple sacks of coal at the Hardware store 3 days before he killed Mrs. Worden. I also heard the movie “Psycho” was based on Ed Gein.

        • Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre are indeed based on Ed Gein. Also the character of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs is somewhat based on him.

          • Gein inspired some movies, but didn’t star in them.:) We’re also planning another list with Wisconsin bad guys. Don’t forget Dahmer and David Koresh came from Wisconsin too. Or do you guys think that idea is too creepy?

          • Becky B. says

            Saw a shirt once that said “Here in Wisconsin, we eat people” and it had a picture of Gein and Dahmer. Cracks me up. I’m sick, I know.

          • Er, David Koresh wasn’t from WI. He was from Texas.

          • @Kasey Definitely do it! Creepy or not, it’s history and I’m fascinated by it 🙂

        • My grandma (Who’s name was Elaine also) used to tell me stories about Ed Gein when we would visit her. She lived in Plainfield. It gave me nightmares when ever I was there. lol
          I would love the list of bad guys from Wisconsin.

          • We’ll probably write that one up close to Halloween. MAN! Scary stories are always creepier when they come from someone like your Grandma – because you believe every word she says! Thanks for stopping by, Brenda!

          • I went to school at Tri-County in Plainfield. It was a pretty frequent habit to go out to the old Gein place — or where it was, as it was burned down by the locals shortly after Gein was arrested — or out to his grave for Halloween or to scare people. In fact, we just watched a movie about Gein recently on Netflix — horrible! They made PLAINFIELD look like MOUNTAINLAND — all mountains and woods. I guess those producers never visited the treeless flatlands of Central WI.

          • I’ve driven thru Plainfield for many years, and that movie about Gein was hilarious in its portrayal of the Wisconsin midlands as mountainous and woodsy! It’s as flat and treeless as you can find in the middle of a beautiful and green state.

          • My Uncles new Ed Gein they would tell my mother to stay away from old Ed Geins place that he was a strange fellow and yes flat and treeless for sure just pure farm land ……

          • My Grandma Lived Next Door To Ed Gein when she was younger. Kinda creepy.

          • Really creepy!

        • Barbara Mahler says

          Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hersch also besides being AD at WI, played for LA Rams & GM for same. He made three movies; Unchained, Zero Hour and Crazy Legs . Was on TV on Munsters Robert Cummings Show.

    • How could the forget Orson Welles?????? He was born in Kenosha.

    • Actress Laura Ramsey is from Brandon WI. She has been in several movies over the last 10 years or so. Beautiful girl and a wonderful friend.

      • I am good friends with the Stelsel family – they are Laura’s relatives. She was in one of her cousin’s weddings that I attended. She’s the Man!!!! LOL

  2. Margaret Fairchild says

    What about Don Ameche, and Daniel J Travanti both from Kenosha my parents know them both

    • Nice! Those are two really good ones. I think I looked at Amenche and had to trim down the list. He is an Oscar Winner – I decided to include some of the more-recent pop-culture icons instead. Sorry you got beat out by RoboCop and Howard the Duck, Don. 🙂

      But I totally missed Travanti. Thanks for the suggestions! I was kind of surprised at the number of famous people from Kenosha, and all the celebs from their love the place too.

      • Vickie Pleet says

        Also Lynn Ameche was a famous football player. Also from Kenosha. I worked at Snap-On Tools and he was an executive there.

      • when my Uncle still had his produce business, we used to have breakfast every Monday morning with Daniel J. Travanti’s older brother. 🙂

  3. Bob Uecker didn’t play for the Brewers. He played for the Braves when they were in Milwaukee. Thanks for including Joel Hodgson. I knew he was from Wisconsin and was hoping to see him included. As a pro wrestling fan, I would like to see Ken Anderson (formerly Mr. Kennedy in WWE) from Green Bay/Two Rivers and WWE’s Hornswoggle from Oshkosh included.

