This year’s Houston Sweethearts are chosen from many of those talented Houstonians who have left our city to find fame and, most often, fortune in show business. Love may not be exactly what we feel for them; moreover, we have a feeling of pride in the accomplishments of those who were born in Houston. We feel a connection to them, possibly similar to that of a parent to children, smiling at their successes and understanding of any stumbles along the way. We send this Valentine bouquet, a short love note, to some of Houston’s favorite sons and daughters, our celebrities, our “Houston Sweethearts.”
Ask Yolanda Adams, a lifelong Houston resident and beautiful Grammy-winning Gospel/Adult Contemporary superstar, what she loves about her music, and she’ll answer: “The music brings joy. I truly believe that my songs bring the answers and the solutions, as opposed to just talking about the problems. My music at its core is joyful.” A former schoolteacher, Adams’ groundbreaking first release, “Mountain High … Valley Low” went multi-platinum, and she received the Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album and the first American Music Award for Inspirational Artist of the Year. Many sold-out tours, a string of hugely successful albums and the birth of her baby girl followed. Her new album, “Day By Day,” has just been released on Atlantic Records.
[playwright and director]
A quiet person who likes socializing with small groups of people, Edward Albee is a prolific playwright and director who has been heavily lauded and highly recognized. Some of his credits include “Three Tall Women,” “A Delicate Balance,” “The American Dream,” “The Play About the Baby” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe.” He has won Pulitzer Prizes for “Three Tall Women” and “A Delicate Balance,” as well as the 1996 National Medal of Arts, 1996 Kennedy Center Honors, 2005 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre and the 1994 Obie for Sustained Achievement in Theatre.
[singer and actress]
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles attended Welch Middle School and The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. By the age of 7, she was performing for her friends and family. “I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer; and when I was 8, I formed a singing group.” Beyonce performed many smash hits as lead singer of Destiny’s Child, including “Bootylicious,” “Nasty Girl,” “Independent Women,” “HappyFace,” “Apple Pie a la Mode,” and “Jumpin’ Jumpin’.” The superstar also wrote and produced many songs for the group. Last year, Beyoncé partnered with her mother, Tina, to launch a clothing line, The House of Dereon, named for Beyoncé’s Creole grandmother who was a seamstress.
[singer and musician]
Clint Black grew up on the west side of Houston and after school could always be found fishing or hunting snakes. At age 13, he took one of his brother’s harmonicas and taught himself to play. At 18, he was working as an ironworker. Black said, “One day I just quit; and for the next 8 years, I worked nightclubs and honkytonks in Houston, making $35 to $75 a gig.” What a start for a performer whose record sales exceed 17 million albums worldwide and who has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Black’s 1989 debut album, “Killin’ Time” rocketed to the top of the Country charts and stayed at No. 1 for an unprecedented 26 consecutive weeks. An unheard of five No. 1 singles came from the album. His latest acting gig had him playing an angel on ABC’s “Hot Properties.”
Lisa Hartman Black
[actress and singer]
Lisa Hartman Black was attending The High School for Performing and Visual Arts and singing in her own band when she was spotted by a record producer and whisked away to Hollywood. Soon, she was starring in “Tabitha,” a spin-off of the popular television show “Bewitched.” Her big break came when she was cast in the smash hit “Knots Landing.” Hartman Black has starred in major television movies, such as “Roses are for the Rich,” “The Return of Eliot Ness” and “2000 Malibu Road.” The duet that Clint Black wrote for the couple’s 10th anniversary, “When I said I Do,” won the Academy of Country Music Award for Vocal Event of the Year. She appeared on the “Knots Landing” reunion special last December and sang the closing song, “Open Arms.”
