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Friday, Oct 28, 2005
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Posted on Fri, Apr. 29, 2005

Before they were stars...


From opera singers to rock stars, golfers to tennis pros, actors to directors, the metro-east has helped shape the lives of a bevy of famous people. Here is a list of home-grown celebrities and the communities where they spent some of their formative years.

Josephine Baker, East St. Louis: After surviving the 1917 race riots in East St. Louis, she ran away at 13 to dance in vaudeville, on Broadway and eventually with the Folies Bergre in Paris where she became one of the best-known entertainers in Europe. During World War II she gathered intelligence for the French Resistance.

Christine Brewer, Lebanon: Described by The New York Times as a singer with a voice "clear, well controlled and capable of great fluid outpourings," this acclaimed soprano performs with opera companies throughout the world.

Dave Butz, Belleville: A defensive tackle for the St. Louis Cardinals (1973-74) and the Washington Redskins (1975-88), he was third on the Redskins' all-time sacks list with 59-1/2.

Jimmy Connors, Belleville: This tennis star was ranked the No.1 tennis player in the world five times (1974-78) and won five U.S. Opens.

Miles Davis, Alton: One of the most innovative and influential musicians of the last century, he helped found cool jazz, hard bop and fusion, playing alongside jazz greats John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, before forming the Miles Davis Quintet.

Katherine Dunham, East St. Louis: A dancer, choreographer, anthropologist and author, she introduced U.S. and European audiences to Caribbean- and African-based dance movements.

Buddy Ebsen, Belleville: Originally a vaudeville dancer, this actor is best remembered for his role as the neighborly millionaire, Jed Clampett, in the television series "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Bernie Fuchs, O'Fallon: A commerical illustrator and artist, his notable commissions include portraits of Presidents John F. Kennedy, now in the Kennedy Library, and Lyndon Johnson.

Lillian Gish, East St. Louis: One of the great silent screen stars, she was nominated for an Oscar in 1946 for "Duel in the Sun" and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1984.

Bob Goalby, Belleville: This pro golfer won the 1968 Masters Tournament as well as 10 championships on the PGA tour, three on the Senior PGA tour.

Jay Haas, Belleville: Inspired by his uncle Bob Goalby, he won the San Diego Open in 1977, his first pro victory. In 2004 he won the Payne Stewart Award.

Whitey Herzog, New Athens: "The White Rat" led the St. Louis Cardinals to National League pennants in 1985 and 1987 and a World Series championship in 1982.

William Holden, O'Fallon: Born William Beedle, he won an Oscar in 1953 for "Stalag 17" and also starred in "Sunset Blvd.," "The Wild Bunch" and "Network."

Reginald Hudlin, East St. Louis: Screenwriter and director of "House Party" in 1990, he has since directed "Serving Sara," and "The Ladies Man."

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, East St. Louis: An Olympic gold medalist, she holds the American record for the long jump and has held the heptathlon world record since 1986.

Ken Kwapis, Belleville: This filmmaker directed "Sesame Street: Follow that Bird" (1985) and episodes of "ER," "The Bernie Mac Show" and "Freaks and Geeks."

Erie Mills, Granite City: Career highlights for this soprano include debuts with the New York City Opera in 1982 and with the Metropolitan Opera of New York in 1987.

Eugene B. Redmond, East St. Louis: Poet laureate of East St. Louis, he's also a photographer, local civil rights activist and one of the architects of the national black arts movement of the 1960s.

Red Schoendienst, Germantown: This baseball player and manager twice led the Redbirds to the World Series and has worn a major league uniform every big-league season since 1945.

Michael Stipe, Collinsville: Front man for the Grammy-winning rock band R.E.M., he penned their biggest hit -- "Losing My Religion."

Uncle Tupelo, Belleville: Their innovative blend of punk rock and country sounds spawned two alt-rock groups -- Wilco and Son Volt -- which were regroupings of members of this "cowpunk" band.

Tina Turner, East St. Louis: Born Anna Mae Bullock, this Grammy-winning R&B; singer, known for her powerful vocals and athletic dancing, met Ike Turner in 1956 at the Club Manhattan in East St. Louis, joined his band and married him.

Robert P. Wadlow, Alton: At 8-feet, 11-1/2 inches, he became the Guinness Book of Records' tallest man in 1937 and was known as the Alton Giant.

Gretchen Wilson, Pocahontas: This country singer's first single, "Redneck Woman" became a hit and garnered her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance of 2004.

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