  4. How about Jay DeMerit who represented our country in the World Cup and plays professional soccer for the Vancouver Whitecaps? All he did was go from little Bay Port high school to a captain of an EPL team to the beating the No. 1 team in the world… Pretty good stuff!! 🙂

    • Great suggestion! We want to do a list of top athletes from Wisconsin too. He’ll definitely be on the list. The question is – should I include Danica Patrick? She was born in Wisconsin, but she grew up in Illinois and is a Bears fan.

  5. Eric Szmanda (Greg Sanders from CSI) is from Milwaukee. I think I heard his parents currently reside in Hartford, WI.

  6. Uncle Jake says

    Edna Ferber (Appleton) when you get to other older types. I think she was born in Michigan but lived in Appleton most of her youth. “Darkside Wisconsin” a great idea. We sure have our share of mass murderers, assassins and “off beat” politicians.

    • Thanks Uncle Jake – great suggestion. A Pulitzer prize winner from Wisconsin is definitely worthy of being on some sort of list. Althought – I think we probably showed Edna Ferber respect by not including her on a list with Screech, Luke Duke and RoboCop. 🙂

      • There are 2 Pulitzer prize winners from Portage alone (in back to back years too). Frederick Jackson Turner in 1920 and Zona Gale in 1921 (first woman winner for drama.)

  7. Georgia O’ Keeffe is from Wisconsin, I believe Madison 🙂

    • Oh good one Heather! O’Keeffe is from Sun Prairie. Perhaps WhooNEW will have to do a Wisconsin artist article.

  8. Kristen Johnson from #rd Rock from the Sun and Flintstones had Wisconsin origins..Whitefish Bay (north of Milwaukee) and Door County Peninsula.

  9. nathan marshall says

    Frank Lloyd Wright

  10. nathan marshall says

    Jeffrey Dahmer

  11. The Devil is from Oconomowoc

  12. The Dude! says

    You need to take Screech off of this list, he is a DISGRACE to Wisconsin, and the City of Port Washington. The locals dislike him, he calls the cops all the time for people driving past his house. When I see him in the Piggly Wiggly buying wine I always say “Hey Screech” and he flips out “Don’t call me that, my name is Mr. Diamond” so the next time he comes in I call him Screech just to get under his skin a little bit. Complete A-HOLE!

    • Sorry Dude!

      I guess I agree with you. But it’s just too dang funny to take off the list – and your story makes it 10 times funnier. Thanks!

      Say hi to Screech from WhooNEW the next time he Shops the Pig.

      Take er easy, Dude. I know that you will.

  13. How about two fat guys who both were great at faking a British accent: Orson Welles and Sydney Greenstreet? And best-selling author Jeremy Scahill who graduated from Wauwatosa East about four years behind Steve Hayes.

  14. Forgot to mention… Sydney and Orson were both from Kenosha. Also, bandleader Woody Herman was from Milwaukee and went to Marquette.

  15. Yes – great suggestions. Orson was almost in this article, but we want to do a Wisconsin History-Makers list too. So I left off some of the “pioneers” like that. Looks like Sydney Greenstreet actually was born in England – although there’s some sources that mention Kenosha. Maybe he lived there at one point?

  16. Jim Sitek says

    The two crazy guys Lenny and squiggy I believe are from Pewaukee. I think they made the Lavern and Shirley show.

  17. Doesn’t Larry the Cable Guy live in Wisconsin now?

    • I hadn’t heard that – but I looked into it – and you are kind of right.

      Larry has cousins from the La Crosse area, and his wife is from northern Wisconsin. He spent time here as a kid and his family now has a place in Spooner. Vacation home or cabin I assume. He’s also an alleged Packers fan.

      Thanks for pointing that out Zach – pretty cool! Git er done.

      • I saw Larry the Cable Guy on the field at a Packer game last season.

        Speaking of the NFL – Rocky Bleier (running back, #20 of the Steelers during their 1970s glory years) is from Appleton (graduated from Xavier H.S.) and often returns to his home town.