While Walter Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Mo., he grew up in Houston, attending Sidney Lanier Junior High and San Jacinto High School. At the University of Texas, he worked at both his college newspapers, The Daily Texan and at the State Capitol. During his 60 years in journalism, Cronkite covered virtually every major news event in the world. He was one of the original creators of the “CBS Evening News” in 1963, which he anchored until his 1981 retirement. His level-headed grace under pressure earned him the affectionate nickname “Old Iron Pants,” and the public’s perception of him as honest and objective led to his popular title as “the most trusted man in America.”
[actress and singer]
Over the past year, teen superstar Hilary Duff, has shot three movies, released a best-of album with three new tracks and performed a sold-out tour, which took her to Australia and Canada in December and January. When she was in New York this past November to accept a Born to Lead Award from CosmoGirl, she was exhausted, explaining that she thought she was to get the month of September off for her 18th birthday. That never happened. After the tour, she was back in California to host the West Coast portion of Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” where she performed three songs. Her “Most Wanted” album has sold more than one million copies. (She returns home to perform at the Houston Livestock Show &Rodeo on March 16.)
[actress, director and writer]
Shelley Duvall grew up in Houston and attended South Texas Junior College. She was selling cosmetics at Foley’s in Northwest Mall when she was “discovered” by Robert Altman when he was in Houston to direct “Brewster McCloud;” he gave her a small role. It was in Altman’s “3 Women” that she won a Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the L.A. Film Critics Best Actress Award. Duvall had memorable roles as Jack Nicholson’s wife in “The Shining” and as Olive Oyl in Altman’s “Popeye.” Her commitment to producing high-quality children’s entertainment led to “Faerie Tale Theatre,” “Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales” and “Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories.” Living in the Hill Country, she continues to work in the industry.
Farrah Fawcett had been voted Most Beautiful at the University of Texas when Hollywood began calling – and she let them call for three years before she ventured out, just as a lark. She began to get acting roles immediately. After guest-starring in television shows, such as “I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Flying Nun” and “The Partridge Family,” Fawcett won her first movie role in “Myra Breckenridge.” Her career exploded when she posed for the poster wearing the red bathing suit that sold an astonishing 12 million-plus copies. After landing a role in Aaron Spelling’s “Charlie’s Angels,” Fawcett became a household name throughout the world. Many awards and accolades followed. She remains very close to her father in Houston and visits him often.
[actor and director]
Robert Foxworth attended Bellaire High School and began his impressive theatrical career as a teenager at the Alley Theatre in 1959. Making his Broadway debut in 1969 in “Henry V,” he played John Proctor in “The Crucible” at Lincoln Center and Robert Falcon Scott at the American Place Theatre. One of his first television series roles was in “Storefront Lawyers,” but it was a six-year run on the television series “Falcon Crest” that solidified his position as a leading man. Between Broadway, television movies and feature films, Foxworth has continued to work non-stop.
[vocalist, guitarist and musician]
When Billy Gibbons was just a teenager, he was blowing the roof off of his parents’ garage in Taglewood and putting together a band. His father, Fred, was a successful musician about town, but the young Gibbons was learning about R&B, not from his father, but from his family’s housekeeper. After a few turns with other musicians, ZZ Top was born with Frank Beard, Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons in 1969. Their third album, “Tres Hombres,” brought the group national attention. ZZ Top’s first video, “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” took the band’s mystique and popularity to an all-time high. By 1990, the band had sold 50 million records.
[singer and actress]
When “Dreamgirls” opened on Broadway in 1982 with Jennifer Holliday singing, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” people in the theater jumped up, climbed on seats screaming and started crying. Her sheer talent is indescribable. She won Broadway’s Tony Award for Best Actress and a Grammy for the hit single that followed. Growing up in Houston, Holliday was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. After releasing three albums in the ’80s, her recording career slowed. In 1990, she had no work and was depressed. Her recovery consisted of receiving clinical help, losing weight and finding new ways to earn a living. Now back, the beautiful actress/singer has appeared in many television productions and several new albums are being released.
