Houston Celebrity Watch
by Phaedra Friend
With the Super Bowl rolling into town in mere months, the city will be invaded by not only football fans but lots and lots of celebrities. With the plethora of events that spring up around the big game, stargazers will have ample opportunity to get an eyeful of their favorite celebs.
It may come as something of a surprise that several celebrities got their starts – of one kind or another – right here in our fair city. Some of our city’s sons and daughters have gone on to occupy the limelight in the fields of acting, music, sports and more. And others, while not born here, got here as quickly as they could and found a community that nurtured their talents and provided a home.
For example, did you know that Houston is home to not one, but two of the original “Charlie’s Angels?” Or that the ultimate television mother of the 1980s hails from the Bayou City? Or that the director who gave us such diverse entertainment as “The West Wing” and “So I Married an Axe Murderer” got his start here?
Here are some of the personalities who share a Houston connection. Most either were born here or are current (some part-time) members of the community. They are ranked based on their star power (plus a few other X factors) to present our Houston celebrity breakdown:
1. Beyoncé Knowles
You’ve got to love this chick. This Cinderella slips right into every Manolo Blahnik pump that the public puts before her, whether her role is singer, actress or spokesperson. A fabulous example for young girls, this diva embraces her family, her talents, her natural beauty and her hometown. She got a few extra points for talking to us a couple of months ago and for being such a down-home kind of gal. She’s at the top of everyone’s A-list these days, so it makes sense that she’s at the top of ours.
2. Renée Zellweger
She’s big on screen, but itty-bitty in physical size. Her Katy roots make her the girl-next-door, while her catapulting career transforms her into a bona fide Hollywood icon. Despite the fact that msn.com claims that her hometown was so small and po-dunky that “it possessed neither cable television nor a movie theater” (yeah right, we’re talking Katy, not Ozona), she claims us and sometimes even lets her lovely Texas accent filter through. Jealousy points deducted for making Bridget Jones impossibly thin despite her doughnut diet.
3. Jennifer Garner
She sparked her acting career with a guest spot on “Felicity” and has really gotten the fire going in the starring role of Sydney Bristow in “Alias.” Massive butt-kicker and strong woman extraordinaire, Garner was born in Houston but moved to West Virginia as a young child. Points deducted for leaving, but more added for beating up all those bad guys and managing to stay realistically feminine. Hi-ya!
4. Hilary Duff
AKA Lizzy McGuire – yes, she is from Houston. Disney hit a gold mine with this young talent. She can sing, she can dance, she can act – and the public loves her wholesome youthfulness. Watch for big things to come from her.
5. Yao Ming
This Chinese Houstonian has brought new life to the Houston Rockets. He’s tall, he’s talented, he’s humble; and we love that commercial for the credit card. Yo!
6. George Bush Sr.
Prez No. 41, that is – the original
7. Patrick Swayze
With multiple sexy dance moves, one hit song and loads of female fans, he continues to support Houston charities. He was spotted at the Houston Grand Opera Ball this year.
8. Lyle Lovett
Part simple man, part mysterious artist, this singer/songwriter from Klein may have gotten a couple of minutes of fame for his short-lived marriage to Julia Roberts, but his talents have continued to keep him on the music radar.
9. Denton Cooley
The man who made it cool to give your heart.
10. Mary Lou Retton
Producer and star of the PBS kids program “Mary Lou’s Flip Flop Shop,” this Olympic gold medal gymnast tumbles around town raising a family of her own.
11. Fred Couples
This Houston Coug alumnus captured the 2003 Shell Houston Open.
12. Phylicia Rashad
“Cosby” mom Claire Huxtable
13. Dan Rather
This 20+ year veteran anchorman of the “CBS Evening News” cut his teeth here with the Chron and others before hitting the big time.
14. Hakeem Olajuwon
The Dream. Need we say more?
15. Roger Clemens
As of press time, this Yankee pitcher was still trying to add a little more hardware to his already impressive collection of sports memorabilia. He plans to retire after this season and get reacquainted with his family and his hometown.
16. Tommy Schlamme
With a portfolio that includes such TV success stories as “The West Wing,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal,” “Mad About You,” “Boston Public” and “Spin City,” it might be easier to list which projects this prolific director hasn’t worked on.