        • Tary Bowker says

          Ted Fritsch, Green Bay Packers Fullback/Kicker 1942-1951, born in Spencer, WI, went to UW Stevens Point, then lived in Green Bay the rest of his life. His son, Ted Jr.,Green Bay Premontre, St. Norbert College, entered the NFL as a free agent; Atlanta Falcons/Washington Redskins long ball snapper (center) 1972-1981, Atlanta Falcons Special Teams Coach 1981/2-1985/6.

      • David Ortiz – Big Poppi – Redsox slugger, spends his off-season somewhere in WI. His wife is from here I guess.

        • nikoli wisconavich says

          used to have a home in a little suburb between green bay and appleton called wrightstown..right off of the fox river, not far from gilbert browns old house, i lived right down the road.

  18. I think the drummer from Fall Out Boy grew up in West Allis

  19. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is from Eau Claire!

  20. John and Ben Peterson, Olympic gold and silver medalists in wrestling are from Cumberland.

  21. Not sure if I missed it or not but the BoDeans are from Waukesha. Also as an aside, Mark Ruffalo’s two sisters Nikki and Tanya along with his dad and uncle (who own Ruffalo Paint) and extended family are all in Kenosha. Tanya lived next door to me for almost a year until she and her boyfriend broke up and she moved out.

  22. Raggedy Android says

    Jill Eikenberry from LA Law graduated from Madison West.
    And David Giuntoli from Grimm was born in Milwaukee (but grew up elsewhere).

  23. I forgot, Daniel H Travanti’s brother Angelo lives in Kenosha still. My husband knows him.

  24. David & Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams were filmmakers who made Airplane and The Naked Gun movies. They were all from Shorewood.

  25. Harrison Ford attended college at Ripon 🙂

  26. Tom Welling and Paul Ryan have about an 8 year age difference, so they probably didn’t ever meet in Janesville. While I didn’t know that Tom Welling ever lived in Janesville until this, I DID have to sit near Paul Ryan in math class in high school. I’d say he has not changed much at all.

  27. Nanette Thurber says

    I was told Orson Wells was from Milwaukee area. The very elderly lady who lived behind me when I was a child told my mother she used to babysit him and that he was a “fat brat” even then.

  28. Drew Leff says

    Nick Hexum who is one of the singers in 311 was born in Madison.

  29. Wasn’t Orson Welles from Kenosha, WI also?

  30. Deidre Hall of Days of our Lives and Our House was born in Milwaukee and is still a HUGE Packers fan.

  31. roundhed says

    Andrea Anders and Sean Anders of Madison/DeForest.

    Sean is an American film director, actor, screenwriter, and producer. He directed the film Sex Drive starring Clark Duke and Josh Zuckerman.

    Andrea is an American actress, known for her roles as Alex Garrett on the NBC sitcom Joey, Nicole Allen on the CBS sitcom The Class, and Linda Zwordling on the ABC sitcom Better Off Ted

  32. The guy who directed or wrote law and order is drom wisconsin to

  33. Uncle Jake says

    Actor Pat O’Brien grew up in Milwaukee and was a friend of Spencer Tracy’s. They enlisted in the navy together. O’Brien later went to Marquette Unic.

  34. Patrick O’Brien (Teacher in Saved by the Bell) (Curious Case of Benjamin Button – With Brad Pitt)
    UW-Eau Claire Alum


  35. The actor who plays Abed on “Community” went to Marquette University!

    • Awesome find, Mary! I just looked it up and Danny Pudi also won the Chris Farley Scholarship at Marquette and did comedy improv in Wisconsin before moving on to Second City in Chicago (his hometown). Wonder if that’s how he connected with Dan Harmon?

      • Charlotte says

        He and some other Marquette alum, including the Farley brothers, are in a comedy troupe together and perform once a year at Marquette. I saw them bar hopping on Brady St. in March. Fun group and good tippers.

  36. Don’t forget some NASCAR greats when you do the Sports one, Matt Kenseth, born and raised in Cambridge WI and die hard packer fan. Also Jimmie Johnson called Wisconsin home for awhile living in Pewaukee, WI before joining up with NASCAR.