La Mafia is among the most versatile Latino bands and is largely responsible for the resurgence of the ‘norteno sound,’ which has some basis in country music. The group was founded by Oscar and Leonard Gonzalez, both of whom were raised in the north end of Houston. Other members are drummer Michael Aguilar, bass player Rudy Martinez, and keyboardists Armando Lichtenberger Jr. and David de la Garza. La Mafia released its first album in 1986. Extensive touring in the United States and Mexico brought them fame. Their second album, “Estas Tocando Fuego,” sold nearly one million copies. The album “Ahora y Simpre” went triple platinum. La Mafia has won many awards, including an award for Top Regional Mexican Album and Song of 1992.
[singer and songwriter]
Lyle Lovett was born in the Houston suburb of Klein, named after his great grandfather, a Bavarian weaver. Lovett attended Texas A&M University in the late ’70s, where he studied journalism and German and began to write songs and perform at local folk festivals and clubs. As a graduate student, he traveled to Germany, continued to study, as well as write and play clubs around Europe. Lovett didn’t begin to pursue a musical career until the early ’80s. Five of the songs on his first MCA/Curb album hit the country Top 40. Lovett’s originality pushed the boundaries, incorporating jazz, folk and pop into a country framework of each genre. His second album, “Pontiac,” garnered positive reviews from both country and mainstream critics and expanded his pop and rock audience.
[producer, director, actor and writer]
Peter Masterson has appeared on Broadway and in many films, including “The Stepford Wives,” “The Exorcist” and “Tomorrow.” He is probably best known for directing the popular Broadway show, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” in 1979, for which he was nominated for two Tony Awards as Best Director for a Musical (along with collaborator Tommy Tune) and Best Book for a Musical (along with Larry L. King). Masterson met his wife Carlin Glenn at the Alley Theater when they were both apprentices 46 years ago. An actress, director and writer herself, Glenn has won acting awards for Broadway. They keep a bay house getaway in Kemah and visit as often as possible.
Dennis Quaid studied drama at Bellaire High School and later at the University of Houston before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He has worked steadily since landing his first role in “Breaking Away” in 1979. His first good reviews came in 1983 in “The Right Stuff.” Dennis experienced a popularity resurgence since the last decade with roles in such hits as “Traffic,” “Far From Heaven,” “In Good Company” and “The Rookie.” He is also a musician and plays with his band, The Sharks. He’s an avid golfer and works with the charity, International Hospital for Children in New Orleans. Dennis has said, “There are three things being a celebrity is good for: raising money for charity, dinner reservations and tee times.”
Randy Quaid is the older brother of fellow actor Dennis. He was attending the University of Houston when he was discovered by Peter Bogdanovich, who quickly cast Randy in “The Last Picture Show” with Cybill Shepherd. His film career spans 30 years and more than 90 features, running the gamut from comedy to drama. His portrayal of Larry Meadows in Hal Ashby’s “The Last Detail” earned Randy an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson in “LBJ, The Early Years.” He’s come a long way from performing as a clown at AstroWorld.
[singer and songwriter]
Kenny Rogers has recorded 58 albums with sales of more than 100 million records, has won four Grammys, 11 People’s Choice Awards, 18 American Music Awards and eight Academy of Country Music Awards. Rogers grew up in Allen Parkway Village and in recent years came to Houston to see the renovated Allen Parkway Village public housing development rededicated and a scholarship fund for low-income youth established in his name.
[actress and fashion and furniture designer]
Jaclyn Smith always wanted to be a ballerina; and while growing up in Houston, she took ballet and acting lessons. After studying drama at Trinity College, she launched her professional career by joining regional theater groups in Boston and New York. There, she was spotted by an agent who asked her to become the “Breck Girl.” After her success in the long-running “Charlie’s Angels,” Smith was dubbed “Queen of the Miniseries.” She created a clothing line for Kmart that has become one of the biggest retail sellers in the country. Recently, she began to design a line of furniture.