17. Randy Quaid
Everyone’s favorite Cousin Eddie from the National Lampoon “Vacation” movies learned his acting chops – along with younger brother Dennis – at the University of Houston School of Theatre. Since his early films, which included parts in “Paper Moon” and “Midnight Express,” Quaid has brought a unique flair to his acting.
18. Dennis Quaid
The younger Quaid brother has gained attention for his inspired acting performances in such acclaimed films as “Breaking Away” and “The Right Stuff” and for his choice of significant others, including Lea Thompson and Meg Ryan, to whom he was married for ten years.
19. Richard Linklater
“Dazed and Confused” audiences with his tales of misspent youth
20. George Foreman
Born in Marshall, Texas, this retired TKO king still lives out in the sticks, or at least he will soon. He’s moving from his Kingwood digs to Huffman. We do love his grill, but we still question his son-naming system.
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21. Clint Black
Considered among the best in mainstream country music, this New Jersey native got to Texas as fast as he could. Along with wife Lisa Hartman Black, he helped raise money for flood victims after Tropical Storm Allison.
22. Eva Mendes
This Cuban-American actress was born in Houston but raised on the West Coast. Her roles in “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” have propelled her on the fast track to stardom.
23. Billy Gibbons
24. Dusty Hill
Bearded cohort and Rockets aficionado
25. Alexis Bledel
“Gilmore Girls” teen co-star
26. Matt Stone
Along with Trey Parker, this co-creator of “South Park” forever changed the way people think of cartoons.
27. Wes Anderson
Film maker who brought us “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore,” the latter filmed all over River Oaks and the Heights
28. JoBeth Williams
29. Jaclyn Smith
Originally from Houston and now returned for her husband’s medical career, this “Charlie’s Angels” star had her own clothing line with now-defunct Kmart along with being named one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People” by People magazine in 1990.
30. Farrah Fawcett
The most famous of “Charlie’s Angels” joins the ranks of Jennifer Aniston and Dorothy Hamill for creating a mob of fresh, young girls with the same haircut. Her parents live in the Champions area, and therefore she does, too, occasionally. She can be spotted at Astros games whenever visiting.
31. Debbie Allen
“You want fame?” Choreographer, dancer, director, actress and sister to Phylicia Rashad was born and raised here in Houston.
32. Robert Earl Keen
Texas music pioneer and Aggieland college buddy of Lyle Lovett
33. Clyde Drexler
This Phi Slamma Jama cohort of Hakeem’s got back to town just in time to help the Rockets secure their second NBA title in 1995.
34. Nolan Ryan
Inextricably linked with some of the highs (signing as a free agent, Nov. 1979; threw no-hitter, Sept. 1981; all-time strikeout leader) and lows (signed with Texas Rangers) of Astros baseball, few sports figures garner as much attention or recognition in Houston. Catch him soon before he moves on to Round Rock to help son Reid with the Astros minor league club.
35. Shannon Elizabeth
Born in Houston but graduated from high school in Waco, this actress became every high school boy’s fantasy in “American Pie.”
36. Kenny Rogers
37. Ann Miller
Ginger Roger’s tap-dancing partner
38. Tara Lipinski
You’ve probably caught a glimpse of her gliding across the ice at the Galleria, she receives fan mail in Sugar Land, and now she has soap opera guest star behind her name, as well.
39. Carl Lewis
Track star and Houston Cougar, he lived here for years but now has moved to California to pursue his acting career.
40. Lisa Hartman Black
“Knot’s Landing’s” Ciji hit it big when she hooked up with fellow Houstonian Clint Black.
41. Shelley Duvall
Actress and producer
42. Sean Patrick Flanery
Star of the “Young Indiana Jones” series in the ’90s went to University of St. Thomas.
43. Robert Horry
Former Rocket of championship glory days. Played for the Lakers last season, but came back east, winding up in San Antonio this season. Look for him around town from time to time.
44. Anna Nicole Smith
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. It’s a well-known fact that this beyond-buxom blitzed-out blonde met her multimillionaire meal ticket while stripping here in the Space City. Annie, get your guns – you just might find another lonely man and make him your own. Just please stay away from “reality” television.