  37. Karen Desmond says

    Charles Dierkop is from La Crosse, Wi!

  38. I’m glad to see that Dan Harmon was on that list, but disappointed (but I understand why) Rob Schrab was solely mentioned pretty much as an “also-ran.” Aside from being a huge helping force on Community (and Monster House, which the two both worked on), Schrab created the comic book Scud: The Disposable Assassin, which he both wrote and drew (aside from a few issues which Harmon actually wrote). It’s a very bizarre tale, but with a lot of heart and showcases an great early example of the type of material Schrab and Harmon would put out later on. The wit and heart found in Community, for example, is all over Scud. Definitely worth mentioning!

  39. George Doty IV. Writer/producer for a lot of movies and TV shows, especially on Nickelodeon.

  40. Channing says

    Harry Houdini, who was born in Hungary, lived in Appleton from age 4 on up, and often claimed Appleton as his hometown. We have a Houdini museum there downtown.

  41. Tom Rondy says

    I knew Kathy Kinney when I was a very bratty little boy. She was a friend of a young woman who babysat me for a while. When I started watching “The Drew Carey Show”, I simply refused to believe that it was the same Kathy Kinney.

  42. danny nelson says

    Frank Lloyd Wright?

  43. christine sturino says

    Concetta Tomei is from Kenosha,
    Also Charles Siebert, from the old Trapper John M.D. show.
    I see that some other people mentioned Dan Tranvanti and Kristen Johnson.
    Also Amy Pietz,,,,,she was on the series Caroline in the City.

    • Interesting! Thanks Christine. Kristen Johnston is one I wish I wouldn’t have missed. She definitely throws out some “Wisconsin woman” vibes. 🙂 Amy Pietz I found and considered – but decided she wasn’t quite famous enough. Concetta and Dan Travanti are good ones too. Although I had to look them both up. Man, Kenosha really churns out the stars!

    • Also Anne Heche is from Neenah WI, she would to be on a Soap Opera and then has been in several movies, one with Harrison Ford “Seven Days on a Beach” or something, now she is the crazy woman in the sitcom where she talks to God after having some special “GOd moments” and she like sees the future or somethings like that-kinda cute. He graduated from Neenah High SChool in about 1982 ish. I think she was also Ellen’s first partner for many years but now she is married with kids.

      You might not want to mention the Olympian Runner Whatever her name is…the one who was in an escorting service for $600/hr last year/has a husband and child. Fitzpatrick?

  44. Tony Romo grew up in the Burlington area.

  45. Sheri Gavin says

    How about Jay Legget from Tomahawk?? He was director/producer? Of the movie, Without a Paddle and To the Hunt!

  46. anonymous says

    Actress Laura Ramsey grew up in my home town of Brandon Wi. Check her out I’m flicks like she’s the man. And the ruins! Very talented and smokin hot! Lol I hooe u see this laura! She lives in L.A. now but comes home often to visit friends and family

  47. how is everyone leaving out bud selig lol

  48. Deke Slayton from Sparta/Leon.

  49. Former Wisconsinite says

    Frederick March and Lynn Fontane, Hattie McDaniel, Hildegarde, John Muir, Douglas MacArthur, Golda Meir, William Rehnquist, Thorstein Veblen, Ellen Corby, Pat O’Brien, Deke Slayton, John Ringling North, Thornton Wilder, Oscar Mayer, Aldo Leopold, Curly Lambeau and Alfred Lunt. Just to name a few Wisconsin born greats obitted from your list which appears to be focused on the present.

    • Those are all very high-brow of you to mention – you smarty-pants you! I did not necessarily focus on the present – unless you consider Ford Sterling and Spencer Tracy to be recent – and maybe you do. Yes I did focus on more recognizable aka famous people. By that I meant mostly Hollywood famous – hence the graphic at the top of this post.