Brent Spiner left Houston for New York after graduating from the University of Houston, where he trained with Cecil Pickett and Sydney Berger. He soon had parts on Broadway in “Sunday in the Park with George,” “The Three Musketeers” and “Big River.” After moving to Los Angeles, he began working in theater, movies and television. The role for which he is best known is the android Lieutenant Commander Data in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and he was featured in the four “Star Trek: TNG” motion pictures. He continues to have roles in feature films and television series, such as “The Aviator,” “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” and “Geppetto.”
[actor and dancer]
Patrick Swayze attended S. P. Waltrip High School, but his education included the Harkness Ballet School, the Joffrey Ballet Theater School and San Jacinto College. He first performed as a dancer in “Disney on Parade.” After performing in “Grease” on Broadway, he made his film debut as Ace in “Skatetown, U.S.A.” Swayze received his first Golden Globe nomination for the role of Johnny Castle in the musical-drama “Dirty Dancing,” while his second nomination came for his portrayal of the ghost, Sam Wheat, in the hugely successful “Ghost.” In 1991, he was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world, as well as Sexiest Man Alive.
[director, producer and dancer]
Tommy Tune is the winner of nine Tony Awards and the first person in theatrical history to win in four different categories. He started taking tap, aerobatics and ballet lessons at the age of 5 with Emmamae Horn, of whom he has said, “She taught me to put on a show.” Tune attended both the University of Houston and the University of Texas, studying drama, and left for New York. His first Tony Award was for “Seesaw.” His next venture was “Best Little Whore House in Texas,” followed by “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” for which he won his second Tony. Other Tonys were garnered for “Nine,” “My One and Only,” “Grand Hotel” and “The Will Rogers Follies.” Tune presents “The Tommy Tune Award” at TUTS each year to recognize excellence in high school musical theater.
[producer and singer]
Steve Tyrell grew up in Houston’s 5th ward singing in an R&B band. He had a recording deal at age 16 and a job in New York at 18, working with Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick. He collaborated on hits like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling.” With Barry Mann, he started a music supervision company that created customized soundtracks for films, including the Grammy-winning “Somewhere Out There.” Four of Steve’s albums grabbed top three chart positions on Billboard’s Jazz Chart. The Sinatra family, who happen to be fans of Tyrell, helped him with his fifth album, “Songs of Sinatra,” by providing him with original Sinatra arrangements. Called “The Standard Bearer,” Tyrell says, “I think this music is America”s greatest contribution to the arts.” (Tyrell performs with the Houston Symphony on March 17-19 at Jones Hall.)
Jo Beth Williams
[actress and director]
JoBeth Williams grew up in Houston, went to Jones High School and, thereafter, to Brown University on a Jesse Jones Scholarship. Her show-stopping movie debut was in “Kramer vs. Kramer,” where she played a one-night-stand of Dustin Hoffman who darts nude to the bathroom. Many movies followed, including “Stir Crazy,” “Endangered Species” and her biggest hit, where she plays the terrorized mother in the shocker, “Poltergeist.” Television roles have been some of her finest, such as playing the mother of a missing child in “Adam,” for which she was nominated for an Emmy, and Mary Beth Whitehead in “Baby M,” for which she earned both an Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. In 1995, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her directorial debut of short film, “On Hope.”
Renee Zellweger, sometimes called “Zelly,” grew up a tomboy in Katy. Her brother, Drew, taught her to play baseball, basketball, soccer and football. At Katy High, she was a cheerleader and enjoyed gymnastics. At the University of Texas, she majored in English. After many small parts, she got her big break. When she spoke the now-famous line, “You had me at hello” to Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire,” she became America’s Sweetheart. Since 2003, Zellweger has been in the Top 10 of the biggest box-office stars in the world. She won a Golden Globe Award for “Nurse Betty,” an Oscar nomination for “Bridget Jones Diary,” an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for “Chicago,” and an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe Award for “Cold Mountain.”