      And I mentioned at the end of the article that we would be doing other lists of Wisconsinites focused on things like sports, music and historic achievements. I wouldn’t call John Muir or William Rehnquist celebrities. Influential, yes. But your average person on the street doesn’t know who Thorstein Veblen is (myself included).

      But let’s be honest – including a Pulitzer Prize winner like Thornton Wilder in a list post along with Screech, Sloth, Piglet and Mimi is kind of silly. Don’t you think?

      PS – Is obitted even a word? It must be because you are so smart!

      • Former Wisconsinite says

        I typed that list fast without editing or spell check, thus the omitted typo. Hattie McDaniel was high-brow? Even she, bless her heart, would have found that amusing. By all means, consider further lists which include some of the people I suggested. And you’re right, I don’t think Mr. Wilder deserves being included in the same list with the luminaries you mentioned!

      • We “oldies” definitely remember HILDEGARDE. Just so happens we live in the town where she was born: Adell. After birth in 1906, Hildegarde moved to New Holstein with her parents. Known as “the Incomparable,” she became a star in vaudeville and in cabarets.

      • Wilton Nelson says

        Mr. Welters who owned the theaters in Wausau had a daughter, a beautiful blonde, who starred in Hollywood about the time of Virginia Mayo. I have forgotten her stage name, may also have been Virginia.

    • Joe Schreck says

      Oscar F. Mayer was born in Germany, emigrated to Detroit, started his business in Chicago, and lived and died there. He had one plant in Milwaukee. I’m surprised no one mentioned Dennis Morgan or Jack Carson, they mentioned Milwaukee in a number of movies and radio shows.

  50. Olympic Hall of Famer Eric Heiden is from Madison.
    Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir grew up in Milwaukee. She graduated from what is now University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and taught in Milwaukee public schools.

  51. I believe that Cindy Crawford is originally from Wisconsin…or maybe her parents just live here now, I can’t remember. I know that when I was younger we would see her in Wausau every once in awhile. Another one that is kind of a “bad guy” is Al Capone…again, not sure if he lived in Wisconsin but I know he had a cabin up in the north woods that he used quite a lot. My family has a few ties with him…my grandfather was engaged to his niece and there was a shootout that left bullet holes in my other grandfathers cabin!

  52. Janice Friedrich Ainsworth says

    I graduated from Fond du Lac Senior High School in 1952 and James Mason, the well known actor from “Fondy” was there and I think he was the parade Marshall either in our prom or Wisconsin’s anniversary celebration I think in1953. I thought he was tall dark and handsom.

  53. Dick trickle Wisconsin rapids. Days of thunder, cole trickle was based off him.
    The guy who created Betty boop for Disney, and the guy off the tv show “wings” was from Wisconsin

  54. Marissa Mayer- From Wausau

  55. Mary Crawford says

    David Koepp is a screenwriter. Jurassic Park and more from the Delafield area. Plus there is a guitar player from Phil Collins band from Whitefish Bay I think.

    • KimInWisconsin says

      Daryl Streumer is from Shorewood. He was with Genesis and Phil Collins! Excellent guitar player!! 🙂

      • It’s Daryl Steurmer. He’s from Milwaukee, not Shorewood and he was discovered while playing in the band Sweetbottom.

  56. I believe that Eddie Munster has some ties to central wisconsin.. not sure what they are though

  57. My mom knew Willem Dafoe when he lived in Appleton, and that rumor about him is true.

  58. grace nam says

    skylar grey! she grew up in mazomanie 🙂

    • Good on ya, I was just about to comment this! For more info for the bloggers, she’s also known as Holly Brook 🙂

  59. 1. I went to UW-Eau Claire with Laila Robins, the actress. Possibly not a household name to a lot of you, but she’s been in a lot of movies and is very active in theater. 2. Also, I know someone mentioned Ellen Corby already, but she should have been on this list…..that woman was in almost 250 movies! She’s from Racine 3. My husband’s great uncle Eddy Waller was a character actor who was in 250+ movies as well! He was from Chippewa Falls. I’d rather remember these three than Screech. Really? Talk about forgettable.

  60. Chi Coltrane from Racine, probably best known for her song “Thunder and Lightening”

  61. What about Da One Da only Da Crusher from south Milwaukee

    • Tom Brenner says

      I met a guy who grew up with one of his kids. Crusher used to bring all the neighborhood kids into his basement and give them milk. He’d say, “I drink beer on TV but that’s only for show… I never drink beer, I really
      only drink milk because that’s what’s good for you!”

      • Carol Urness says

        Tom Brenner………………..I was a kid who lived just “down the street” from Reggie Lisowski (the Crusher), I question that comment about the social milk gatherings as I don’t remember any kid who went inside the white fence. I do know that Reggie used to let us stand around outside the fence and watch him workout. He only lived on the corner of 13th and Missouri avenues for a few short years and then moved out of town.. Maybe in another location, he invited kids inside.

  62. The Violent Femms are a Wisconsin origin band. They have super fun 80’s music!

  63. KSchoolcraft says

    Eric Szamanda from CSI Miami is from Mukwonago

  64. John Dillinger? Not sure if he was from Wisconsin, but was tools he spent alot of time hiding out here.

  65. I’m pretty sure Laura Ingles Wilder was also from Wisconsin and the detective from law and order, Noth is his last name is also from Wisconsin, Madison I believe. Not sure of his first name, sorry

  66. Justin Vernon from Bon Iver! Eau Claire, WI!!!!!

  67. -San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee and raised in Fond du Lac until age 4. He was raised a Packer fan and came back. I even saw a picture of a young him and a friend wearing Favre jerseys while in Green Bay. He wears Brewer hats nowadays.

    -NFL defensive superstar J. J. Watt was born in Waukesha, grew up in Pewaukew and famously played college for the UW Badgers. He now plays for the Houston Texans.

    • Jared Larson says

      Also the Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is from Burlington, WI. Graduated from Burlington High School in 1998. If some one already mentioned him I didn’t see it.

  68. -The late Howie Epstein was famous for playing in Tom Petty’s band The Heartbreakers for 20 years. He was born and raised in Milwaukee.

    -I’m sure everyone mentioned this but, the Violent Femmes are from Milwaukee.

    -R&B singer Eric Benét is from Milwaukee. He was married to Halle Berry for a while.

    -Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads was born in Milwaukee.

    -Speech, the frontman of the Hip Hop/R&B group Arrested Development is from Milwaukee.

    -The band Garbage is from Madison (incl. producer Butch Vig of Nirvana “Nevermind” fame)

    -I’d also like to note that Les Paul’s contributions to music are more than just electric guitar related. He was a huge influence/innovator in multitrack recording and delay effects, amongst other things.

  69. Brandonite says
  70. They forgot Houdini

  71. Didn’t Oprah go to Nicolet High School??? She’s pretty darn famous if you ask me!!

  72. Kato kaelin went to U.W.E.C. does he still have a radio show or is his 15 minutes up?………… lol

  73. a coupke of people… the actor who played Neidermeister in Animal House owns restaurant in mequon. super nice guy. also the salty old fishmam in Jaws robert shaw was from Shorewood . I went to school with Lori Holton Nash. if you have kids you know her as Miss Lori. the infamously terrible husband and muscian formerly married to Haley Berry until he cheated, ugh, was from milwaukee and he and Haleyiwned a house together in Bayside finally Oprah has family in and spent time living in Milwaukee

  74. oh and I think Cindy Crawford’s grandma lived in Milwaukee because knew her as a regular at a bar called Good Time Charlies in the late 1980’s…

  75. Wasn’t Houdini from Appleton?

  76. Tim Graham from the Media Research Center who makes many appearances on news shows such as Hannity and O’reilly and is an author is from Viroqua Wisconsin.

  77. Chad Muenster says

    Amy Pietz

  78. This person may not count but Agnes Moorhead who played “Endora” in Bewitched (among SO many other roles)…wasn’t born in WI but according to Wikipedia, her family moved to Reedsburg, she taught school for 5 years in Soldiers Grove WI and earned her Masters Degree at UW-Madison. Someone mentioned Cindy Crawford but I believe she was born in Illinois….however, she has done a lot of fund-raising for the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison in memory of her brother who died from leukemia years ago. Did anyone mention Georgia O’Keefe (artist)? Not sure if you are looking for others besides sports or movie/TV people.

  79. Quick clarification: Tom Wopat played Frank Butler (that was the character’s name), a sharpshooter in Annie Get your Gun, not Frank THE Butler.

  80. Ben Koenig says

    New starlet, Sarah Butler, is a biological daughter to two Wausau natives. She was adopted out at birth and raised in Tacoma, WA where her biological aunt housed her pregnant mother.

  81. David Koepp – a hollywood writer and producer – he did Premium Rush

  82. What about Eric Benet, he’s from Wisconsin and at one point while married to Halle Berry, they lived here (I think in Mequon somewhere). Some of my older cousins went to school with him and I hear one of the ladies he fooled around with (while married to Halle Berry)was from here. He’s a really nice guy and very talented, obviously!

    Also, I heard that Phil Hartman (who was murdered by his wife) kids moved to Wisconsin with his wife’s family. She killed herself after shooting him.

    Love this list, I knew about a few of them, but has no idea that “Mr. Big” from Sex and the City was from here! My fav show! Also, I was shocked to hear about “Pam” from True Blood-another fav and love her character! Would love to see a scary list of bad ppl from here! 🙂

  83. Harrison Ford studied Philosophy at Ripon College.

  84. Campbell Scott graduated from Lawrence Univ.

  85. Kristen Johnston – Third Rock From the Sun – Whitefish Bay High School

  86. Eric Szmanda is from Wisconsin. He lived in Mukwonago and graduated from Mukwonago High School. Eric plays the character of “Greg Sanders” on the orignial C.S.I. (Las Vegas) and has been with the show since its beginning.

  87. Fred MacMurray should be from Beaver Dam, not Madison.

  88. Bunny Berigan a famous jazz trumpet player and bandleader was born in Hilbert and grfew up in Fox Lake.

  89. Another list idea would be “up and comers” and maybe a list of “famous directors and producers”

  90. Marc Webb is is from Madison WI and directed 500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spiderman 1 and 2 and various music videos and an episode of The Office.

  91. The Chordettes, an all female singing group famous for singing the original releases of Mr. Sandman and Lollipop were all from Sheboygan Wisconsin.

  92. Tina Klotz says

    Bd Freeman fom Racine!

  93. Ken Axelson says

    When you make the scary list please contact me, I know a few that can go on that list. From actual conversations I personally have had with them.. Thanks

  94. Bobby Hatfield from the Righteous Brothers came from Beaver Dam.

  95. What about Aston Kutcher?

  96. Howie Epstein, the bassist from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from Milwaukee. I went to his funeral in 2003. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howie_Epstein

  97. Joe Diffie, the country singer, is from Whitehall.

  98. Butch Vig, drummer for Garbage is also from Wisconsin, as are the Violent Femmes.

  99. Christine Timler says

    you forgotten Ellen Corby (grandma Walton) she was Racine Wisconsin

  100. this was already mentioned, but butch vig-the drummer from the band garbage and producer of nirvana’s album nevermind-is from Viroqua. his sister was one of my teachers in middle school. astronaut mark lee is from Viroqua.

  101. Jensen buchanan- soap star actress, “another world” i think.

  102. Gary Burghoff,”Radar” from MASH. Also Paul Neuman’s first wife was from Beloit. They were married there.

  103. Danny Gokey, American Idol — Milwaukee
    Paul Newman’s 1st wife — from Beloit
    Rick Springfield’s wife Barbara — from Beloit

  104. Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers is from Milwaukee area and more of a connection to WI, but John Belushi went to UW-Whitewater for a year or two and some of the events from Animal House are based on his experiences there